Roe Turns 40!

This month marks the 40th anniversary of the landmark Roe v. Wade decision, which was handed down on January 22, 1973. This historic milestone unfortunately comes as states have passed a record number of barriers to a women’s right to choose to have a child or chose to have an abortion. In the past two years alone, over 130 restrictions were passed that make it harder for women to access this and other forms of reproductive services. The attack on a woman’s right to choose does not end there.

Remember the “Personhood” amendments, which sought to declare that a fertilized egg was a person and should be protected in law as a person. These amendments sought to outlaw abortions but could have also banned in-vitro procedures and contraceptives. Think about the increase of mandatory waiting periods across the country (PDF), requiring woman to return after several days to receive medical treatment. Consider the proposed requirements for invasive and costly procedures before a woman can terminate a pregnancy, such as a transvaginal ultrasound. Not to mention the infamous “legitimate rape” claim.

There is thankfully a flip side to this coin: us. While some politicians and groups are increasingly attempting to restrict a woman’s reproductive, people – here in Nevada and across the country – have rejected many such attempts. In 1990, Nevada overwhelmingly passed a referendum protecting access to abortion. We successfully fought off two Personhood initiative petitions, in both 2010 and 2012. So did many other states. Nevada also does not have mandatory counseling or require a waiting period.

Of course, we don’t all feel the same about abortion. But I certainly hope we can agree that this is a deeply personal decision that should be made by a woman, a family, and a health professional instead of politicians.

A recent poll by the Pew Research Center found that even though 47% of Americans say they believe it is morally wrong to have an abortion, 63% of Americans believe that Roe should not be completely overturned. It is heartening to see that many Americans understand the difference between practicing their own religious or moral beliefs and imposing their beliefs on others – a message our politicians unfortunately do not seem to understand.

Roe, at its simplest, is about choice. A woman’s right to choose the reproductive healthcare she wants and to choose the right time to have a child. That choice needs to be protected from government intrusions, religious influences, and social stigmas. We have shown that together we can stop efforts to interfere in the private decisions of a woman and her family, but we must remain vigilant against the mounting set of restrictions that may leave many women without cause for celebration in the future.