Roundup: Roe v. Wade’s 38th Anniversary

Every year since I opened the door to my own women’s health and rights advocacy the anniversary of Roe v. Wade has served as a marker for me. It’s a marker of why reproductive justice is indivisible from abortion access, of course but also why it’s indivisible from the basic human rights to bodily autonomy, freedom to live without violence or poverty or access to a range of health care. I thought of this at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day celebration last week, at my childrens’ school, as one young man talked about how MLK, Jr. himself saw racism, poverty, classism, violence, and access to health care as indivisible from each other – in other words, injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. 

The fight to maintain and increase safe, legal abortion access is integrally connected to issues of women’s rights, poverty, racism, gender-based violence, LGBT equality, and environmental justice to name just a few. The fight to retain the freedoms given to women and girls when Roe v. Wade was decided continues as states enact an increasing number of restrictions on abortion access disproportionately affecting lower-income women, younger women and women of color. Yet many around the world continue to work towards a day when Roe v. Wade, a historic ruling for sure, works in tandem with a system that allows for safe, legal abortion access– justice–for all.

Removing the Roe-se Colored Glasses

As Merle Hoffman, editor of On the Issues, and Founder and Director of Choices Women’s Medical Center, writes about the Roe v. Wade 38th anniversary,

“While Roe established abortion as a legal right for women, current laws in many states mean women still have to cross state lines or face other restrictions to secure abortions.”

The reality for many women and girls around the country means that while abortion may be legal it remains inaccessible – either from an economic standpoint or, more literally, a geographic one. The Hyde Amendment, barring federal funding for abortion care, means poor women have limited to no access to safe abortion care. And now, Rep. Chris Smith, by introducing the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion” Act is attempting to go miles beyond the Hyde Amendment.

Jessica Arons writes on RH Reality Check about what she calls “a radical abortion ban.” She says his bill, “would go far beyond current law, seriously compromise women’s access to reproductive health care, and hamstring government operations.” The bill seeks to impose myriad destructive restrictions on legal abortion access, endangering women’s health and lives; from codifying into law federal funding restrictions (which now need to be reauthorized each year); to imposing tax penalties on those who pay for abortion care; to forbidding “any facilities owned or operated by the federal government and any individuals employed by the federal government from providing abortion care.”

In fact, the 38th anniversary of Roe v. Wade brings with it not only the fight to retain the legality of abortion but the fight to retain insurance coverage of abortion care as well. Although insurance coverage of abortion has been an issue in the states for years (some states allow for Medicaid funded abortion care, others outright prohibit it, for example), health reform has brought with it a renewed slew of restrictions, on the state level, in the yet-to-be created state health exchanges. The Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (RCRC), in a release today, notes,

“On the 38th anniversary of the landmark Roe v. Wade decision, women’s access to abortion services faces an unprecedented barrier. While the nation moves forward to expand health care coverage under the Affordable Care Act, women’s reproductive health care is being bargained away by federal and state legislators working in tandem with Religious Right organizations. Their target is the removal of abortion coverage from the insurance exchanges, the insurance marketplaces being formed by individual states. With more than 80 percent of insurers now covering abortion, the potential loss of coverage in the exchanges will be significant and will affect women in both public and private insurance plans.”

The group’s new campaign, “Insure Women, Ensure our Future” was created to “fight for justice” for women through assuring insurance coverage of abortion care.

Even the House repeal of the health care law, passed on Wednesday, January 18th, is meant to move the country one step closer towards broad abortion restrictions. Smith’s introduction of his bill, on the heels of the House vote for repeal, is no accident. It’s all part of a pummeling of reproductive rights from the anti-choice Republican-led House. Politico reports, “The legislation is supported by the chairman of an Energy Committee health panel, Rep. Joseph Pitts (R-Pa.), and the co-chairs of the Congressional Pro-Life Caucus, Reps. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) and Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.). It also comes in tandem with the Protect Life Act, another measure meant to prevent taxpayer funding of abortion.” [emphasis mine]

The D.I.Y. “Option”?

In Campus Progress Ryan Brown writes on the 38th anniversary of Roe v. Wade in “The Dangerous World of At-Home Abortions,” 

Thirty-eight years later, however, the impacts of Roe v. Wade continue to be felt unevenly across class, race and geographic barriers in this country, leaving some women in nearly the same precarious position they occupied four decades ago. Two chilling new studies—one in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology, the other in Reproductive Health Mattersreveal that even after two generations of legal abortion, a small but possibly growing number of American women are taking pregnancy termination into their own hands.

Why is it that after almost forty years of legal abortion in the United States, some women still feel that ending a pregnancy without medical care, putting their health and lives in danger, is an option? Brown writes:

In 30 in-depth interviews conducted by Reproductive Health, a third of participants cited financial reasons for self-inducing abortions. That should come as no surprise—abortions cost up to $1000, and under the provisions of a piece of federal legislation called the Hyde Amendment (which Campus Progress has previously written extensively about), they are almost never covered by Medicaid at the federal level. Other telltale signs of restricted access to legal abortions also emerged among the women who chose to self-induce. Several listed “distance to a clinic” as a factor, meaning they probably lived in one of the 87 percent of counties in the United States without an abortion clinic. And one 16-year old told the researchers, “I didn’t wanted my mom to know. I didn’t want to go to court ‘cause it was gonna be too long and probably he was gonna say no, so I just [said], you know, ‘skip all that, I’m gonna do it. Myself.’”

In other words, restrictive abortion laws which prohibit federal or state funding of abortion care, require parental consent or notification, and the consistent terrorist acts lobbed at providers help create the conditions for dangerous, “do-it-yourself” abortions. This is something Roe v. Wade, in all of its judicial glory, cannot remedy.

The Young and The Movement-less?

Though legislative restrictions continue to abound, as we commemorate the 38th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the anti-choice movement is looking towards a new generation in order to “recruit” a new crop of activists. Amanda Hess, in her post on today, “Anti-abortion movement attempts rebirth,”  writes,

As the March for Life approaches middle age, it threatens to alienate a grop [sic] that’s always been central to the anti-abortion brand: Young people. Outside abortion clinics, kids look cute with LIFE-emblazoned duct tape pressed over their mouths; at high schools, teens look fetching while telling their peers to wait until marriage. Each year, the March for Life manages to wheel plenty of youth down to the National Mall, whether by stroller or church group caravan. But the event has consistently failed to engage the youth of America on a meaningful level. Consider the theme of the event’s 2011 student poster design contest, advertised to kids as young as 12: “Thou Shalt Protect the Equal Right to Life of Each Innocent Born and Preborn Human in Existence at Fertilization. No Exception! No Compromise!”

So the organizers for the more youth-focused annual music event “Rock for Life” will introduce a new movement – the National Pro-Life Youth Rally – aimed at bringing in those younger folks. The director of “Rock for Life” Erik Whittington doesn’t do a great job at hiding what it’s about for him (health and rights? bodily autonomy? justice? Nope): “It’s about drawing people in. It’s about the music,” he says.

How does he entice the high-school crowd? Through graphic images and information he tells Hess. Unfortunately (for the anti-choice movement) once young people reach college-age they become less susceptible to propaganda and looking at the issue in black-and-white terms. It’s when reproductive justice organizations like Choice USA reach out and provide a forum for young women and men to explore the issue in depth. Writing about the group and its director, Kierra Johnson, Hess notes,

Johnson says that her movement benefits from that sort of advanced conversation. “Many young people—even people on our staff—identified as anti-choice at one point in their lives, but now that they’re out on their own and can look at the full story, they came to the decision to work toward reproductive justice for all people,” Johnson says. “Life is complex,” she adds. “The more you live it, the more you know it.”

Get Up, Stand Up and Don’t Forget to Fight

As the March for Life gears up for a protest in Washington DC, reproductive justice advocates are organizing as well. Germantown Reproductive Health Services in Germantown, MD is scheduling a host of events in both Maryland and DC, in honor of abortion providers, but in special recognition of Dr. Leroy Carhart. Carhart has been an indefatigable fighter for women’s health and rights, as he’s provided later term abortion care to women in Nebraska and now in Germantown, MD. From an RH Reality Check reader diary on the January 22nd and 23rd events,

Dr. LeRoy Carhart, long-time colleague and friend of Dr. George Tiller (assassinated by an anti-abortion activist in May 2008) has remained undeterred in his life’s mission to provide women with safe, caring abortion services when they need them. YOU are needed in Germantown, MD and the DC area this coming weekend to stand up for Dr. Carhart and women’s right to abortion and reproductive control.

Join a host of reproductive justice advocates for any or all of these events!

The Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice is also hosting a vigil in Washington DC on Monday, January 24th on the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court. More information here.

Cindy Cooper of Words of Choice has culled together a comprehensive (and impressive!) list of Roe v. Wade celebrations happening around the country. Not sure what’s going on in your hood? Check out Words of Choice for a round-up of events.

Please feel free to leave any events, celebrations, commemorations or remembrances in the comments!

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  • freewomyn

    Thanks for the great reminder of the importance of Roe.  Feminists for Choice will be celebrating Roe in New York, Tucson, and Dallas this weekend.  Event details are available at our website.

  • churchmouse

    and for you pro-aborts…thats a good thing

  • nmaureen

    2007     From:

    VIOLENCE 1977-91 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 TOTAL
    Murder      1              0         0       1       4       0        0       0       2       0    0       0         0       0       0       0       0          7
    Attmpt Murd   2          0       1       8       1        1       2       1       0       1       0       0       0       0       0       0       0        17
    Bombing1          27          0       1       1       1        2       6       1       1       0       1       0       0       0       0       0       0         41

    TABLE 17. Number and case-fatality rates * of abortion-related deaths reported to CDC,
    by type of abortion — United States, 1972-1990
          Abortion-related deaths
          Type of abortion:     Induced
    Year    Legal    Illegal   
    1972      24          39               
    1973      25          19            
    1974      26            6          
    1975      29            4           
    1976      11            2            
    1977      17            4           
    1978       9             7             
    1979      22            0            
    1980       9             1             
    1981       8             1           
    1982      11            1           
    1983      11            1          
    1984      12            0            
    1985      11            1           
    1986      11            0           
    1987       7             2            
    1988      16            0          
    1989      12            1          
    1990       5             0          

    Total    276          89           

  • colleen

    The numbers of abortion related deaths are far lower than the numbers of abortion related deaths BEFORE abortion was  legal and far, far lower than the  maternal mortality rate for any of those years.




  • churchmouse


    Well sure…abortion is legal. LOL

    But based on the population and how many women get pregnant, it is very very low.


    More woman have babies than abort them…so of course it makes sense that with more women involved having babies that the numbers would be higher. Also most women getting abortions are young and healthy. Abortions for the most part are done on young women in their late teens and early twenties.


    Mark Crutcher says this in his book LIME 5, “But the facts prove that this safety argument is a fraud.  After more than 20 years of legalization, they have yet to even approach minimum safety standards, and American women are being butchered because of it.


    Abortion proponents claim that there is always a risk to surgery and the numbers based on how many abortions are performed are still low. But gaining full access to accurate data would require the cooperation of the abortion industry as well as the state and local government agencies responsible for compiling such data. But due to their political agendas they have little interest in reporting industry disasters, and more interest in covering them up.  Because mainline media and a good portion of the medical community are also interested in covering up, all research in this field becomes totally independent on whether abortion injured women seek justice through the legal system.


    If you believe nothing else in this book, believe this: Anytime you see a statistical chart about abortion injury, sexual assualt, or death, the person who compiled that chart either is very misinformed or is lying. Under the current system, there is absolutely no definite way to have accurate information on this subject, and without profound systematic changes there never will be.

    Another factor limiting research into this field is that the majority of these cases are settled before they go to trial. That’s a problem for two reasons.

    Most abortionists demand a confidentiality agreement as part of their willingness to settle a case.

    2. Legal research services track only cases that actually go to trial. So, except in those rare instances in which a settled case is sensational enough to be covered by the media, there is little chance that we could even find out it exists.”


    The NAF admits there is no way to monitor all the abortion mills.


    Suzanne Poppema, head of NAF’s Clinical Guidelines Committee, even admits that NAF “has no credentialing power….It’s not a board and has no enforcement power.”

    Isn’t that amazing, really? Tattoo parlors must meet guildlines of the state and underaged girls need permission to get one, and pregnant underaged girls can go behind parents backs and kill the baby they carry in a facility that does not meet minimum standards. Who knows what is in the best interest of our minor children, the state, PP? Who knows if it would be safe? No one cares.



  • colleen

    But based on the population and how many women get pregnant, it is very very low.

    You aren’t making sense.

    The US has  a shitty and expensive health care delivery system. Care for pregnant women is also complicated by the fact that the Catholic heirarchy (which controls somthing like 15% of US hospitals) believes that women whose bodies cannot sustain a pregnancy SHOULD die. Thus the US is 42nd in maternal mortality rates. This means that 41 other countries do a better job of keeping it’s pregnant women alive during pregnancy. The maternal mortality rates do not include those women whose husbands, boyfriends, ex ‘s or parents murdered them because of the pregnancy.

    I have no interest in discussions with ninnies who believe that maternal mortality rates are a left wing myth. The reason worldnetdaily and fox news don’t talk about maternal mortality rates is because the American right are cheap sons of bitches and the only ‘human life’ they pretend to care about is always located within someone elses’s body.


  • churchmouse

    Then don’t discuss it…but I will continue to do so.

    If you know so much then why don’t you give us the stats on that?

    How many women died last year giving birth?

    And while you are at it…how many woman died before Roe by coathanger.

    Cheap sons of bitches…….lmao

    You are the ninnie..

    And what do the radical LEFTIES BELIEVE IN..

    Killing children…..they probably would also condone slavery if it still were an issue.


  • purplemistydez

    No that’s you and people like you who want to turn women into slaves.  Forced pregnancy is slavery. 

  • crowepps

    How many women died last year giving birth?

    At least 600 women die from pregnancy complications annually, and it is believed that number may not represent all of the cases because

    “The number of maternal deaths is significantly understated because of a lack of effective data collection in the USA.”

    Amnesty International’s report Deadly Delivery: The Maternal Health Care Crisis in the USA, urges action to tackle a crisis that sees between two and three women die every day during pregnancy and childbirth in the USA.

    A total of 1.7 million women a year, one-third of all pregnant women in the country, suffer from pregnancy-related complications.

    The report also revealed that severe pregnancy-related complications that nearly cause death — known as “near misses” — are rising at an alarming rate, increasing by 25 percent since 1998.

    Those “near misses”, by the way, include the cases where the “cure” is therapeutic abortion.

    Figures compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia, show that black women are three times more likely to die from pregnancy and childbirth than their white counterparts.

    White women have a mortality rate of 9.5 per 100,000 pregnancies, the CDC said. For African-American women, that rate is 32.7 deaths per 100,000 pregnancies.

    For a good article on the actual history of abortion being legal, then illegal, then legal again, try this review:

    The year after abortion was legalized in New York State, the maternal-mortality rate there dropped by 45 percent — one reason why legalization can be seen as “a public-health triumph”

    Nonetheless, having achieved their legal goal, many doctors — including prominent members of the AMA — went right on providing abortions. Some late-nineteenth-century observers estimated that two million were performed annually (which would mean that in Victorian America the number of abortions per capita was seven or eight times as high as it is today).

    Reagan describes clinics complete with doctors, nurses, receptionists, and printed instructions detailing follow-up care, and “birth-control clubs,” whose members would pay regularly into a collective fund and draw abortion fees from it as needed. It was only in the 1940s and 1950s that organized medicine and the law combined to force these long-standing operations out of business and to disrupt the networks of communication by which women had found their way to them. Our popular image of illegal abortion as hard to find, extremely dangerous, sordid, and expensive dates from this period, as do the notorious “abortion wards” filled with women suffering from botched operations and attempts at self-abortion (always the most dangerous method).

    Far from foisting a radical departure on an unready nation, the Supreme Court was responding to a decade-long buildup of popular sentiment for change. The movement was spearheaded by doctors who saw firsthand the carnage created by illegal abortion (more than 5,000 deaths a year, mostly of black and Hispanic women), and whose hands were now firmly tied by the hospital committees they themselves had created.

    [Bolding added]