This week we celebrate the 39th anniversary of Roe. V. Wade, the landmark decision by the Supreme Court to guarantee a woman’s right to privacy and the legalization of abortion. This decision dramatically changed the way women and families live their lives –for the better. It offers a safe and legal way for women to make decisions for themselves and their families based on need, access to resources and family planning. Women all over America are able to freely express their reproductive autonomy by choosing to have children, not have children and parent their children with dignity. While we are fortunate to live in a country where abortion and birth control are legal in all 50 states, there are policy makers and politically motivated movements who have prioritized controlling women’s access to reproductive health care - and our bodies.
In 2011 women’s bodies monopolized political debate as the right attempted to defund Title X facilities and strip reproductive healthcare access for millions of women nationwide. Congress pulled out all stops to slash funding for women’s reproductive services targeting Planned Parenthood and gunning for families with the greatest need. Fortunately anti-choicers and their political muses were unsuccessful, but 2012 is looking like another tough year for reproductive rights activists in the fight to secure and sustain access for women and families.
While it is important to highlight abortion as a key hot button issue this election year (and every year), we must also focus on the importance of contraception and access to other facets of reproductive health care. Last year pro-choice activists suffered a huge loss when Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, Katherine Sebelius overruled a much-awaited decision by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to make emergency contraception (EC) available over-the-counter (OTC) to women of all ages. More recently, some conservative candidates have taken a firm stance against contraception – one even stated “contraception is a license to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be.” In addition five of this year’s Republican presidential hopefuls have signed personhood pledges, promising to acknowledge the “equal and unalienable rights” of zygotes while disregarding the free will and self-determination of fully formed women. Last November, Mississippi voters faced and defeated a ballot initiative that would have declared life begins at fertilization, making contraceptives like the IUD lethal weapons and we are certain to face even more threats to reproductive autonomy with the upcoming election.
For decades the sovereignty of women’s choices has been threatened by the irresponsible and self-interested conservative agendas of bible yielding, hypocritical tyrants whose quest for power leave women and families in precarious positions. Those on the margins, with access to the least resources including low-income women of color will suffer most from policy that restricts access to family planning. In 2012 we face restrictions on birth control and abortion, limited funding for reproductive health care including pap smears and mammograms and after all of this damage is done there will be no options for assistance to mother’s whose choices were limited by those who have no vested interest in their well-being. If women’s access continues to be a leading issue for the current Republican presidential field, pro-choice advocates are looking at another heavy year of advocacy and push-back and push-back we will give them!
It is my hope that we celebrate another 39 years of Roe v. Wade. Another 39 years of reproductive freedom for women and families who deserve tangible options for family planning and who can make their own decisions about when to have sex and when to have a family. We don’t need policy makers telling us how to make choices for ourselves, bodily integrity is one of the most important facets of human dignity - it should be that we are the governors of our own physical being. Here’s to another year of celebrating Roe, another year of freedom!