By Jennifer Dalven, Reproductive Freedom Project
Forty years ago today, the Supreme Court decided Roe v. Wade, the landmark case that recognized that a pregnant woman has a right to make her own decision about whether to have a child or have an abortion. Since then, some politicians have been trying to take that decision out of a woman’s hands. But over the past two years, these efforts have reached record levels. In those two short years, our elected representatives found the time to pass almost 140 provisions designed to interfere with a woman and her family’s private decision about abortion.
If you’ve had the feeling things have been getting worse, you are right. In fact, more than half of all American women now live in a state where the legislature is hostile to a woman’s access to abortion. (That’s up from less 1/3 just a decade ago).
Now, of course, we don’t all feel the same way about abortion and we don’t have to. But we should be able to agree that this incredibly important and personal decision is better made by a woman, her family, and her doctor than by politicians sitting in the state legislature or on Capitol Hill.
Indeed, the American people have shown they don’t want politicians to interfere in personal, private decision-making. Who can say whether it was the bills that require a woman to have an ultrasound and look at the picture before she has an abortion? Or that all-male panel that testified before Congress about whether a woman’s insurance plan should cover her contraception? Or that telling comment about “legitimate rape?” Or perhaps it was those 140 new restrictions? Regardless of what the tipping point was, one thing is clear: the American people have had enough.
This year, across the country, people came together to speak out against these restrictions and those who pushed them. In states like Virginia, Oklahoma, Michigan,and Idaho, women and men took time out of their busy lives to go to their state capitols and tell their representatives to leave these decisions where they belong: with a woman and her family.
And these folks aren’t just talking, they are voting. Recently, voters in states as diverse as Mississippi (yes, Mississippi!) and Colorado, Florida and North Dakota all rejected ballot measures that would have interfered with a woman’s ability to make her own decisions about pregnancy and abortion. And this year, politicians with extreme views on abortion lost at the polls, even in conservative states. In fact, Americans are so fed up with politicians trying to interfere with a woman’s private health care decision, that a Gallup poll found that 39 percent of women in 12 battleground states said abortion was the most important issue for women in the election.
Incredibly, however, some politicians still haven’t gotten the message. Right after the election, in a lame-duck session in Michigan, with the public locked out of the statehouse, politicians snuck through onerous and unnecessary regulations on women’s health centers. And, over the holidays, the governor of Virginia quietly advanced new restrictions designed to shut down all women’s health centers in the state — you know, the very restrictions that the Health Commissioner resigned over because they were based on politics rather than protecting a woman’s health.
These stealth attacks notwithstanding, two things haven’t changed. First, Americans have had enough of politicians trying to take that decision away from a woman and her family. Second, if we continue to speak out, we can stem this tide. We can stop politicians from interfering in a woman’s private health care decisions. We can get them back to working for American women and their families instead of against them. Forty years after Roe, it’s about time.