Being Pro-Choice Is Not Enough
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This post was originally published on 1/22/08
So, as you might have heard, today is the 35th Birthday/Anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision, which was handed down on January 22, 1973. The organizers of blog for choice day have suggested we all write about why it's important to "vote pro-choice." While it's true that it's important to vote "pro-choice," I want to write about more than that -- why it's important to vote for someone who really understands what it means to want reproductive justice. In order to understand this, it's important to know how far Roe got us, and how far we've got to go.
Roe was a huge step. It said that the right to abortion was constitutionally-grounded and was too important -- to fundamental -- to be left to the whims of the state governments or to come and go at the will of the majority. Though the language of the decision had more to say about doctors than about women, the message of Blackmun's decision was loud and clear: women have a fundamental constitutional right to control their reproductive lives, not to let their reproductive lives control them.
Immediately after Roe, Medicaid funds became available for poor women to have abortions, and the right became a reality for many millions of American women. Since then, however, the times have not been so sweet for reproductive freedom. Facing pressure, violence, and over the top licensing requirements from the states, clinics have closed, leaving women in 87% of US counties without an abortion provider. The Hyde Amendment was passed and continues to bar poor women from receiving Medicaid funding for their abortions, with few exceptions. As Francis Kissling and Kate Michelman, two longtime leaders of the abortion rights movement (Kissling at Catholics for a Free Choice and Michalman at NARAL)
write in this week's Nation, the US has gone from being a leader in reproductive health access to a laggard.