Today is the 44th anniversary of the Supreme Court's landmark Roe v. Wade decision, which made abortion legal in the United States in 1973. As NARAL Pro-Choice America announced in their annual report last week, the future of Roe has never been so shaky. But Democratic politicians and activists are ready to fight to defend reproductive rights from the coming anti-choice onslaught.
44 years ago today, the Supreme Court handed down an immensely important and controversial decision which reproductive justice activists have been working to protect ever since. In the case of Roe v. Wade, the court declared that a person’s decision to have an abortion was protected by the right to privacy guaranteed by the Due Process clause in the 14 Amendment. Within weeks, abortion providers were able to care for their patients in the open, and emergency rooms were no longer filled with the results of botched at home or back-alley abortions.
The historic Women’s Marches yesterday were a powerful example of the readiness to continue fighting to protect reproductive rights and access. As House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) commented in a statement on the anniversary of Roe:
Now more than ever, all Americans who value freedom must stand together and reject schemes to return our country to the days when women’s rights were not recognized and honored under the law. Democrats will continue to lead the effort to defend reproductive choice and work toward a comprehensive approach to reproductive health care, so we can reduce the number of unintended pregnancies at home and around the world. I hope to work with my colleagues to build on the legacy of Roe v. Wade and protect the rights of women across the country.
Pelosi is right that the fight ahead to protect Roe will be grueling. Just last week, NARAL Pro-Choice America released its 26th annual “Who Decides?” report, which painted a dire picture for reproductive rights in the future. Ilyse Hogue, the President of NARAL, commented that without the Obama administration, we are losing the “federal backstop” that restrained many state laws and actions.
Hogue went on to say:
This report paints a grim picture of the current status of reproductive freedom in the United States, and if Donald Trump succeeds in appointing Supreme Court justices who overturn Roe v. Wade, our data shows that women will be even worse off. Seven in 10 Americans believe abortion should be legal and accessible, and reject the anti-choice policies pushed by Donald Trump and anti-choice Republicans in Congress and at the state level. Our mission now is to fight for the America we and a majority of Americans believe in by organizing and mobilizing pro-choice voters and our one million member activists against the extreme agenda being pushed by anti-choice politicians.
While states with pro-choice governors or legislatures are managing to enact protections for reproductive rights, they pale in comparison to the sheer number of anti-choice measures happening across the United States, from conservative lawmakers feeling emboldened by the Trump administration and the prospect of multiple anti-choice Supreme Court Justice nominees.
But, as DNC Interim Chair Donna Brazile said in a statement about the anniversary: “Proponents of women’s rights have had enough. … We will not be silent. We will not back down. And we will never give up the hard-won progress for which so many women before us have fought.”