This week marks the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the landmark Supreme Court case which held that a woman’s right to choose is fundamental under the United States Constitution. Today, 64 percent of Americans agree with this ruling and a new Wall Street Journal/NBC poll shows that 70 percent of Americans oppose it being overturned. But despite its popularity, we are still fighting everyday to preserve this fundamental women’s right.
By definition, no woman plans for an unintended pregnancy. Those women for whom the unexpected happens are put in a terrible position; the consequences are steep, no matter what they decide. And a woman’s right to control her own body should not be made or interfered with by the federal, state, or local government.
The Guttmacher Institute notes that 2011 was a historic year for anti-abortion restrictions – 92 anti-abortion, anti-choice measures were passed into law across the United States. The 1973 Roe v. Wade decision made abortion legal at the federal level. But, in 1992, the Supreme Court determined that states have the right to regulate who can access abortion services and under what conditions (Planned Parenthood v. Casey). Since then, many state legislatures have imposed very restrictive policies to limit access to abortions. Last year, 43 additional measures were enacted to restrict a woman’s access to abortion services. Further, over the course of the year, 42 states and the District of Columbia enacted 122 provisions related to reproductive health and rights.
Virginia has received a great deal of attention for the extreme anti-choice measures our state government passed last year. One of these measures just signed into law is the “TRAP” law, to treat abortion clinics as ambulatory surgery centers instead of doctor’s offices. Clinics must now meet hospital-type standards on the size of rooms and width of hallways. Modifications to these facilities can be prohibitively expensive and may force closure of as many as 20 clinics across the Commonwealth.
According to NARAL Virginia, more than half of Virginia women do not have local access to safe, legal abortion care. These restrictive new laws will only make it more difficult for women to receive legally permitted services.
While we continue to fight a larger battle to preserve a woman’s right to choose, there has been progress in the fight to expand access to basic health care for women. Under the landmark Affordable Care Act, this past August women across the country with private insurance became eligible to receive birth control and other preventative services without paying anything out of pocket.
I will continue to strongly advocate for reproductive rights. This is an issue that should be free of the interference by politicians. The Supreme Court has proclaimed its legality; the rest should be left to a woman, her family, and her physician.