I was born in a time in this nation when women who became pregnant had no choice over if they would carry the pregnancy to term. I was born in 1972. The case that would change the laws of this land, and protect the sovereign right of a woman to control her own body was already en route to the Supreme Court. That case became known as Roe v Wade.
Roe V Wade is what we call it, but the decision was one of two. The Supreme Court in a simultaneous ruling declared that the 14th amendment to the constitution provided that a person has a right to privacy and the denial of that is a violation of the due process clause of that amendment. The other case decided at the same time is lesser known – but no less important to a woman’s right to choose: Doe v Bolton.
In the Doe case, a 9 weeks pregnant Georgia woman filed a lawsuit because of the restrictive nature of the Georgia law at that time. In 1972 the state of Georgia contained the following restrictions :
- The procedure needed to be approved in writing by 3 different physicians AND by a special committee of the staff of the hospital where the termination would be performed
- Any non resident of Georgia could not have a termination under any circumstance in Georgia, not even to preserve her life
- A termination was only permitted in the case of rape – severe fetal deformity – and the possibility of fatal injury to the mother.
In a decision of 7-2 the U S Supreme Court determined that the Georgia law was not valid and that a woman has a constitutional right to terminate her pregnancy.
The Roe decision is more widely known in part because it was the Roe decision that brought into the debate about abortion the words viability, and the question of state’s rights.
The Roe decision determined that the states have to balance a woman’s right to privacy with preserving prenatal life and preserving the health of the mother. Health was determined to not just be physical health but also mental health.
The Roe decision ruled that the interest of the state increased with the age of the pregnancy. It essentially determined that as the pregnancy aged, the unborn fetus was closer to being a real being and by extension consideration should be granted to the possibility of life in the same fashion it is extended to the proof of life (the mother carrying the child).
The simple break down of the law of the land is this: a woman has an absolute right to terminate a pregnancy in the first 12 weeks (the first trimester). From week 13 until week 40 states have the right to limit the ability of a woman seeking to terminate her pregnancy.
Abortion became legal in all 50 states and US territories January 22, 1973. 40 years ago.
There are now two generations of women who have never once had to fight for the right to make decisions about what to do ( or not do ) with her body. In those 40 years, methods of birth control have been invented and improved upon. In those 40 years medical science has advanced so that even as early as 22 weeks ( 5 1/2 months) a fetus can be delivered and have a reasonable chance at life.
In those 40 years a woman’s right to privacy has been under relentless assault by legislatures and anti abortion advocates.
Some oppose it based on faith, others on the preservation of society, others still because it is the loss of a form of control.
Regardless, those who oppose a woman’s right to choose have in their favor 2 generations of child bearing women who can not recall a time when this is how you had an abortion:
and sometimes you lived through it… sometimes you didn’t.
I am thankful that I’ve never had to worry about carrying an unwanted pregnancy to term. I’ve given birth. No woman should HAVE to gestate for 40 weeks and either give up her child for adoption, or take her newborn home in an unwanted environment. No woman should be forced to breed against her will.
Yet as we’ve seen in the past 24 months nothing less than assault on a woman’s right to choose.
From House Bill #13 of the 112th Congress to “personhood” laws in Ohio, to Governors like Rick Perry proudly proclaiming that he can make abortion at any stage of pregnancy illegal.
Planned Parenthood has been under assault by legislatures because some of their clinics perform abortions.
Exceptions for the health and life of the mother have been under assault by politicians who think that women lie in excessive amounts to get abortions, up to and including claiming to be “legitimate raped”.
I value life. I value children. I value a woman’s right to privacy.
I don’t value trans-vaginal ultrasounds designed to shame women that are not medically necessary.
I don’t value restrictive laws that make a woman’s legal right to choose in the state of Mississippi null & void because the state only has 1 abortion clinic that might not be able to remain open because of laws designed to close it.
I don’t value middle aged White men in Congress telling me what I must do with my body.
The thing about Roe and the legalization of abortion is that allowing a woman the right to control her own body costs, well, nothing. My right to privacy does not infringe on your right to “choose life”.
The thing about overturning Roe and making abortion illegal again is that your morality is now being imposed on me, and anyone else whose right to choose vanishes.
That is not who we are, nor is it who we should be.
We need to teach our daughters that their right to choice is the one inalienable right that men continue to try to take away. We need to teach our daughters to fight for the preservation of this right.
We need to teach our sons that until they can carry a fetus for 40 weeks and push a head with a circumference of 50 centimeters out of a cervix dilated 10 centimeters that decisions about pregnancy need to live with those who do.