This past Sunday, Jan. 22 marked the 44th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision that allowed women the right under the law, in every part of the country to have access to a safe and legal abortion. Before the landmark decision, abortion was a state issue.
Whether or not a woman could have one legally was up to the state legislature, but this changed with the Roe v. Wade decision. The Supreme Court decided that women had privacy under the Due Process Clause under the 14th Amendment of the Constitution, allowing the government to not impede on their fundamental reproductive rights.
It is a shame, and disappointment, that forty-four years laters we are still debating and arguing about this Supreme Court case. According to NARAL Pro-Choice America, one of the leading pro-choice nonprofits in the country, since 1995 there have been more than 900 statewide measures that are anti-choice. This is an unprecedented attack on the reproductive rights of women and therefore on the basic rights that they are allowed and it needs to stop.
With our government favoring the overturn of Roe v. Wade, it is frightening to think about what the consequences of that would be. All we have to do to gain an idea, is look at the consequences of not having the Roe v. Wade decision before 1973.
There were seventeen states that allowed legal abortions in some form before the court case. This means that women in the remaining 33 states either had to travel to get one or were forced to have their unwanted or dangerous pregnancy.
According to the Guttmacher Policy Review, in the 1950’s and 1960’s, there were about 200,000 to 1.2 million illegal abortions each year, leading to severe risks. Women were often sent to the hospital due to issues that came from self-induced and back-alley abortions, many leading to the approximate 300 abortion related deaths per year.
In these more recent years, the actual rate of abortion dropped to about 200,000 legal operations each year.
At the same time, women that were from poorer socioeconomic backgrounds were disproportionately affected. Those pregnant who had the resources and financial means could travel to other countries such as England to get a legal abortion. Women that were poorer could not afford illegal abortions performed by doctors or other trained individuals and were forced to perform a self-induced abortion on themselves.
This is wrong and inhumane, and we must not go back to a society that forces women to be put in a situation where they feel like they have to perform a self-induced abortion. We need to start trusting women to make their own reproductive choices. If politicians are going to involve themselves in that decision, they need to put programs in place that prevent unwanted pregnancies in the first place.
After Roe v. Wade, the death that is caused by abortion complications has gone down to almost virtually none compared to what it was before the court case. Also, the number of late term abortions has dropped significantly, with more abortions happening in the early stages of pregnancy.
The amount of abortions has dropped by large amounts as well because of the better healthcare and social programs designed to help women feel comfortable. Over the next four years, President Trump will have a responsibility to stand up for the women who are going to have their rights attacked.
Will he actually do so? Based on his record, probably not.
During the campaign, Trump attacked Planned Parenthood, saying it needed to be defunded. He said that while many women benefit from its services, because he is pro-life, it needed to be defunded. Keep in mind that Planned Parenthood’s abortion services only count for 3% of its services.
President Trump never said what he would do to supplement the services that would be lost due to defunding Planned Parenthood. At one point during a campaign interview, he said that women who got abortions deserved to be punished. It is terrifying that the President of the United States thinks that way.
We need someone who is going to stand up for women, and understand the complex and hard decision that women have to make when deciding on abortion. We need a President that trusts women with their own bodies. A President must be willing to work with others to make sure that we have the most comprehensive programs in place to help women and families feel more comfortable about having a baby and taking care of that child.
As I said in my last Op-Ed, “If Only Being Pro-Life Was Pro-Life” I called for comprehensive sex education and other social programs to be put in place so that women can prevent unwanted pregnancies, and if a pregnancy does happen, that she feel comfortable enough to have that child knowing that they will be taken care of.
However, conservatives refuse to look at those options. Banning abortions isn’t going to make the issue of abortion go away. It’s just going to cause more abortions to happen.
Instead of banning abortions, help educate women and men in safe sexual practices, provide free or reduced-price contraceptives, put programs in place that help women and men prepare for parenthood and make sure that they can financially be secure enough to take care of that child. Lives are at risk, and we cannot afford to go backwards.