Forty-three years ago this week, the Supreme Court handed down a decision that would change the lives of hundreds of thousands of women and families. Although it was ostensibly a privacy case, Roe v. Wade ultimately legalized abortion.
Abortion is a tricky topic. According to Gallup, only 50% of Americans consider themselves to be pro-choice. However, 80% of those polled believe pregnancy termination should be legal, at least in some circumstances.
Women choose abortion for many reasons. Some are in abusive relationships, some are overwhelmed by family needs, some don’t have the health or resources to maintain a pregnancy or to handle parenthood.
Conversely, women don’t choose abortion for many reasons. Some go for adoption, or lean on family members to help raise their children. Some just don’t believe in termination.
What’s important here is the idea of choice. If more than ⅔ of Americans believe abortion should be legal, even if they wouldn’t choose it for themselves, it is clearly a right worth preserving. Beyond statistics, women need the ability to make the best decisions for their families.
North Carolina — along with the rest of the country — has been moving backwards in terms of abortion access and rights. Women now face mandatory waiting periods, state-scripted doctor-patient counseling, and privacy attacks that include having their ultrasounds collected by the state department of health and human services.
When my mom was born in 1956 to her 15-year-old mother, women could barely legally buy birth control, let alone have abortions. By the time she graduated high school in 1974, my mother had the reproductive choices my grandmother never had. Twenty years after that, I was a young woman in a world where sex ed was comprehensive, Planned Parenthood was well funded, and abortions were largely available to those who needed them.
But instead of continuing that progress, we’ve moved backward in the last 20 years. My children are in elementary school now, but what will be the health landscape when they are teens and young adults? Will they be able to access the health care they need without judgment or jumping through absurd legal hoops?
On the anniversary of Roe, it’s important to remember that reproductive choice isn’t just about the choice an individual would make; it’s about what’s best for us as a society. And as a society, we cannot tolerate regressive policies that leave women without the care they need.