Roe v. Wade at Risk: Abortion Became Legal in 1973, But Could Become Out-of-Reach in 2016

Category: Abortion

On the 43rd anniversary of Roe v. Wade, we are reminded of what life was like for women before safe and legal abortion — and what could again become a reality for many women across the country. Under Roe v. Wade, the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed that the Constitution protects everyone’s right to make their own personal medical decisions about abortion. Yet politicians in Congress, state legislatures, and the GOP campaign trail have made it clear that they will stop at nothing to end access to safe, legal abortion.

At the beginning of 2016, we find that Roe v. Wade is at risk in three big ways:

  1. The next big Supreme Court case on abortion: If the Court rules the wrong way, this case would leave abortion legal in name only for many women by allowing politicians across the country to enact severe, Texas-style restrictions on safe, legal abortion.

  2. The 2016 election: There is so much at stake in 2016 — a woman’s fundamental right to abortion has never been more clearly on the ballot. Never have we heard such extreme and dangerous rhetoric from our lawmakers. In fact, every single Republican presidential candidate has vowed to ban abortion.

  3. Attacks in the states: If the hundreds of unfair restrictions on access to safe, legal abortion are maintained and more are allowed to pass, abortion could become virtually inaccessible for many, particularly low-income people who live in rural areas.

Here’s what you need to know about the very real threats to take reproductive rights back decades, and how you can take action.


About Roe v. Wade

Before abortion became legal in the United States 43 years ago, you would have faced uncertain and dangerous options — or no option at all — to end a pregnancy. That changed on January 22, 1973, when the Supreme Court handed down its landmark Roe v. Wade ruling, which recognized the right to privacy (without interference from politicians) in personal medical decisions protects a woman’s right to choose abortion.

The ruling meant that safe, legal abortion became accessible for the first time across America. Over four decades later, Americans are still standing by this decision. Safe and legal abortion is now taught in medical schools and is a part of regular medical practice for many gynecologists. In fact, data show that abortion is one of the safest medical procedures, with a safety record of 99%.


Abortion Restrictions

Despite being legal, abortion has been far from universally accessible. In just the past few years, anti-abortion politicians have piled on an exponentially high number of extreme and medically unnecessary restrictions:

  • In 2015 alone, states nationwide enacted 57 abortion restrictions.

  • State lawmakers have passed 288 restrictions on safe, legal abortion since the 2010 elections.

  • Four states in particular — Arkansas, Indiana, Kansas and Oklahoma — each enacted at least 20 new abortion restrictions from 2010 to 2015.


All that means one-quarter of all abortion restrictions enacted since Roe v. Wade were passed between 2010 and 2015 — despite the public’s overwhelming support for women’s access to safe, legal abortion.

Texas: What Could Happen to the Rest of the U.S.

Women in states like Texas have already felt the devastating consequences of restricted access to abortion. When restrictions called “HB2” took effect, health centers across the state were forced to close, leaving many women with nowhere to turn.  Researchers found that as many as 100,000 to 240,000 Texas women have tried to end a pregnancy on their own, without medical assistance.

It’s a shocking statistic, but sadly it should not be a surprise. Just consider these two stats:

  • 67% of Texas women say they face barriers to contraception access; only 12% of women face no barriers.

  • Texas has one of the highest unintended pregnancy rates in the nation; 54% of all pregnancies in Texas (which is nearly 300,000 pregnancies) are unintended.


With statistics like those, it’s plain to see the need for the full range of reproductive health services for Texas women. That’s why we’re watching the Supreme Court, which is deciding whether to uphold Texas’ clinic shutdown law. If the Court upholds HB2, it  could shut down all but 10 abortion providers in the state. But it wouldn’t end there. The wrong ruling also would have a devastating impact nationwide.

2016 Election: What’s at Stake for Abortion Access

The Supreme Court’s decision on HB2 will come just a few months before Election Day 2016, when the nation has the chance to elect a president. Take note: every leading GOP presidential candidate is pushing to ban access to safe, legal abortion. To see what’s at stake for abortion access, just look at where the candidates stand.

What’s more, the U.S. Supreme Court is currently divided between justices who seem to support women’s access to reproductive health care and those who would roll back those constitutional protections. Votes often come down to 5-4, like in the devastating Hobby Lobby ruling that allows bosses to deny employees access to birth control coverage. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who has vociferously supported women’s rights for decades, is 82 years old and has battled cancer twice. If she retires, there will be an open seat on the Court — and justices are appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate. Some Republican candidates have already promised to appoint judges that will fight to upend Roe v Wade.

We want an America where everyone gets the health care they need — no matter what. To make that vision a reality, we need to elect a champion who boldly supports access to safe, legal abortion.


We Won’t Go Back

It’s scary to think that the gains our country has made in access to abortion could be rolled back. No mother or grandmother in the world wants her daughter to have fewer rights than she did. Take it from Cecile Richards:

“The thing I fear most is that my daughters will have fewer rights than I did. And in Texas, they already do.”  —Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Action Fund

From courthouses to statehouses to Capitol Hill to the grassroots, reproductive rights advocates are working to protect access to health care through education, litigation, and mobilization of millions of Planned Parenthood supporters.

Do you stand with Planned Parenthood against dangerous abortion restrictions? Do you hope the Supreme Court rules to protect Roe v. Wade? Then act now and tell the world.


Tags: Cecile Richards, Texas, TRAP, HB 2, Hillary Clinton, Roe v. Wade, Supreme Court

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