Planned Parenthood volunteer Kara Lewis discusses the current state of reproductive rights on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade.
As a volunteer with Planned Parenthood, I’ve had many memorable and impactful moments with voters, community members, and other activists. However, one stands out among all others and becomes a story I return to when emphasizing the need for safe, legal abortion. Last summer, I was canvassing in downtown Kansas City, collecting signatures to oppose HB 126. Though ultimately struck down in court, this bill aimed to outlaw abortion at eight weeks, with no exceptions for rape or incest, and could have punished doctors with up to 15 years in prison for performing the procedure.
Of course, this bill read similarly to ones considered in Alabama, Ohio, Iowa, and nearly a dozen other states. These sweeping and extremist pieces of legislation, called “heartbeat bills,” shared a common, sinister goal: to challenge Roe V. Wade and end legal abortion altogether. As I confronted this threat with a bright pink t-shirt and a clipboard, I met a 70-year-old woman who squeezed my hand and said, “I marched and petitioned for this when I was your age. I never thought we would still be fighting.”
Roe v. Wade upheld the right to abortion when it passed the Supreme Court on Jan. 22, 1973. According to 2019 survey results from the Pew Research Center, 70 percent of Americans do not favor overturning this legislation. In fact, 61 percent of Americans widely support abortion.
Despite this majority approval, the war on abortion continues to rage. Throughout the past decade, an increasingly vocal faction of anti-abortion advocates have proposed everything from unnecessary ultrasounds to the scientifically debunked “reimplantation” of ectopic pregnancy. Recently, these dangerous efforts received encouragement from a president who stated that women who choose abortion deserve “some sort of punishment” and from federal courts newly stacked with judges who oppose abortion. And just last week in Kansas, the legislature introduced an amendment that could remove the right to abortion from the constitution.
While Roe v. Wade persists as the law of the land 47 years after the initial ruling, the numbers surrounding reproductive rights show the cracks in this victory. Courts have handed down more than 300 restrictions on abortion since 2010. Many people following these troubling trends believe that access to legal abortion could be retried at the Supreme Court level soon.
Like the woman I met while canvassing, I never could have guessed that I would spend Friday nights in my 20s defending my rights to my own body and my own decisions. Oftentimes, the fact that this fundamental choice continues to be a debate downright infuriates me.
But like so many of our reproductive rights heroes have taught us — from Dr. Willie Parker to Senator Wendy Davis — anger can serve as a powerful tool in sustaining our advocacy. Summoning my anger and turning it into action, even when it would be easier to give up and tune out, helps me believe that I might not see a young woman fighting for her rights when I reach 70. It helps me believe that the little girl I babysit might not hear her body brought up as a contested talking point in political debates and on the news.
Tags: Roe v. Wade