39 Years Later, We’re Still Fighting for Abortion Access

By Laura Kacere
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Black and white photo of four organizers posing with Keep Abortion Safe and Legal round signs
Photo courtesy of the author.

The 39th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion is fast approaching, so on January 23rd let’s sit back and let the joy of abortion access just wash over us.

Wait, scratch that. What’s been going on in this country since the last Roe anniversary? 2011 saw an unprecedented number of abortion restrictions passed on the state level – legislators introduced more than 1,100 reproductive rights-related provisions, 135 of which were passed by the end of the year, 92 of them directly restricting access to abortion. Personhood amendments, mandatory waiting periods, ultrasounds, and counseling, and clinic regulations were the norm this past year. Extreme anti-choice rhetoric from legislators and potential presidential candidates created a culture in 2011 in which abortion became the issue on the chopping block, a litmus test of the religious right. Massive cuts (and threatened cuts) to family planning funding and unnecessary restrictions caused women’s health and abortion clinics to close nationwide and made countless women completely unable to access abortion care. Meanwhile, anti-choice harassment of doctors, staff, and patients at clinics continue to rise.

As the misogynist anti-choice goings-on of 2011 make apparent, the Supreme Court decision that we celebrate this month does not guarantee equal access to abortion, and this fight is not nearly won.

So what do we do? First of all, we have to talk about it. 1 in 3 women have had an abortion. So why are so many people, even sometimes those of us in repro rights activism, so afraid of the word? We further stigmatize it when we marginalize the procedure.  Organize an abortion speak-out on your campus– you’d be surprised at how many women you know have had one, and it can be really empowering to hear other women’s stories.

Organize a rally or a march around your campus or town to show others in your community that abortion is our right, and one we’re going to defend! (There may already be a rally or celebration organized by your local abortion clinic, FMLA, or NOW chapter). If there’s an anti-choice rally in your area, show up with pro-choice signs! Show your local abortion clinic your support this year with our Adopt-a-Clinic campaign and educate your community about the dangers of deceptive crisis pregnancy centers.

It’s also important that we take time on January 23rd to celebrate. Because with all of the geographic and financial inaccessibility of abortion, the 1973 Supreme Court decision was a landmark case that drastically changed the landscape of reproductive health and women’s equality, and put us in the direction toward safe and accessible abortions.  And at a time when resistance and protest surrounding economic injustice are fast rising, it’s important that we make reproductive rights central to the conversation. Women’s economic equality can only be achieved when we have full control over our bodies, our roles, and our future. So get out into the streets and shout about it!

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