Forty-one years ago, the Supreme Court ruled that women had a right to privacy extending to their decisions to have abortions, and women’s rights and reproductive health activists breathed a collective sigh of relief.
Today, however, it looks like we may have sighed too soon. (And by “we”, I mean feminists, because I wasn’t actually around in ’73.) Abortion may have been legal for longer than most college students have been alive, but it’s not just our mothers’ issue: it needs to be our issue as well. Every day, the right to privacy – the right to make our own choices about our own bodies – is under attack. Every day, we need to work to protect the legacies that the women before us worked so hard to leave.
It’s easy for girls in high school and college today to take for granted that things are good. It’s easy to say that feminism has done its job, or that it’s a relic of a time before. But the reality is, it’s not. We have these rights because they were hard-won, and to be perfectly blunt, we’ll lose them if we stop paying attention. Dozens of anti-choice bills were introduced in Congress in 2013, along with hundreds of anti-choice laws debated at the state level across the United States. Just last week, the Supreme Court heard a case regarding the right of clinics to establish buffer zones, to protect those entering and exiting. Anti-choice violence has threatened both the women who seek reproductive healthcare, and the doctors who provide it. It’s 2014, but we’re still standing in the snow outside the Supreme Court, in support of rights some would like to see us lose.
If abortion has never affected your life, you might not be as motivated to act around protecting it as a legal right. But imagine for a second that you did need an abortion: Wouldn’t you want the right to decide, for yourself, if that was the right choice? Does an old man on Capitol Hill have the right to supersede your doctor’s advice regarding your health? Probably not. (On top of that, 1 in 3 women in the U.S. will have an abortion in her lifetime…which means that even if abortion has never impacted you personally, odds are, it has impacted someone you know, even someone you care about.)
Abortion’s not a warm, fuzzy issue. It’s not as well-received as ideas like equal pay. People ask things like “why do you hate babies?,” even though you (probably) don’t. But it’s an issue that matters. Outlawing abortion, or making it inaccessible, won’t make it disappear: the only solution is to keep it legal, and keep it safe.
This is an issue we can own. We can contact our representatives regarding anti-choice legislation when it’s introduced in Congress, and FMF’s own Adopt-a-Clinic program gives us a chance to support local clinics by creating connections to let college women volunteer, serve as clinic escorts, or participate in other activities to help reduce clinic violence or increase access.
The reality is that this isn’t our mothers’ issue – and it can’t be. We may have never lived in a world without legal abortion, but if we never want to, then it’s time to make this issue our own and keep on fighting for a day when all women can access the reproductive healthcare they need.
It’s our choice, and it’s our turn to defend it.