Roe v. Wade Anniversary: As Historic Law Turns 40, Abortion Restrictions Still Linger


In recent months, it seems like there have been more and more restrictions on abortion. While I've been following anti-choice developments for several years, they haven't affected me or loved ones personally, and they likely won't. I'm a New Englander, and feel lucky to be one every time I hear about a new setback or an old, white, male Republican's offensive comments.

But I have to ask: Why is this still even an issue? Roe v. Wade permits abortion until viability, which is when the fetus could potentially live outside the womb. Attempts to overturn Roe have failed, but limits on abortion have increased.

Are these attempts to restrict the right to choose (abortion is not just for women — trans and other non-gender-conforming folks may need the service, too) due to the rise of the Tea Party? Backlash against my generation's perceived liberalism?

Let's jump back a bit. In 1973, the year in which Roe v. Wade was passed, my mother was about my age, living in Israel on a gap year before they were popular. Recently I called my mother to ask her about the issue's anniversary, since she was there and I wasn't, and she had some valuable insight. 

"Every year," she said, "at least one girl from my high school would disappear for a year to a relative's house [because she was pregnant]. She would have the baby and give it up for adoption, then come back. No one ever talked about it, but we'd all know." 

My mother is from Indiana's capital, if it makes any difference. Also during high school, she volunteered at a home for unwed mothers. While she can't remember what she did, she told me how sad it seemed.

What chilled me more was that she mentioned that someone she knew had to go to Mexico for an abortion (before my mom met her). Having to travel to a foreign country, possibly alone, without knowing what kind of care you'd have, seems unfathomable, though I've done a lot of academic readings on abortion and health care for women in the developing world.

I asked her why she thought restrictions are springing up in more conservative states when abortion has been legal for over a generation. One reason she suggested completely slipped past me: right-wing conservatives are scared of the power women have been gaining for decades, and are trying to stop them the only way they know how.

Advances in medicine and technology may also be a double-edged sword. Pregnancy is safer than ever before, no matter the country. But viability, normally the point at which abortion is no longer legal, is slowly inching earlier, thanks to NICU improvements and medical technology. Later-term abortions for medical reasons could come under question, since the most premature baby ever was born at 21 weeks and survived. 

Whatever the reason for the continued subjugation of women, it must stop. Though some states force women to jump through hoops for abortions, the constitutional validity of this is questionable. It's highly unlikely that SCOTUS would overturn Roe v. Wade, despite lower public support for abortion than in years past. We must move forward and not regress into yet another age of oppression.