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Paying Tribute to Roe vs Wade Warriors: Reproductive Health is a Human Right

by Grace Lesser, Program Assistant,
National Women's Law Center

Some things seem clear this week. Others, more murky. I am shocked as my fellow Massachusetts natives vote against a virulently pro-choice candidate for Senate. I wonder how in the world we will be able to reform our health care system now. My mood vacillates among depressiveness, frustration, confusion and muted optimism. And then in light of the 37th Anniversary of Roe vs. Wade, I stop for a moment. I remember the reason that we are doing this in the first place. I am reminded that we are working for health care reform, we are fighting on behalf of women’s needs, and we are standing up for abortion coverage because of a shared core belief. This core belief is in the essential human right to health. And this human right includes reproductive health.

Above the politics, beyond the games, past the shortcomings in any legislative agenda, I realize the reality that it is our family, our friends, and our neighbors who are affected by the work we do. It is the families who fight through gory pictures of fetuses to get into women’s clinics across the country who deserve more privacy and support. It is the women in the Wilmington, Delaware Planned Parenthood who will now have the relief from aggressive assaults on their personal choices.

And it is this week that I am remembering how far we have come. I acknowledge the “warriors of choice,” (as Rep. Diana DeGette calls them) who have fought tirelessly for decades for the right to abortion and reproductive justice. I pay tribute to those who can remember the Jane effort (officially called the Chicago Women’s Liberation Union), a Chicago-based women-led abortion network which provided safe abortions during a time when back alleys and coat hangers were often women’s only recourse. And I also realize that it is my generation whose collective memory doesn’t reach this far, who must sometimes be reminded of the history and struggle behind our current reproductive rights.

Our fight is certainly not over. We know that our essential human right to health is still in danger when provisions like the Stupak Amendment take the stage, but that we are united when thousands of reproductive justice advocates come together to defend our very basic health care needs. I commemorate the life and work of Dr. George Tiller, and I am thankful for every abortion provider in this country. On this anniversary of the Roe vs. Wade decision, I must take a moment to pause and remember. There have been challenges in the past, and there will be challenges in the future, but this much is clear: it is the most important issues that have been, and continue to be, those worth fighting for.