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Roe v. Wade

All Women Deserve Access to Abortion

Forty-one years ago Roe v. Wade made clear that women have a fundamental right to choose when and whether to have children. But, today, as some states restrict abortion, many women find themselves unable to exercise this fundamental right. Women of color and low-income women, who have never had equal access to abortion, bear the brunt of these restrictions. Seventy-percent of low income women who obtained an abortion report that they would have preferred to have the abortion earlier. Waiting periods and required ultrasounds force low-income women to take additional time off of work and find child care and transportation. For many women, these can be insurmountable obstacles. One study found that after Texas enacted its waiting period and ultrasound requirements, women had to wait an average of 3.7 days between their initial visit and the abortion. The wait times were primarily caused by scheduling difficulties. Women traveled an average of 84 miles, round-trip and incurred an additional $146 in travel expenses, child care costs and lost wages.  Dr. Willie Parker, who has traveled from Chicago to Jackson, Mississippi twice a month to work at the state’s sole abortion clinic recently told Salon, “The women who are disproportionately affected by these cumbersome laws are poor women of color . . . There is virtually no financial support because of the Hyde Amendment. Women who are on Medicaid or public assistance cannot use that money for their care.” Read more »

40 Years After Roe, Just How Far Have We Come?

I love anniversaries, and not just because there’s usually some sort of cake involved, but because they mark significant and positive milestones in our lives and allow us to reflect proudly on overcoming setbacks and making progress throughout time. Last week marked the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court ruling that recognized the right to safe and legal abortion nationwide. Excitingly enough, one of the few things that I like more than anniversaries and cake is being able to exercise my own reproductive freedom. So wouldn’t it have been great to have a big “Happy Birthday, Roe v. Wade!” party with balloons and ice cream and stories happily recounting the wonders and advancements that the last 40 years have brought us? Yeah, not so fast. While women across the country should have spent January 22nd celebrating the 40th anniversary of this landmark decision, our would-be celebration was being rained on by the lingering reminders of hundreds of restrictive laws and stringent policies that have impeded a woman’s ability to access safe and legal abortions since Supreme Court decision was handed down in 1973.

Last Wednesday I had the privilege of attending a panel discussion at Georgetown Law School, entitled “Reproductive Rights 40 Years after Roe”. The discussion featured four panelists who each represented a different facet of the reproductive rights movement: Jessica González-Rojas from the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, Helene Krasnoff of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Walter Dellinger, partner with O’Melveny & Myers LLP and former acting U.S. Solicitor General, and Marcia Greenberger of the National Women's Law Center. Read more »

What Roe v. Wade means for Twenty-Somethings

As I venture my way through my early twenties, I’ve come to realize that my generation has become a fish tank for our younger and older counterparts. We are viewed as entitled (You expect me to pay my cell phone bills?! Do you think groceries grow on trees?) yet we desperately yearn for what we imagined our independent twenties would be like (walking briskly with a cup of Starbucks, probably on our way from one world-changing meeting to the next) and to be taken seriously and trusted. There are countless articles, books, movies, TV shows written about our generation – but you really don’t know what it’s like to be in our shoes. (Shameless plug: Check out This is Personal’s Not in Her Shoes blog!)

We are truly in a state of transition, but that doesn’t make us any less of an adult, and that doesn’t make us any less capable of making our own decisions. We’re all learning and we need the freedom to be trusted to make decisions for our own private lives.

As a twenty something, on top of worrying about my career path, or grad school, or whether the fact that I texted somebody I’m dating means the downfall of courtship as we know it, I also have become increasingly worried about the growing threats to my right to make decisions about my future – issues that many think were settled ages ago. Read more »

Roe and Me at 40: Rough around the Edges but Still Fundamentally the Same

Happy birthday Roe! If you’re turning 40 this year, it means that I am too. Given that we share this significant milestone, let’s take a look back at how we’ve fared over the last 40 years. Both of us are a little worse for wear. The Supreme Court weakened you in subsequent decisions. Your opponents have repeatedly chipped away at you – passing new restrictions on abortion and thinking up creative new ways to attack you.

As for me, well, let’s just say that I think I’ve held up pretty well for someone who grew up in the pre-sunscreen era and has two kids under the age of 4. Still, there’s no doubt I have more wrinkles, more aches and pains, and less flexibility than I used to. Read more »

On Today’s 40th Roe Anniversary, Make Your Voice Be Heard

The recent report that a majority of Americans under 30 don’t know what Roe v. Wade was about is not really shocking. But it is telling.

Today, the fight to protect Roe v. Wade isn’t about Roe. The fight isn’t even about winning society’s opinion on whether Roe should be overturned, because, as polls have consistently shown over the years, the majority of America thinks it should not be. 

No, instead, the fight has turned into a battle of which side is the most successful in capturing state governments. Unfortunately, the voice of those wanting to ban abortion has been quite successful in getting states to make it impossible to get an abortion even if Roe theoretically remains intact. This is the voice that is driving abortion facilities out of existence, forcing women to undergo unbelievably long waiting periods, make unnecessary, burdensome visits to “crisis pregnancy centers,” and receive medically unnecessary ultrasounds. This is the voice that wants to interfere with the physician-patient relationship and force doctors to lie to their patients. The voice that wants to shame, scare, or physically prevent women from getting abortions. This is the voice of a small minority who wants to impose its religious and moral beliefs on women’s lives they know nothing about. It’s the voice that hurts women and their families.

But things are changing. The voice of the majority is starting to be heard again. Read more »

Why Black, White and Latina Young Women Need (and Celebrate) Roe

won't you celebrate with me
what i have shaped into
a kind of life? i had no model.

Because women deserve itWhen my coworker posed the question, why are you celebrating women being able to access preventative services without a copay, my answer was sure and simple, “Because women deserve it.”

Not everyone agrees with that statement. If the last months of public debate have shown anything, it’s that there are a wide variety of views on the women’s right to access reproductive healthcare. Some people think it is good public policy and long overdue; others think that it’s a gift or worse, immoral.

I’m personally inclined to side with Justice Ginsberg. In reflecting on Roe she said, “[In] the balance is a woman’s autonomous charge of her full life’s course, her ability to stand in relation to men, society and to stay as an independent, self-sustaining equal citizen.” As I celebrate the ACA and Roe, I celebrate women’s ability to build lives they lives they desire. I’m grateful that reproductive healthcare is one of the tools that expands rather than constrains women’s decisions.

born in babylon
both nonwhite and woman
what did i see to be except myself?
Read more »

In Honor of the Women Who Died from Complications from Pre-Roe Abortions

I have a friend who almost died from an abortion. 

She was unwed and pregnant. She found an abortion provider. She had the procedure. But something went wrong. She ended up in the emergency room bleeding with an infection that could have taken her life.

 This was in New York in the 1960’s. This was pre-Roe. Women died from complications of illegal abortions.  Read more »

Roe v. Wade Respects Life

For those of us born after Roe v. Wade was decided the reality of back alley abortions can seem remote. Stories of dirty facilities, infections and even death can sound fantastical to our modern ears. And, yet, they shouldn’t. Worldwide, there are 70,000 maternal deaths each year caused by unsafe abortions. Abortion bans can threaten the health and, even life, of women facing pregnancy complications.

Last year, 31 year old Savita Halapanavar died from blood poisoning after doctors in an Irish hospital refused to perform an abortion even though she was miscarrying and there was nothing they could do to save the pregnancy. In 2010, a nun in Phoenix Arizona was excommunicated from the Catholic Church after she allowed an abortion to save the life of a woman suffering from heart failure. Read more »

Facing Down Abortion Stigma

Roe v. Wade is important to me because no one should be allowed to force a woman to have a baby that she’s not ready to have. Not the man who got her pregnant. Not her family. And certainly not a bunch of politicians. But what’s more important, I think, is that the one out of three women who will have an abortion in her lifetime start to talk about it.

Advocates for Youth and their 1 in 3 Campaign are helping to make that conversation happen. But, still, when I posted on Facebook about my abortion, some people suggested it was TMI (too much information). Well, actually, it wasn’t enough, because context is everything when it comes to reproductive health. Read more »

Pop Culture Doesn’t Put Abortion In a Corner: Abortion in Iconic Films and TV Shows

As the Roe 40th anniversary approaches, I’ve been reflecting on pop culture and what it tells us about how people feel about the issue of abortion. And, I’ve concluded, I think it reflects reality pretty well.

There seems to be a wide-spread assumption that Hollywood believes that abortion is too “dangerous” an issue to talk about. There have been myriads of articles about this that question why movies and television don’t show more women deciding to have a procedure that we know approximately one-third of women will have in their lifetimes.

Here’s the thing - the assumptions underlying this whole debate miss a really important point. There are many examples of films and TV shows that have proved that addressing abortion does not instantly turn a film into “box office poison.” There are both recent and older examples of films and shows that have succeeded – some amazingly – that included abortion storylines.

Although most of you readers may be able to name some recent examples pretty easily (like Ides of March, Grey’s Anatomy and Girls) what you might not realize is that there are several iconic films and TV shows that most people don’t even connect with the issue of abortion – even though they contained an abortion storyline. Here are my top 4:

  • Jennifer Grey and Patrick Swayze in "Dirty Dancing"
    Image courtesy of Great American Films Limited Partnership & Vestron Pictures

    Dirty Dancing: This classic movie about romance across class and ethnic lines is mostly remembered for Patrick Swayze saying “Nobody puts baby in a corner” and for the finale dance to “I’ve Had the Time of My Life.” How many people remember that the plot device used to get Swayze’s and Jennifer Grey’s characters together is a pre-Roe illegal abortion? The abortion (which nearly kills Swayze’s character’s professional dance partner) is also the means the screenwriters use to have Grey’s father find out about the relationship. Dirty Dancing succeeded both financially and critically, and it is still considered one of the most romantic movies of all time.

  • Fast Times At Ridgemont High: If you are a straight man or a gay woman, your main memory of Fast Times is probably Phoebe Cates in the red bikini. For the rest of us, it is probably Sean Penn’s Spicolli ordering a pizza to Mr. Hand’s history class. But there’s a sub-plot involving Jennifer Jason Leigh’s character getting pregnant and going to a clinic to have an abortion. You may recall the scene where she tricks her older brother (Judge Reinhold) into taking her there and then he unexpectedly shows up to support her and take her home.