Roe v. Wade turns 37

Thirty-seven years ago the Supreme Court established a woman’s constitutional right to end a pregnancy. “The guarantees in Roe have provided tremendous opportunity and choice for women to control our lives and bodies,” Eleanor Smeal of The Feminist Majority Foundation said about the famous court case. “It’s so much a part of the fabric of our society that people take it for granted.”

But those who care about protecting reproductive rights are far from crossing this one off our collective “to-do” list. Eighty-seven percent of U.S. counties have no abortion provider, according to NARAL Pro-choice, the reproductive rights advocacy group. What does it all boil down to? This basic human right is under attack on many fronts.

In the courts: Today an anti-choice fanatic from Kansas City, Mo. named Scott Roeder is being tried for the premeditated, first-degree murder of Wichita physician Dr. George Tiller. Roeder told The Associated Press in November that he was driven by religious zeal to shoot Tiller in order to protect unborn children. For 33 years Dr. Tiller defended women’s constitutional right to access safe abortion care. “Abortion is about women’s hopes and dreams,” he said. “Abortion is a matter of survival for women.”

In congress: After four months of debate around health care reform, its still unclear if our leadership can stand up against Catholic Bishops and other extremists like Bart Stupak whose efforts in health care legislation chip away at abortion rights.

Where does the president stand? The last few presidents have used the anniversary of Roe v. Wade to make a statement about their stance on abortion rights by flip-flopping America’s policy on the global gag rule. The “gag rule” denies American funding for HIV/Aids clinics, birth-control providers and other organizations that council about abortion to countries that even mention abortion to women with unplanned pregnancies. This policy has become a political punching bag for incoming presidents. But last year, Obama broke the cycle and reversed the order several days after Roe v. Wade anniversary in an attempt to disrupt the political bantering.

Abortion protesters continue to rouse their dissent. Today March for Life activists marched the National Mall, the Supreme Court and Capitol Hill to promote anti-abortion legislative action. The pro-life advocacy group thinks the “life of each human being shall be preserved and protected from that human being’s biological beginning,” according to the organization’s Web site.

In the shadow of this year’s anniversary is the death of a leader of the reproductive rights movement. Yesterday, Ruth Proskkauer Smith died at 102 years old. Smith advocated for women’s access to birth control in the 1940s and in the late 1960s she co-founded NARAL pro-choice, a reproductive rights organization that helped shape the kind of culture that led to the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v.

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