This Tuesday marked the 35th anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade, a ruling that granted women the right to safe and legal abortions as part of their constitutional right under the 14th amendment. To celebrate this triumph, a legion of state legislators and anti-abortion activists seem intent on doing away with it. Certainly opposition to Roe v. Wade has existed ever since it was passed; however, state-level threats to abortion rights are thriving now that the November election is on the horizon.
There is a time and a place to discuss the ethics of abortion, but this is not that time. The issue at hand is not whether abortion is right or wrong, but that state governments continue to threaten the rights of American women.
Thirty-five years ago, our country granted women a deserved and long-awaited right to choose. Thirty-five years ago, our country liberated the female body from federal restriction. But now, this right is deeply threatened. Decades after the breakthrough achievement in human rights, the right to privacy, the right to control one’s own body, the right to safe and legal abortions and the pivotal right to choose are in danger of extinction.
Anti-choice groups nationwide are currently rallying for support, signatures and momentum to land their agendas on state ballots for November. These factions seek to propose ballot initiatives that enforce parental notification, restrict abortion access (both spatially and economically), and even ban the procedure altogether. As for the upcoming election, Californians should expect a similar proposition to 2006’s voted-down Prop. 85, which would have required abortion providers to notify the parents of minor patients.
Other, more conservative states are thinking up new and creative ways to make abortion less available. For example, anti-abortion activists in Colorado and lawmakers in Montana are pushing for a “personhood” amendment to their state constitutions that would endow fertilized eggs with complete constitutional rights. If passed, this law would not only outlaw all forms of abortion, but also emergency contraception. South Dakota’s SB88 is another example of malevolent anti-choice legislation to be decided on in November. If passed, the bill would require all abortion providers to take sonograms of the pregnant patient. The bill’s proponent, Senator Dennis Schmidt (R- Rapid City), hopes that seeing an ultrasound would discourage abortion clients from carrying through with their decisions. Last year, 15 states introduced a similar ultrasound mandate into state law.
These examples of upcoming anti-abortion initiatives are drops in the bucket compared to the amount of existing anti-choice laws throughout America. According to the U.S. News and World Report, 11 states introduced abortion bans last year. Planned Parenthood’s online fact sheet reports that 35 states have some form of parental notification, 14 uphold a ban against partial-birth abortions and 36 states prohibit abortion altogether (depending on the state’s definition of a “viable fetus”).
This large group of states which have banned abortion are sitting on what are called “trigger laws,” meaning the ban would go into effect the moment Roe v. Wade is done away with.
Across the country, anti-choice groups and lawmakers are licking their lips in anticipation of the day Roe v. Wade is overturned—a day when all of their conservative trigger laws will snap into effect and detonate the American woman’s right to control her own body. This hypothetical day, when neo-conservative government bodies and fundamentalist religious groups gain their sought-after dominance over the female body, would be a blatant disregard for the human rights progress and a slap in the face of womankind.
Already, in the wake of the Bush administration’s head start on unraveling reproductive health (take for example the fallacy that is abstinence-only education), we must be sure to elect a president who will not continue the degradation of Roe v. Wade and reverse decades of progress for women’s rights. More importantly, come November we must look closer than the federal level; we must keep a watchful eye on state-level ballot initiatives that aim to retract abortion rights from women, right under the nose of Roe v. Wade.