On the 43rd Anniversary of this important decision protecting reproductive rights & the right to privacy, we share our submission to the Oregonian’s Letters to the Editor:
Roe v. Wade Day: Celebrating Decades of Protection for Women
January 22 Roe v. Wade Day celebrates the 1973 landmark Supreme Court decision that allows women, rather than the government, to have control over the decision to have a child. It has been the law of the land for 48 years; most women of childbearing age today were not even born when Roe was decided. Roe is now at high risk of being overturned, putting millions of women in danger. Women will continue to have abortions, whether legal or not. Prior to the Roe decision about 200 women per year in the United States died from illegal abortions. Most illegal abortions were self-induced, often causing permanent injuries to the women if they didn’t cause death.
The Roe decision has been constantly challenged in the courts. Waiting periods, parental notification, unnecessary ultrasound requirements, restrictions on timing of abortions have become part of the legal landscape. On January 13 of this year, the Supreme Court granted the Trump administration’s request to reinstate a ban to prescribing mifepristone, a medication used to induce abortion, over the phone; a patient must now meet in person with her medical provider. There is no medically sound reason for this decision. Mifepristone has been safely prescribed to over 4 million people over a span of 20 years. Of the 20,000 prescription medications approved by the FDA it is the only home-use prescription now required to be dispensed in person.
During his term of office, President Trump has appointed an unprecedented three Supreme Court justices, all of whom are opposed to abortion, and all of whom are young enough to be on the Court for many years. This shift in the court is enough to overturn Roe v. Wade, taking away a woman’s right to have control over her body. This is despite the fact that, according to Pew Research, 70% of American adults believe that abortion should be legal in almost all circumstances.
Oregon has no restrictions on abortion, and overturning Roe will not make abortions illegal in Oregon unless the political will of Oregonians changes. However, even though legal, access to abortion is quite limited. Unless a woman resides near the I-5 corridor or in Bend, there is no health clinic available to her that performs abortions. There are less than 15 clinics in the state where abortions are formed, and none of those are on the coast or in Eastern Oregon. This places an especially heavy burden on younger women and those who are poor.
We are not suggesting that abortion is a preferred form of birth control. The predominant reasons for abortions are poverty and lack of education. Addressing these societal problems will do more to eliminate abortions than attacking a woman’s legal right to obtain an abortion:
- Require scientifically based sex education for all teenagers.
- Provide free contraception for all fertile females.
- Support Planned Parenthood and other women’s clinics that provide reproductive health care and contraception.
- Mandate all health care practitioners talk to patients, including men, about family planning.
- Provide free/subsidized childcare. Women often have abortions because they cannot work and care for a child.
- Demand that women have equal pay with men as well as a living wage.
- Make pregnancy a man’s responsibility.
The Roe decision gave women the right to self-determination and the right to decide for themselves, without government interference, what to do, or not do, with their bodies. Roe v. Wade Day is a day to be celebrated and a day to remind ourselves what will be lost, including women’s lives, if Roe is overturned.
Rosa Colquitt, PhD, Interim President, Greater Portland Chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW)
Nancy Campbell Mead, National Advisory Board Member for NOW
14873 NE Tillamook Street, Portland, OR 97230