Fifty years ago today, the U.S. Supreme Court decided Roe v. Wade, guaranteeing the right to reproductive freedom and safe reproductive healthcare to this country’s women; who it could be pointed out, represent more than half the population. The era of modern health care coincided with the passage of the Civil Rights Act and court decisions guaranteeing citizen’s rights to privacy.
Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 became law on January 22, 1973. This landmark decision of the U.S. Supreme Court in which the Court ruled that the Constitution of the United States protects a pregnant woman’s liberty to choose to have an abortion without excessive government restriction. The decision decided for “Jane Roe” and against Texas District Attorney Henry Wade, struck down many U.S. federal and state abortion laws:
“The decision was based on the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. That court said that it provides a fundamental “right to privacy” that protects a pregnant woman’s liberty to choose whether to have an abortion. This right is not absolute, and must be balanced against the government’s interests in protecting women’s health and protecting prenatal life. The Texas law making it a crime to procure an abortion violated this right.”
Even at the time, the law was controversial, not because of the decision reached, but the basis on which it was reached: many arguing that instead of basing it on civil rights, it should have been based on human rights.
Half a century later, the rights of American women to decide for themselves when and how many children to have, their right to safe health care that does not endanger their lives, their rights to determine decisions for their own bodies, was stripped away by a right-leaning majority in the U.S. Supreme Court 2022 Dobbs decision.
It is the first time in our history that the Constitution has been used as an excuse to remove a human right.
When that occurred, the Supreme Court didn’t just allow their personal conservative beliefs to influence their vote, they presented it under the guise of states’ rights.
In so doing, they upended our women’s reproductive health system, making the level of health care you are allowed, and what decisions a woman can make about her own body, dependent upon which state in which you reside.
Some of the current justices on the Supreme Court appear to have been less than truthful during the hearings for the positions they hold. Gorsuch, Cavanaugh, Alito, and Thomas; all played fast and loose with the truth when they all pronounced that “of course, Roe v. Wade is settled law.”
As it turns out – the first chance they had — they reversed that settled law, making us almost the only country in the Western world to prevent women from controlling their own bodies. Even strongly Catholic Mexico has passed abortion rights.
Today in 2024, a national abortion ban is a real threat. The fact that public opinion surveys show that more than two-thirds of Americans support abortion rights seems not to matter to Republicans or the far-right.
More than 20 states with conservative legislatures have passed legislation restricting women’s reproductive rights, and there are another 20 laws being proposed in other states. States like Texas are endangering women’s lives as they force women to sit in cars in hospital parking lots until they are “sick enough” to be treated.
Some of those states are trying to pass laws preventing women from traveling from their home states for abortions (which is against interstate transportation and interstate commerce laws). OB-GYN doctors in states like Idaho are leaving for states such as Colorado where they feel safe to practice medicine.
Donald Trump and his supporters have already made it known that they are doubling down on this effort, should he be elected to a second term. The concerns are top-of-mind for Democrats, who have taken to saying that this year “abortion is on the ballot.”
In Colorado, there is hope that it actually is. Ark Valley Voice reported on the organization of a Colorado petition effort to put a ballot question before the voters to codify women’s reproductive rights in the Colorado Constitution. We covered it in this January 8 news story: https://arkvalleyvoice.com/lwvcc-joins-state-in-champaign-to-put-womens-reproductive-rights-petition-on-the-ballot/