Celebrating Roe vs. Wade - A Message from our Executive Director
Dear Friends -
Roe vs. Wade remains one of the major victories for the pro-choice movement in this country. It was an epic game changer that gave women the legal authority to make their own reproductive decision as to whether or not they wanted to complete their pregnancy. I wasn’t born in 1973 when this law was passed, but it was in 1999, that I was able to see the impact of the Roe vs. Wade victory. I was asked by one of my friends to escort her to escort our local Planned Parenthood to get an abortion. My friend was a 19 year old, African American, first generation college student. She had no job and no health insurance. She didn’t want the father of the child, or her parents to know she was pregnant. A lot of her friends, including myself, chipped in funds to help her get this abortion from our work study checks or limited funds that some of us were privileged to receive from our parents. She made the decision to focus solely on her education and to wait for motherhood, and I supported her decision. It was because of this landmark case that she, along with countless other women with similar and differing experiences, could make this choice.
Although Roe vs. Wade was a monumental leap forward in the quest for women to gain full autonomy over their reproductive lives, the case alone did not address the issues that women and women of color in particular, had to contemplate before making the decision to have an abortion. Twenty-one years later, women of color came together to tackle these issues and created a more intersectional framework known as reproductive justice.
This new framework expanded the analysis set by the reproductive rights/health/choice movement that worked diligently to achieve victories like Roe vs. Wade by asserting that women should have the tight to have a child, to not have a child and to parent their child in healthy and sustainable environments. Reproductive justice, rooted in the human rights framework, linked abortion to other social justice issues such as economic justice, environmental justice, immigrants’ rights, disability rights, and discrimination based on race and sexual orientation. It affirmed that all of these issues directly affect a woman’s reproductive decision making.
As a reproductive justice advocate, it is impossible for me to not pay tribute to the Roe vs. Wade victory, and not honor this as a piece of history of the reproductive justice movement. In 1999, I had no knowledge of the term reproductive justice, but I witnessed it in practice when we came together as young women of color to support our friend in making the very difficult decision to end her pregnancy. It was because of stories like my friends, and because of the numerous personal and historical traumas that women of color continue to endure that the creators of the reproductive justice framework felt that that it was time to address the challenges of the then privacy based pro-choice movement that hindered their opportunity in achieving self determination for themselves and their communities. It is also because of these stories that we must continue the fight to achieve reproductive justice today.
Abortion still remains one of the most controversial and debated topics in America, and even though Roe v Wade made abortion legal, women are still encountering barriers to abortion access across the country. The reproductive justice movement is in a critical state and is needed now more than ever. The “War on Women” headlines took over the airwaves and headlines in 2011 coupled with anti-abortion-bills popping up across the country. Not to mention the policy makers focusing solely on the procedure and the numbers of abortions performed and using it as a wedge issue to further build political platforms.
I am continuously amazed that there is so much focus and energy put on the numbers of abortions that women have as opposed to putting more emphasis on the need for more discourse on the reasons why there are so many unintended pregnancies that contribute to the increased numbers of abortions performed. I also find it unfortunate at how slow life saving legislation such as the Violence Against Women Act moves through our legislature, but anti-abortion legislation gains momentum around the county by the minute. We need to discuss how issues such as economics, immigration reform, interpersonal violence, rape and lack of comprehensive sexual education are all a part of the equation needed for reproductive justice to be achieved. Once these issues are addressed and legislation is enacted that support them; maybe then we can then have a discussion around the numbers of abortions being provided. Until then, I say let us celebrate the victories we have made like Roe vs. Wade because they give us the strength to continue this fight, and they remind us of how far we have come.
Monica Raye Simpson