Commemorating 40 Years of Roe v. Wade
January 23, 2013 by Allison Herwitt, Vice President for Government Affairs
I have been extremely fortunate in my career to be able to work for causes that I care about deeply. Prior to joining HRC as legislative director, I spent eleven years working for NARAL Pro-Choice America, the political arm of the pro-choice movement.
Yesterday marked the 40th anniversary of the landmark Roe v. Wade decision by the Supreme Court, which affirmed a woman’s right to choose. Up until that point, abortion except to save a woman’s life was banned in almost two-thirds of the states, so women were forced to resort to incredibly dangerous and illegal back-alley abortions. Experts estimate these criminal procedures resulted in at least 5,000 deaths per year for women.
Then in 1973, Roe changed everything and gave women the freedom to make their own decisions about their bodies and their health. The legalization of abortion dramatically increased a woman’s access to a safe procedure, instead of a dangerous illegal one. Roe built on earlier precedents about an individual’s ability to make decisions about his or her family life – including sexual relationships, reproductive choices, parenting and marriage – free from undue government interference. These decisions are important to the lives of LGBT Americans as well, and may very well factor into the Supreme Court’s consideration of marriage equality this year.
The sad truth is there are many who spend exorbitant amounts of time and money to deny or take away rights from Americans. And whether it’s the right of a woman to make medical decisions for herself, or the right of a committed and loving gay or lesbian couple to get married, we must be steadfast in our advocacy to defend these rights wherever possible.
I firmly believe that a woman’s right to choose is as fundamental as her right to vote. And I’m looking forward to another 40 years of life with Roe v. Wade, where a Washington politician has no say in what I can or can’t do with my body.
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