By Gwen EmmonsPlease note: this was posted on the ACLU blog on January 22, 2013, the actual anniversary of Roe v. Wade and no edits have been made.
Today marks the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade
, the historic Supreme Court decision recognizing that women have the right to choose abortion. While lawmakers and pundits have twisted themselves into knots analyzing the impact and significance of the decision, for generations of people, the meaning of Roe
is quite clear: It is the key to securing women’s place as equals in society.
For 10 years, Linn Duvall Harwell could only guess as to why her mother died so suddenly in 1929. But when she found out that her mother, Clara Bell Duvall, died of an illegal abortion, Linn instantly understood. “She loved her children…She was desperate because she wanted to care for them beautifully,” she told thePhiladelphia Daily News
in 1986. While Linn understood the sacrifice her mother made, she knew it was a senseless loss.
Linn held many jobs in her life, but the one nearest and dearest to her was pro-choice activist – as a member of NARAL Pro-Choice Americ a, the National Organization of Women and the founder of the Clara Bell Duvall Education Fund (now the Clara Bell Duvall Reproductive Freedom Project of the ACLU of Pennsylvania
). In a letter addressed to Representative Karen Ritter in 1990 Linn wrote, “The last thing a woman wants to consider when faced with an unwanted pregnancy is some bureaucrat sitting in an office in Harrisburg or a robed judge in a courtroom…. No woman can make advances in a career without the protection of her reproductive rights.” It’s chilling to think that those words are just as true today as they were in 1990.
Linn wasn’t the only person fighting for reproductive rights. As a college student in 1970, Peter Goldberger smuggled a friend to a secret location in Delaware, where she could obtain an abortion. “I knew it was civil disobedience, but I don't think I considered any part of it other than doing the right thing for a friend in trouble,” he recalled. “It was the right thing to do because it is what she
had decided.” It was only last week that he realized that, had he been caught, he would have faced up to five years in jail.
Later as a law student at Yale, Goldberger thought back to that night as he sat in classes and watched his colleagues on the frontlines of public interest law. When Roe
was decided in the second semester of his first year of law school, he reflected that the decision itself wasn’t a “gigantic event” on campus. But for him, it was monumental. “The freedom to make that choice…is critical to women’s ability to succeed and be on an equal plane.” He added that he had always thought that – but seeing it codified was another thing.
Jumping forward to today, we see a national climate that is as hostile as ever to reproductive justice. But we also see a debate that has become more nuanced and more diverse than in previous decades. “Women born after Roe v. Wade
– known as millennials -- see ‘choice’ as more complex than their predecessors,” says Alanna Tievsky, born a decade after Roe v. Wade
. “So many of our fundamental rights are under attack – we can no longer narrowly focus only on access to abortion.”
Indeed, the battle is no longer just about safe, legal abortion – it’s defending the right to contraception, to maternal leave, to bodily integrity. It’s about honoring the rights of women and men whose lives may not look like ours – and valuing their voices in the conversation. And it’s about remaining constantly vigilant in a political climate that is slowly but surely chipping away at Roe
and the full spectrum of reproductive choices we depend upon.” The legacy of millennial women will be reframing the debate around abortion to a dialogue that is more encompassing, more diverse, and more in tune with the needs of women and men, at every stage of their reproductive lives,” argues Gwen Emmons, a millennial and a reproductive justice activist. “It’s a responsibility we take very seriously.”
Unfortunately for millennial activists in this field, it’s challenging to get a toehold in the leadership structure of the ‘old school’ abortion rights organizations. “Despite the fact that young reproductive activists are working in these organizations, losing sleep on the campaign trail, or manning the phones at abortion hotlines, previous generations argue that we ‘lack passion for abortion rights,’” says Emmons. “If we’re to be the next guardians of reproductive choice, things have got to change.” Tievsky notes the numerous strategies this generation has been using to combat the onslaught of anti-women’s health legislation locally and nationally. “A difference in strategies does not make us less passionate than Peter,” she argues. “A belief in a broader vision of what choice
is does not mean we cannot stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Linn.” But that is the opinion of too many leaders in the choice movement.Roe
has had a profound impact on the fight for women’s equality. Each generation has reacted to the continued attacks on women’s health with their own brand of activism. For Linn Duvall Harwell, it was to volunteer and speak out at every opportunity she could. For Peter Goldberger, it was to do the right thing – even if it was illegal. And for Alanna Tievsky and Gwen Emmons, it’s to question the strategies and direction of previous generations – and plot a new course for the future. As we look ahead to another 40 years of Roe
(and beyond!), the goal must not only be to defend this monumental decision – it must be to nurture, inspire, and trust
the next generation of activists who will be protecting it.Thank you to Gwen & the ACLU for participating in our Roe v. Wage Blog Carnival. Check out more information about them at: http://aclupa.blogspot.com/2013/01/roe-at-40-looking-backward-looking.html
"Never did I imagine that this fundamental, logical, and progressive ruling
could be challenged- or worse- overturned in our modern society."
By Sarah Robinson
It has been 40 years since the Supreme Court decision in favor of women’s health in the monumental Roe
v. Wade case from 1973. I feel fortunate that my entire life, this decision has protected my right to legal and safe abortion, should I ever need to consider that option. My attitude is forever grateful for the women and men activists who fought to ensure this right to American women. Never did I imagine that this fundamental, logical, and progressive ruling could be challenged- or worse- overturned in our modern society. If anyone told me those activists endured the fight in vain, I would react with disbelief. That is, until about two years ago.
Currently, in the national and statewide political arena, some politicians have irrationally taken an opposing position against women and their bodies, in direct contrast to the requests of their constituents. Not to mention, in blatant substitution or disregard for dire, undecided issues like the housing market or unemployment. How did our country get here? How long can we allow the government to take us back in time?
I suppose we as citizens are partially to blame. We have let politicians use us as pawns; where wombs become the battleground. Cunningly, market generated labels like pro-choice and pro-life have boxed-in and polarized
otherwise open minded voters. Laws cloaked with the false intent for “patient safety” or movements to define “personhood” have made us lose sight of the basics of the decision in Roe. It is a question of privacy and dignity.
It is undeniable: the decision to have an abortion is not black and white. And yet, in the current political climate we are asked to make it so. It is entirely unreasonable to render one country, or even one state, capable of conforming to a single set of acceptable and unacceptable choices. That’s why I really like the new campaign from Planned Parenthood called “Not in Her Shoes.” The video helps explain how complex any given situation regarding abortion or parenthood can be. The campaign invites advocates and voters to develop a fresh perspective by shedding the old pro-this and anti-that labels.
The bottom line is this: abortion is never a goal. It is a deep, complex decision that most Americans agree a woman must determine for herself with the support of her family and physician. Organizations like Planned Parenthood, who do provide abortion services, also offer countless family planning, contraceptive, and educational services as well. Arguably, Planned Parenthood does more than any other organization to prevent unintended pregnancies, thus drastically decreasing the need for abortions. The ruling from Roe v. Wade simply determines that abortion remains a safe and legal option should a situation arise within the first 3 months of pregnancy. Without access and rights, consider the options:
have an unwanted child and all it entails, or endure an illegal operation, risking fertility and life. Let’s get real. It is evident women will have abortions whether they are legal or not. Legality keeps abortion safe. When something is legal we as a society and legislature are able to regulate it.
Personally, having access to safe and legal abortions gives me the power to construct and determine my life as I see fit. It reinforces my dignity as a woman and leaves me responsible and trusted with important life decisions. Think of it this way: in the not so distant past, a woman could potentially have almost 10 pregnancies to full term before the age of thirty.
Reproductive justice has freed women from the constructs and roles of traditional femininity. I can be a mother, or not; an astronaut or perhaps even a lawmaker. Needless to say, I couldn’t imagine how dramatically different my
life would be without that cornerstone decision 40 years ago.
Thanks to Roe v. Wade, abortion remains a legal, medical procedure. It is a personal and complex decision that should be left up to a woman and her doctor! Individual women have endured unbelievable ridicule and criticism from complete strangers for too long. Now, the threats have got to end.
We have had enough!
Thank you to Sarah for participating in our 40th Anniversary Roe v. Wade Blog Carnival.
The past week has brought us some exciting news from Congress, but also a reminder of the threat the looming “fiscal cliff” could pose to women’s health. Before diving into those stories, here’s a quick tally of support for women’s health in the first session 113th Congress beginning in January 2013.
As a result of the 2012 election, the U.S. Senate now has 46 Senators who have voted to support women’s health 100% of the time and 43 who have consistently opposed measures that protect women’s health. The remaining 11 Senators have records of variable support for women’s health and will certainly play a key role in swaying the outcome of new legislation. Meanwhile, the number of Representatives who have voted to support women’s health 100% of the time rose from 158 in the last Congress to 173. Despite this impressive gain, advocates for reproductive freedom will face 228 Representatives who have consistently voted to oppose women’s health. However, even with a challenging landscape in the current 112th Congress, we’ve seen two great pieces of legislation take root in Congress recently.
Senator Jeanne Shaheen’s (D – N.H.) amendment to the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act
would require federal insurance providers to cover abortion procedures for women in the military in the cases of rape and incest, among other reproductive healthcare services. Currently, servicewomen must carry the full financial cost of an abortion, with no insurance coverage unless their life is in jeopardy. Last Tuesday, the Senate unanimously approved the legislation that would expand coverage to include abortion in cases of rape and incest. Before enactment, though, the Senate version must be merged with the House version, which lacks an amendment like Shaheen’s. Nonetheless, preliminary analysis
indicates that the House will most likely include Shaheen’s amendment in the final legislation.
In another example of bipartisan efforts, several members of Congress have crafted legislation designed to enhance justice
in rape cases. The Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence Registry (SAFER) Act provides law enforcement agencies with funds to reduce their backlogged rape kits. Nearly 400,000 rapes kits remain untested, contributing to the fact that in the United States there is only a 24% arrest rate for this crime and just 6% of rapists will ever be sent to jail. Statistics show
that 1 in 6 women will be sexually assaulted in her lifetime. The cornerstone of addressing the trauma of this crime is being able to hold perpetrators accountable – the SAFER Act will better equip law enforcement officials to process rape kits in their possession, allowing rapists to be brought to justice faster.
The Shaheen amendment and SAFER Act are two bright spots in our current legislative session, which is becoming increasingly worrisome as we approach the January 2 “fiscal cliff.” Automatic budget cuts will occur on this date as a consequence of Congress not agreeing on a way to reduce the budget deficit by that time. These cuts will eliminate $500 million from the defense budget, as well as $500 million from domestic programs. Many of these affected programs directly benefit women’s health and some of those that may be drastically cut
because of the political gridlock include: the Maternal and Child Health block grant, Title X Family Planning funds, the Child Care and Development block grant, food stamp funds, and Pell education grants. Women, particularly low-income women, stand to lose the most if Congress fails to act to prevent this economic crisis.
Still, we must continue to push forward and keep women’s health our priority. We will hold Congress and President Obama accountable to making it their priority as well during the 2013 Fiscal year. Their first opportunity to protect women’s health will be to protect the federal funding to domestic programs that will be automatically eliminated unless Congress reaches a budget agreement by January 2.
In the meantime, we encourage advocates for reproductive freedom to use online social media to spread the news about what’s happening in Congress. First on the agenda is the Shaheen amendment, and supporters are urged to use the hashtags #ShaheenAmdt, #NDAA, and #equality4servicewomen to increase awareness of this pivotal piece of legislation. You can also encourage your social media networks to educate others about what’s at stake with the “fiscal cliff” as we approach the deadline by following the hashtags #fiscalcliff and #my2k. Please help us spread the word.
People will be analyzing the Nov. 6th election for months, if not years, to come. Many already say President Obama won re-election in great part due to his support of a woman’s ability to make her own personal medical decisions without interference from politicians.
As a result of the election, we will move ahead with implementing the Affordable Care Act
(ACA). By eliminating many out-of-pocket costs associated with preventive healthcare, the ACA will dramatically expand the number of people who can receive high-quality, affordable care from trusted and essential providers like Planned Parenthood.
At Planned Parenthood alone, nearly three million women a year already rely on close to 800 health centers for a range of personal and preventive health care services, such as gynecological and breast exams, STI testing and counseling, Pap tests, HIV testing, and more. The ACA’s provisions will enable millions more women to take advantage of these services with no co-pays or deductibles.
Although we have a women’s health champion in the White House, manifestations of fervently anti-choice agendas remain present at both the federal and state levels. Below, we will examine some of those state attacks. As their proponents begin recycling the scraps of this year’s anti-choice campaigns into renewed efforts down the road, we will certainly keep a close watch.State Issues: Recap and Moving Forward
In five states – Colorado, Nevada, Florida, Arizona, and Ohio – anti-choice initiatives to define “personhood” as beginning from the moment of fertilization either failed to gather either enough signatures to be voted upon by citizens or, if they did, were rejected at the polls. Although the presence of these efforts reflects a continuing trend of attacks on the safe and legal termination of a woman’s pregnancy, trends within
states indicate a weakening popularity for the anti-choice “personhood” tactic.
Proponents of personhood amendments in Colorado
failed to gather the legally required number of signatures necessary to place the issue on the Nov. 6th ballot, whereas with similar initiatives, in both 2008 and 2010, they were actually voted on though subsequently defeated by wide margins. In Nevada
, two separate personhood measures also failed to gather enough signatures, mirroring the outcome of a previous personhood initiative in 2010
. Mean while, in Florida
, personhood supporters neglected to deliver the requisite materials to the state by the 2012 deadline to appear on this year’s ballot.
Arizona state legislators attempted to redress the stalling of personhood legislation by referring SB 1494
to the November 6th ballot. Although this effort also failed
, Arizona HB 2036
has traversed the federal court system as legal sparring continues over the restrictive nature of the legislation. The bill would ban all abortion procedures after 20 weeks of gestation, earlier than any other state. Concerns exist over the bill’s lack of exceptions for women who discover fetal birth defects or other life-threatening conditions beyond 20 weeks into their pregnancy. As it stands, the bill stymies a woman’s ability to decide to end her pregnancy within pre-existing legal parameters.
Efforts on behalf of advancing a personhood amendment in Ohio yielded too few signatures to be listed on the November 6th ballot, although the state has other threats to reproductive freedom pending. Ohio HB 125
would outlaw abortion, even within the legal limits prescribed by Roe v. Wade
(1973), if a fetal heartbeat can be detected. According to reports by the American Civil Liberties Union
(ACLU), Ohio’s state legislators have come to a consensus on the bill and may pass it by the end of this year.
Unlike these states that focused on abortion restrictions, Texas navigated state healthcare laws in an effort to insert clauses that would defund family planning services, particularly its seven Planned Parenthood affiliates. However, these affiliates have successfully referred to the state court system
and made progress towards the dissolution of the state’s anti-choice administrative rules passed in 2011. These rules stipulate that health care providers who terminate a woman’s pregnancy, counsel her on options that include abortion, or associate with providers that do either, will lose all state funding. After suing the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, the Planned Parenthood affiliates received an affirmative decision that prohibits that state from canceling their funding for being affiliates of an organization that offers safe and legal abortion services.
A woman’s right to terminate her pregnancy has become much more precarious in Mississippi, where the state’s only abortion provider
, the Jackson Women’s Health Organization, has been mired in bureaucratic and legal struggles to remain open. In 2011, Mississippi voters rejected a personhood amendment to the state constitution, though anti-choice legislators have adapted the intent of this failed amendment into a “targeted regulation of abortion providers” (TRAP) law. On July 1st of this year, a new law took effect mandating that abortion providers must be certified as obstetricians/gynecologists who also have privileges at local hospitals. Mississippi is the only state with such strict, and medically unfounded, provisions. The law masquerades as safeguarding women’s health, though its intent is to make the termination of a woman’s pregnancy a nonexistent option in Mississippi. Following the enactment of this law, a federal judge ruled
that the Jackson Women’s Health Organization may continue to operate
without criminal or civil penalties while it pursues legal challenge to the state law.
Unfortunately, these state initiatives only reflect a portion of the anti-choice efforts currently unfolding across the country, and we expect to see more challenges to reproductive freedom in the future. Where Pennsylvania Stands
Pennsylvania’s status quo on reproductive freedom stems from a governor, state legislature, and congressional representatives that lean predominantly towards anti-choice policies. Like Mississippi, this state has endured its share of TRAP laws
, most notably Act 122, signed into law in December 2011 by Governor Corbett. The law requires all abortion facilities to meet standards of classification as an “ambulatory surgical facility,” often entailing additional administrative and architectural alterations. The law imposes restrictions that do not have an immediate impact on women’s health. Rather, it places a financial chokehold on abortion providers, thereby diminishing a woman’s ability to access safe and reputable abortion facilities in the state.
A positive note to remember is the lifting of a separate financial barrier to reproductive health services, accomplished by maintaining the Affordable Care Act. Moving forward, the framework for Pennsylvanians to receive care under the ACA will depend on the actions of the Pennsylvania state government, which has about a month to develop a state health insurance exchange program
within the parameters of the ACA. If it fails to deliver, the federal government will intervene to establish a health insurance exchange in the state.
Despite the severe challenges to women’s reproductive freedom in each of these states, women across the nation expressed to policymakers that their ability to make personal decisions about what is best for their reproductive health is a personal priority. Although we expect continued attacks on the essential domains of women’s health care – from funding for Planned Parenthood, to access to contraception, to safe and legal abortion – we are stronger than ever to hold our leaders accountable for protecting our reproductive freedom.
The Clara Bell Duvall Reproductive Freedom Project
is relaunching the timeless and timely documentary, Motherless: a legacy of loss from illegal abortion.
This 27-minute documentary film by Janet Goldwater and Barbara Attie
depicts the experiences of four children who lost their mothers to unsafe and illegal abortion before Roe v. Wade
. Exactly 20 years after the film’s creation, the relaunch seeks to remind us of the relevance that the issues raised in Motherless
continue to have in today’s political climate.
Join the Duvall Reproductive Freedom Project along with the filmmakers for our Watch Motherless Party
at the Philadelphia Art Alliance on Tuesday, November 13th where we will screen the film will discuss the role the film plays in the current political climate surrounding reproductive rights and justice.
Motherless’ impact depends on people watching the film and starting a dialogue. You can help spread the message of Motherless
by sharing the film’s website
on your personal Facebook
page and Twitter
profile tonight! We invite supporters to make their voices heard on issues related to reproductive health. Visit us on Twitter @watchmotherless, our Watch Motherless website
, or on Facebook
for more details about how to participate.Hosting your own house party
with 10 or 20 of your closest friends or classmates is another great way to take action and empower those around you to get involved in this issue. See instructions for hosting a house party on the website
The Clara Bell Duvall Reproductive Freedom Project at the ACLU of Pennsylvania
has re-launched the timeless and timely documentary, Motherless: a legacy of loss from illegal abortion.
This half-hour documentary by award-winning filmmakers Barbara Attie, Janet Goldwater, and Diane Pontius, is the powerful story of four individuals who lost their mothers to unsafe and illegal abortion before Roe v. Wade
Exactly 20 years after the film's creation, the re-launch seeks to remind us of the relevance of the issues raised in Motherless
in today's political climate. The culmination of our re-launch efforts are happening now (October 22nd through 28th) where supporters are hosting house parties
to screen the film and use the curricula we designed on our website
to facilitate meaningful discussion and dialogue following the film. If you are still interested, house parties of any size and with any group of people are welcome! Along with house parties, we are hosting a blog carnival, a twitter festival and encouraging supporters to bring issues surrounding Motherless
to the forefront of the political conversation. At the end of the re-launch, October 29th, we will be hosting a celebratory Watch Motherless
party at the Philadelphia Art Alliance.
On the 29th, we invite you to join filmmakers Barbara Attie and Janet Goldwater
and other activists to watch and discuss the film, and hear about how these filmmakers leverage their art to support reproductive justice. Attie and Goldwater are 2011 recipients of a Leeway
Transformation Award and 2005 Pew
Fellows in the Arts.
This free event is held in conjunction with the Clara Bell Duvall Reproductive Freedom Project of the ACLU of Pennsylvania
, the Leeway Foundation
and the Philadelphia Art Alliance
, and made possible by David and Linda Glickstein's belief in the power of art to shape a just future
The October 29th event will run from 5pm to 7:15pm at the Philadelphia Art Alliance. Here is the program for the evening:
- 5pm-6pm Galleries open to those who RSVP
- 6pm-7pm Motherless screening and discussion
- 7pm-7:15pm Wine and cheese
You can register here
. We hope to see you there for this powerful screening. You can also follow the entire re-launch on twitter
and use #watchmotherless
to make sure your friends and family know about this important documentary.
In recent conversations with my mother and a friend’s grandmother, I was reminded of the immense struggle that previous generations went through in the early part of the 20th century to achieve women’s healthcare rights and access to family planning services. It struck me how easily my generation has been able to forget that rights to women’s reproductive healthcare including access to birth control and legal abortion have not always been a right. These rights were demanded by and fought for by our mothers, grandmothers, great-grandmothers, and aunts. They are responsible for helping all women obtain the right to important health services and ultimately the right to choose what to do with their own body.
Polling suggests that most people support the preventive care that Planned Parenthood
provides. However, many lawmakers in America think that Planned Parenthood only provides abortion services, that it is simply a clinic for the poor and irresponsible to go to for help. In reality, Planned Parenthood provides thousands of women the basic healthcare they require to lead healthy and fulfilling lives. In Pennsylvania, over 95% of PP’s services are preventive, meaning that they perform everything from pap smears and breast examinations to screenings for cervical cancer to family planning services. Most importantly, Planned Parenthood offers a safe environment where high-quality care is provided at an affordable price.
Over the past year and a half there has been an increase in the political debates and media coverage surrounding women’s reproductive healthcare, with hot button issues like abortion and birth control as the main focus. While abortion has always been a controversial issue that elicits major public response, the increasing political debates about birth control seems to have taken center stage
. Perhaps one of the most significant achievements in women’s reproductive health in the last thirty years is contraceptive coverage under the Affordable Care Act. Birth control is also symbolic of a woman’s freedom and ability to have control over her own life. However, rather than be recognized as solely a woman’s health issue, attacks on birth control have also been framed as an issue of religious freedom. In truth, these debates are centered around restricting access to contraception, thereby undermining and infringing upon our freedoms and rights as women.
The “War on Women
” threatens to infringe and even take away our reproductive health rights; it is a war with a political agenda that illustrates how little policy makers and political leaders understand or care about women’s health
and the needs of women everywhere. In light of the 39th anniversary of Roe V. Wade’s earlier this year, the numerous attacks on birth control, the impending Supreme Court’s decision on ACA and Pennsylvania’s new “Whole Woman’s Health Funding Priorities Act
,” there is no time like the present for our generation to come together and become more involved in protecting our rights and our bodies. If we don’t fight to keep the reproductive health coverage the generations before us fought for, it can and will be taken away.
Yesterday I forced myself to go downtown on a on a bitterly cold (although thankfully sunny) day to a demonstration in support of abortion rights. When you are 67 you find out which causes matter most to you—these are the demonstrations you go to no matter what the weather. Tomorrow will be the 39th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision. I never, never expected in 1973 when I was a young woman that we would still be fighting to protect abortion rights 39 years later!
Although we have a pro-choice majority, a well-organized, vocal minority has managed to chip away at a women’s right to control her won body. But as I wrote in last year’s anniversary of Roe v. Wade post:
"There is some good news. Fortunately, there is a generation of young feminists out there ready to fight for reproductive rights. I don’t think young women are going to meekly stand by and accept the loss of hard fought rights. But women in my generation thought at one time that we had spared them the necessity of that fight." Thank you to Karen for participating in our Roe v. Wage Blog Carnival. Check out her other blog posts at:
By Karen Bojar
One of the most common questions reproductive justice activists get is why we focus on choice in a time where so many other pressing issues – jobs, poverty, healthcare reform – have yet to be solved.
My answer is simple: they’re all connected.
And on the 39th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, I think it’s more crucial than ever to reflect on how reproductive autonomy fits in to the bigger question of realizing the American dream.
The ability to determine the timing and spacing of one’s pregnancies (or whether to be pregnant at all) contributes to your ability to enjoy economic security. Unplanned pregnancies can, unfortunately, be costly (particularly if you are un- or under-insured) and can impact your ability to work in some cases. Having the ability to control your reproduction is crucial to controlling your economic destiny.
Access to safe abortion care, contraception, Plan B, medically accurate sex ed, and affordable gynecological screenings and childcare services are at the base of the pyramid that makes up that American dream. Lose Roe – or any of these other pieces – and we risk toppling that pyramid.
Unfortunately, for too many women and men, that’s already happening. And it’s shameful.
The flip side of this is that instead of fixing things like poverty, the economy, or our healthcare system, legislators in Pennsylvania and across the country have focused their efforts on chipping away at choice. Spoiler alert: restricting access to Plan B doesn’t create jobs. Draconian restrictions on abortion services won’t fix our economy.
So as we celebrate 39 years of access to safe, legal abortion, let’s reaffirm our commitment to ensuring that reproductive rights – and the American dream – remain attainable to everyone. Thank you to Gwen for participating in our Roe v. Wage Blog Carnival. Check out her other blog posts at: www.gwenemmons.com
By Gwen Emmons
By Janna Frieman
“Don't Tread On Me.”
It's a favorite saying of anti-government tea partiers and libertarians alike. Dating back to the Revolutionary War, this motto-- paired with the image of a rattlesnake coiled to strike-- summons along with it a call to defend certain natural rights to privacy and autonomy, a fundamental resistance to the authoritarian impulses of state power. Leave me alone, the snake glares, or else. Though the iconic phrase has been co-opted for many causes over its long existence, today it seems as though only right-wing small-and anti-government advocates wave the Gadsden flag (as it is historically named) with pride.
But it’s no secret that tea partiers and the politicians who pander to them don't actually believe in freedom from government regulation -- at least, not without notable exceptions. For all their talk about financial, educational, and environmental deregulation, the glaring inconsistency of smaller-government activists and politicians lies in their fierce opposition
to the deregulation of a most fundamental site-- the (female) body. My body. And this isn't just a back-burner issue. This is a priority. In the first six months of 2011, Pennsylvania lawmakers spent 30 percent of their days at the Capitol working to restrict access to safe, legal abortion when they should have been solving real problems.
Actually, that's small-minded of me. For some voters, activists, and lawmakers, my bodily autonomy is
a “real problem.” They are so uncomfortable with the idea that I currently can choose whether or not to have a baby that even my right to use birth control is coming under fire in popular discourse. Rick Santorum has infamously said that contraception is “a license to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be.” It's no stretch of the imagination to think that Santorum or any one of his like-minded colleagues will continue to push these paternalistic, religious, anti-sex, anti-liberty
And to them I say: don't tread on me. Writing under a pseudonym in 1775, Ben Franklin commented on the appropriateness of the rattle snake as a symbol for the freedom-loving American spirit: She never begins an attack, nor, when once engaged, ever surrenders... she never wounds till she has generously given notice, even to her enemy, and cautioned him against the danger of stepping on her.—Was I wrong, Sir, in thinking this a strong picture of the temper and conduct of America?
As the 39th anniversary of Roe v. Wade
approaches and my reproductive rights increasingly come under fire, I think it’s time to re-appropriate the Gadsden flag for its original purpose -- the symbolic defense of civil liberties against the creeping authoritarianism of the state. Like the Gadsden flag's rattlesnake, American women have generously given notice that these onslaughts against our basic bodily autonomy are unacceptable. So let this year be a year filled with pro-choice visibilities, actions, and activism -- a shot across the bow for opponents of personal liberty and reproductive privacy. Consider this fair warning: don't tread on me.Janna Frieman is an intern with the ACLU-PA’s Duvall Reproductive Freedom Project and a Master of Social Policy candidate at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Social Policy and Practice.
Thank you to Janna & the ACLU for participating in our Roe v. Wage Blog Carnival. Check out more information about them at: http://aclupa.blogspot.com/2012/01/roe-v-wade-anniversary-message-dont.html