This week marked the 36th anniversary of Roe v. Wade (January 22, to be exact), an event that has special significance in the wake of inaugurating a pro-choice president. Obama re-emphasized his commitment to choice by releasing a statement that underlined the values that are common to both sides of this contentious issue together.
Roe v. Wade, he said, “stands for a broader principle: that government should not intrude on our most private family matters.”
And: “no matter what our views, we are united in our determination to prevent unintended pregnancies, reduce the need for abortion, and support women and families in the choices they make.”
In honor of those 36 years, it’s also worth remembering, even for a moment, what the Roe v. Wade stakes are. In 2006, Alan wrote a personal piece describing how the Roe decision had shaped the world he grew up in, and—if overturned—how it might shape the world his daughter and her peers grew up in. Hint: It has a lot to do with injustice and inequity. An excerpt:
Reversing Roe would create in many red states a two-tier system of reproductive rights. The day after Roe, the red-blue map of US presidential elections would begin turning into a hazard map for low-income women. (USA Today recently drew such a map.) Daughters of fortunate families would travel to blue states to get abortions. Daughters of unfortunate families would risk abortions from clandestine providers close to home, endangering their lives….
Or—and this outcome might be just as tragic—they’d bear children they resented and never wanted in the first place. Unwanted births bring a chain of disheartening consequences: more infant deaths, more child abuse and neglect, more school failure, more children in foster care and juvenile courts. And more women who blame themselves for all of these ills.
The long-term implications of this reproductive schism would be grave for unfortunate and fortunate alike. My sister and I have lived in a country that guaranteed women—as a fundamental, American right—that they alone would choose whether to carry early pregnancies to term. This inalienable guarantee has been part of the broad foundation of legal and political equality that all Americans knew they stood upon: the equal entitlement to freedom that has always defined Americans’ understanding of themselves as a people.
Overturning Roe would degrade women’s sovereignty over their own bodies. It would demote reproductive choice from a right to a privilege—a privilege distributed, like others, on the basis of money. Downgrading reproductive choices in this way—lumping them in with other class-based commodities of American life such as higher education, medical care, and housing—would substantially erode Americans’ sense of equality.
And thus, even if my daughter and her friends suffer little loss of choice themselves, overturning Roe would nonetheless cost them something of surpassing value. It would deny them the sense that they live in a country that stands up for all women. It would rob them of another reason to believe that as Americans, we’re not just a collection of workers and consumers who happen to share a currency, we’re a nation—we’re all in this life together.
Also, see Sightline’s population indicator (soon to be updated in the Cascadia Scorecard).