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The Anniversary of Roe v. Wade: 33 Years of Safe, Legal Abortion

January 22nd, 2006 marked the 33-year anniversary of the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion throughout the United States. The court ruled that a women, in consultation with her physician, has a constitutionally protected right to choose abortion in the early stages of pregnancy, before viability.

Before Roe, it was left up to the states to decide the legality of abortion, though in most (almost two-thirds) it was illegal. In those states in which abortion was legal, it was available under only very limited circumstances, such as to save the life of the mother.

Roe made it possible for women to have control over their decision, and not be forced into having an unwanted pregnancy, or resort to an illegal, unsafe abortion. It is estimated that before 1973, 1.2 million women resorted to illegal abortions yearly, and that botched illegal abortions caused as many as 5,000 deaths a year (NARAL). The legalization of abortion led to a dramatic decline in deaths from illegal abortions. Today, complications from abortions occur in less than one percent of cases, and a woman is statistically less likely to experience complications from an abortion than from penicillin shot (Alan Guttmacher Institute).

Abortion - Legal but not accessible

As we celebrate Roe and the freedoms it provides, we must also seek to broaden our awareness of the challenges we face. Discriminatory barriers to reproductive rights and reproductive healthcare make "the right to choose" a hollow promise for millions of women and girls in the United States today, particularly low-income women, women of color and young women. Barriers such as:

  • The Hyde Amendment, which bans federal Medicaid funding for abortion and prevents low-income women from exercising their right to access abortion. There are currently only eight states which allow Medicaid funding for abortions.
  • State laws that prevent young women from being able to access healthcare in a timely manner and/or educate themselves about their own bodies. Most states have numerous restrictions on abortions, including requiring parental notification or consent, and waiting periods. In addition, abstinence-only sexuality education denies accurate information and decision making power to young people.
  • Decreasing numbers of abortion providers. Eighty-seven percent of U.S. counties have no abortion provider and one third of American women live in these counties (Alan Guttmacher Institute); leaving women forced to spend resources traveling to another area of the country or choose an illegal provider. Due to funding challenges and anti-choice harassment, many clinics have had to close their doors. In 1996 there were 57 abortion providers in Washington state; in 2000, there were 53 providers, which is a seven percent decrease.

Celebrate Roe v. Wade

Talk about it! Talk to the men and women in your life about the challenges we faced before abortion was legal and what we are confronting now. Reproductive healthcare must be accessible, equitable AND legal for all women.

Donate! Aradia Women's Health Center has been providing safe, supportive reproductive health care for 33 years, since Roe v Wade became legal! Donate $330 in honor of the 33nd anniversary of Roe v. Wade AND Aradia; $220 to recognize January 22nd as the date our country recognized reproductive rights as integral to women's basic freedom; or contribute whatever amount you feel you can - your gift goes directly to support the diverse group of women who come through our doors.

Speak your mind! Contact your representative or senator and tell them your views on abortion and women's reproductive rights. For more information on statewide legislation affecting your rights, sign up for our monthly E-newsletter, Women's Health Matters.