46 years post-Roe, right to choice remains under attack

Alyssa womens-march crop 2016

Forty-six years ago today, on Jan. 22, 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its landmark ruling, Roe v. Wade, affirming the constitutional right to safe, legal abortion. Since Justice Brett Kavanaugh joined the court last October, replacing pro-choice Justice Anthony Kennedy, a post-Roe world has become ominously possible.

The scary truth, however, is that the Religious Right has been steadily engineering rollbacks on Roe v. Wade even before Kavanaugh’s ascension, infiltrating state legislatures and governorships to incrementally strip away women’s access to abortion care.

Since 2010, more than 400 state laws have been passed that restrict abortion access in some way, according to Planned Parenthood. And if Roe is overturned, sending abortion rights back to the states to decide, 10 states (Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Michigan, Mississippi, New Mexico, Oklahoma, West Virginia and Wisconsin) still retain Comstockian laws criminalizing abortion. (Massachusetts admirably repealed its 173-year-old abortion ban, after passing the Negating Archaic Statutes Targeting Young Women Act — or NASTY Women Act — last summer.) Many other states are set to debate truly vindictive laws targeting women in the upcoming year, including a total abortion ban punishable by life imprisonment in South Carolina and Texas.

At the federal level, the Trump administration has been in court since 2017 defending its crusade to roll back the Obama-era Affordable Care Act contraceptive mandate. So far, federal courts have blocked the administration multiple times, most recently in Pennsylvania. If these anti-woman, anti-abortion protesters were truly “pro-life,” they would focus their efforts on actually increasing access to contraception and comprehensive sex education to prevent unwanted pregnancies from the start.

Just last week, members of the Senate tried to rush through a punitive bill to make permanent a federal restriction on using federal Medicaid funding for abortion services for low-income women. Thankfully, this bill was voted down, but it succeeded in pandering to the Religious Right anti-abortionists it was intended to energize prior to the annual “March to Life” in Washington, D.C. In a letter asking for support of this bill and march, the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops asked all parishioners to “celebrate God’s miraculous gift of human life from its very beginning.” This letter revealed what freethinkers across the country know to be true: The opposition to abortion serves a dogmatic religious agenda to control and subjugate all women based on the religious beliefs of a few.

As we head into 2019, the Freedom From Religion Foundation remains as committed as ever to upholding a woman’s right to comprehensive reproductive health care, free from the imposition of others’ religious convictions. And we are not alone. It’s important to remember that more than 70 percent of Americans support Roe v. Wade and a woman’s right to choose and that nearly one in four American women will have an abortion during her lifetime. While the extreme beliefs of the Religious Right may be disproportionately represented in government, they are not akin to the will of the American people.

By Bailey Nachreiner-Mackesey, Editorial Assistant

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