Roe v. Wade 38th Anniversary: A Time for Celebration - and

by Merle Hoffman

On The Issues Magazine
A Magazine of Critical, Independent Thinking

January 19, 2011

As we celebrate the 38th anniversary on Jan 22nd of the
Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion
nationwide, this day must also signal a commitment to the
future - to protect and advance women's reproductive freedom
despite the challenges and risks.

This year, 2011, also marks the 40th anniversary of Choices
Women's Medical Center, which I founded shortly after New
York State legalized abortion in April of 1970. Before there
was Roe, there was Choices, and the history of the two are
intertwined. I will never forget the first woman who came to
Choices. She was from New Jersey, a state where abortion was
still illegal. She was young, married with one child, but
having another child at that time was financially impossible
for her. Since that day so many years ago, Choices has been
there for hundreds of thousands of women assisting them in
what is one of the most difficult and profound decisions OF

While Roe established abortion as a legal right for women,
current laws in many states mean women still have to cross
state lines or face other restrictions to secure abortions.

This month, Guttmacher Institute released a new study
revealing that abortion providers have reported a dramatic
increase in harassment - from 82 percent in 2000 to 89
percent in 2008. In May 2009 Dr. George Tiller, one of the
few doctors in the country who provided later term abortions
- and whose dedicated service was guided by his slogan,
"Trust Women" - was gunned down in a cold-blooded
assassination. Today, we see an emboldened right-wing
assault in legislatures as well as at clinic doors.

And where are our nation's leaders when it has taken nearly
two years after Dr. Tiller's murder to begin a federal
investigation into a potential larger conspiracy around his
death? Where is justice when a pharmacist in Idaho is
allowed to refuse a patient potentially life-saving anti-
bleeding medication because she may have had an abortion?

The attack by some religious institutions continues as well,
including revoking the Catholic status of a hospital for
giving an abortion that saved a woman's life. In the
meantime, religious leaders gathered in New York recently to
strategize to decrease the abortion rate - not by increasing
access to comprehensive sex education and birth control, but
by decreasing access to choice and publicly shaming those
who had an abortion.

While there have been some victories to celebrate in the
past year, like Operation Rescue's "Flip" Benham's
conviction for his "wanted" posters targeting abortion
providers, or Alaska's recent strikedown of a ballot
proposal to ban abortion as unconstitutional under Roe v.
Wade, these wins are still few and far between.

And now, with a new slew of Republicans entering Congress
and a GOP-controlled House, it is looking increasingly
ominous. The new Speaker of the House, John Boehner, well-
known for his extreme anti-abortion views, has underscored
his sentiments by meeting with the infamous Randall Terry,
one of the originators of clinic blockades that the NY Pro-
Choice Coalition and I organized against in 1988 when
"Operation Rescue" came to NYC. Then there's anti-choice
Republican Rep. Joe Pitts, the new Chairman of the Energy
and Commerce Subcommittee on Health, surely eager to
restrict abortion access even more than now. With 600 bills
introduced last year to restrict reproductive health care
and rights, how many are on the horizon for 2011? Even one
more would be too many!

On this anniversary, we commemorate those heroes like my
dear colleague George Tiller whose legacies remain to
inspire everyone who cares about women's lives. Sadly, we
also enter 2011 without abortion providers Susan Hill and
Robin "Rocket Woman" Rothrock. At the same time, we honor
the many providers who continue to assist women with great
bravery, perseverance and love.

On this anniversary, we celebrate Roe v. Wade and rededicate
ourselves to meet the challenges ahead, to protect women's
lives and the providers who serve them - whether on the
streets, at the clinics or in the legislative chambers. As I
said in an editorial in the Lines in the Sand edition of On
the Issues Magazine:

    Our bodies are lines in the sand. Each one of us
    proclaims that the power of the state stops at our skin
    when we lay our bodies down for an abortion, saying,
    with that action, that it is we who will decide when and
    whether to bear children. Or when we leave a violent
    relationship. Or when we resist and when we take the
    right to sexual pleasure. And when we declare that we
    must live in freedom.

    When you draw a line in the sand, you have got to be
    prepared to defend it, to take risks and embrace
    challenges. That, too, calls upon the body, as well as
    the body politick.

[Moderator's Note: Lines in the Sand - Spring 2009 issue ]

[Merle Hoffman is the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of On
The Issues Magazine. She is the Founder, President and CEO
of CHOICES Women's Medical Center and author of her upcoming
memoir, Intimate Wars, to be released in January 2012.]


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