Jan. 22 is the 35th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court case which ruled that the decision of whether or not to have an abortion would be for a woman and her doctor to decide without government interference.
Western pro-life and pro-choice groups are planning events to mark today's anniversary of Roe v. Wade.
VOX, an AS club and student advocacy group for Planned Parenthood, is distributing Roe v. Wade condoms this week in celebration of the anniversary, VOX coordinator Lizzie Stewart said. VOX is traveling to Olympia on Jan. 28 for Lobby Day to meet with representatives on behalf of Planned Parenthood's interests, she said and it is also planning activities for Valentine's Day and National Condom Week in February.
Western for Life sent four students, including Samantha D'Andrea, president of the club, to San Francisco for the Walk for Life Jan. 17 and two to Olympia for the March for life on Tuesday. In February they will hold a movie week featuring pro-life movies. Also, they will be bringing the Genocide Awareness Project again in spring, although the date has not been determined.
The case was filed by “Jane Roe,” an unmarried woman who wished to end her pregnancy but could not due to a Texas statute that made it a crime to perform an abortion unless the mother's life was at stake.
The Supreme Court declared that the Texas statute, along with similar laws that existed in most other states, was unconstitutional. The court ruled that a woman's decision of whether or not to end her pregnancy is covered by the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which guarantees the right of liberty to U.S. citizens.
“Roe v. Wade is a victory for women's health,” Stewart wrote in an e-mail. “Before Roe, millions of women sought illegal back-alley abortions, resulting in as many as 5,000 deaths a year. Women's health and autonomy depends on having the ability to make decisions about what happens to their bodies.”
In the 35 years since Roe v. Wade, abortion has remained a hot topic of debate. According to a 2003 Gallup survey, 38 percent of Americans believe abortion should be legal in most or all circumstances, 42 percent believe it should be available in certain circumstances, such as when the mother's life is at risk, and 18 percent say abortion shouldn't be legal in any case.
“It's often that when we have a protest or even we often have counter protests,” D'Andrea said. “There has been a lot of good dialogue. It's good to not think of it as a polar issue and more of a spectrum.”
D'Andrea said that sensational arguments are not productive.
“There are real people involved,” D'Andrea said. “It is important to have educated dialogue.”
D'Andrea said she would like to see Roe v. Wade overturned and a full ban of abortions, with the exception of cases that endanger the mother's life. She also said the woman who was “Jane Roe” in the case eventually become pro-life after realizing what goes into an abortion.
Abortion rights also continue to be challenged, and in some cases limited, by political groups. In 2007, changes in the make-up of the Supreme Court led to restrictions for abortions. In the cases of Gonzales v. Carhart and Gonzales v. Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Inc., the court upheld the first federal legislation to criminalize abortion.
This legislation, known as the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003, makes it a federal crime to deliberately remove a living fetus from the mother's body during a second-trimester abortion. The Act does not make an exception for the woman's health.
“It was good, but it covered a small percentage of abortions in the U.S.,” D'Andrea said. “But it was a good step in the right direction.”
Stewart said that partial-birth abortion is a political term, not a medical term. Also, she said the language in the ban is too broad.
“It means that women no longer have access to medically necessary abortions in which the mother's health is threatened by the pregnancy,” she said. “This creates an unconstitutional ‘undue burden' on women seeking abortions and allows politicians to make medical decisions instead of doctors and families.”