Jun 8, 2009
Despite the 1973 Supreme Court ruling, Roe v. Wade, forbidding states to deny women’s access to abortion, the reality in the U.S. today is that access to abortion is severely limited.
Both state and federal laws have been attacking the right of women to choose, whether abortion or even contraception, from the moment Roe v. Wade was issued in 1973.
First came a Missouri law that would force a married woman to get her husband’s permission before she could gain an abortion. Other states added different restrictions.
The Hyde Amendment, perhaps the worst attack, was passed in 1976, with a Democratic majority in both the House and the Senate. In it, Congress stopped federal Medicaid funding of abortions. So poor women were almost always prevented from access to legal abortions. In 1977, the state of Connecticut passed a law to ban state funds from being used for abortion. The Supreme Court upheld this ban, and other states signed on to this. Today thirty states pay for Medicaid abortions in only a few exceptional cases.
For the last 33 years, every new Congress, Republican or Democratic, reauthorized the Hyde Amendment. That same amendment is included in Obama’s 2010 budget.
Under pressure of right-wing forces, politicians in the 50 states have adopted a multitude of rules which, taken together, severely limit access to abortion. The Supreme Court has upheld most of them. For example, in 1989, the Supreme Court upheld a Missouri law that prevented the use of any public facilities for performing abortions, except in the case of medical necessity. Other states have stopped abortions by insisting that women under the age of 18 must have parental or guardian consent before they can obtain an abortion.
Legal restrictions have been reinforced everywhere by the murderous right-wing campaign that has resulted in death and injury to abortion providers and clinic workers, and harassment of women entering the clinics. In addition, there is a nationwide propaganda against abortion, decrying women who choose abortion as “baby killers.” These factors together mean that, in almost nine out of ten counties throughout the country, there is not a single doctor who provides abortions. A woman who wants an abortion must find another doctor, in another place, often quite far away, causing considerable expense. And to make the situation worse, many states require a waiting period, so after a woman sees a doctor, she still must stay somewhere for days before having the procedure.
Because doctors who offer this safe medical procedure are prevented from doing so, women are denied the right to choose, even though in theory Roe v. Wade gave them this right.
Whether Democrats or Republicans controlled Congress and the White House, the legal attacks on Roe v. Wade have never stopped. In 2003, the House of Representatives passed a bill to define a fetus as a “person,” in an attempt to stop abortions. The bill was passed thanks to support from 17 Democrats.
Local, state and many federal politicians, Democrat and Republican, would return us to the time when thousands of women died every year because abortions were performed under unsafe conditions. Politicians pander to religious extremists, who are willing to use terror against any woman making a choice they disagree with or against any doctor trying to help them.