38 Years of Roe v. Wade

On January 22, 1973, the United States Supreme Court struck down Texas’s criminal abortion laws, finding that the right to decide whether to have a child is a fundamental right guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. The 7-2 decision in Roe v. Wade would have an immediate and profound effect on the lives of American women. To celebrate and honor the anniversary of the historic Roe decision, the Center reached out to its board members, staff, abortion providers, journalists, and activists in the reproductive justice world to find out why Roe is important to them.

Take a look at what they had to say and then tell us why Roe is important to YOU!

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Lori Adelman

Lori Adelman

Program Associate, International Women's Health Coalition
Feministing.com Contributor

"Roe is important to me: Because denying women access to abortion services is unhealthy and unsafe; Because nearly 70,000 women still die unnecessarily from the complications of unsafe abortions around the world, most from countries with restrictive abortion policies; Because denying necessary healthcare to anyone, for any reason, is a travesty of justice and a failure of society, and abortion care is no exception; Because anti-abortion rhetoric is inherently sexist; Because my body is my own, but my ability to exercise my individual bodily autonomy is tied up with the ability of those around me to exercise theirs."

Michelle Kinsey Bruns

Michelle Kinsey Bruns

Reproductive Justice Activist, Tweets as @ClinicEscort

"Freedom would seem an empty word in a society capable of legally requiring that women become mothers against their wishes: Roe v Wade enshrines this principle in law. Yet more than principle is needed to defend freedom for those women at “the raw edges of human existence.”

I grew up terribly poor, and I know I would be still, had abortion care been unavailable to me when I needed it at 18. I was one of the lucky ones. Roe’s defense of the right to abortion, not access to abortion, leaves opportunity unattainable for some. So our work goes on."

Dr. LeRoy Carhart

Dr. LeRoy Carhart

Abortion Provider
Center for Reproductive Rights Client

"As the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade approaches its 38th anniversary, the reproductive rights protected by the decision remain under direct attack by anti-choice forces that seek to once again make abortion illegal.  With each new federal and state legislative session, multiple bills are introduced to further restrict abortion rights.  Each new assault is one more attempt by these forces to either polarize Americans against all abortions or make all abortions harder and more expensive to obtain.  Each anniversary of Roe should be an opportunity to celebrate a victory for women to control their fertility and thus their destiny; however, each anniversary has become a reminder of how fragile reproductive rights are and that unless we unite to preserve all abortions, we are on the verge of losing the rights to any abortions.  If not for the unwavering persistence of the Center for Reproductive Rights defending abortion, Roe would have already fallen."

Irin Carmon

Irin Carmon

Reporter, Jezebel.com

"The recognition that women deserve autonomy over our own bodies; the legacy of the battles that were fought to legally ensure that autonomy; a bulwark against daily encroachments on that right nationwide—all of these are reasons that Roe v. Wade is important to me. For my generation and the ones that come after us to reach our full potential, reproductive freedom is crucial."

Sady Doyle

Sady Doyle

Founder of Tiger Beatdown 

"I am a lady. As such, ANY decision I make, relating to my body, is controversial! For example: Always wanting to give consent to sex! Controversial. Having sex! Controversial. Having a baby or NOT having a baby: SO controversial, JEEZ. It's amazing they even let me get dressed in the morning without a qualified male consultant. But Roe v. Wade reminds me that there were ladies who refused to put up with this. They said that deciding what to do with your own uterus was just common sense. And it reminds me that, when we work hard enough, people listen."

Melissa Harris-Perry

Melissa Harris-Perry

Princeton Professor, MSNBC Contributor, Columnist for The Nation

"Why is Roe v Wade important to me? It means that my friends, my sisters, my nieces, my students, my daughter and I can learn, grow and live knowing that we will have privacy, safety, and options to make the most important decisions in our lives. It means that we can support one another as we walk down our different paths. It means that we can share or shield our choices without shame or danger."

Pamela Merritt

Pamela Merritt

aka Shark-Fu of AngryBlackBitch.com

"Roe matters because of all the good that follows when we trust women and when women are educated, healthy and safe from violence and oppression. I often find myself standing on the foundation of Roe in my community, working toward a world where women of color are empowered in our lives and trusted in our decisions…where our work is valued and our labor is appreciated. So, Roe matters to me because it is the starting point of my mission to make people appreciate that the safest place for a black woman’s reproductive health care decisions is in her own hands."

Nancy Northup

Nancy Northup

President of the Center for Reproductive Rights

"The decision in Roe made it clear that a woman’s right to make her own decisions about pregnancy is essential to her health and dignity. It was an early victory in the struggle for legal recognition of women's right to reproductive healthcare, and it gave strength to a global movement that is in full force today. My commitment to reproductive rights—including the right to abortion, contraception and to safe pregnancy—is a commitment to an ideal embedded in our Constitution and championed by Roe. The Roe anniversary is a reminder of why I fight every day to ensure that the next generation is able to thrive in a free society that allows them to choose their own destinies."

Roberta Schneiderman

Roberta Schneiderman

Planned Parenthood of New York City Chair Emeritus, Civitas Board Member
Center for Reproductive Rights Board Member

"In 1948—25 years before Roe—I went to a large women's college in Massachusetts. I knew little about sex and nothing about abortion. I had misused the word to mean 'abhorence.' In what was surely a fortuitous mismatch the college had paired me freshman year with a sophisticated Swiss New Yorker who was an authority on sex, including abortion. When she was 16, her mother had told her it was wrong to have an unwanted child.

By graduation I had learned that nice girls do have sex: some dropped out to bear children unmarried, others married and graduated pregnant with our class.

On Roe day, January, 1973, it was another European woman who was the first to telephone me with the Supreme Court's decision. She was weeping. 'It's too late for us,' she sobbed, 'but never again...never for the others...'"

Hugo Schwyzer

Hugo Schwyzer

Professor of History and Gender Studies at Pasadena City College
Blogger at hugoschwyzer.net

"It seems like just yesterday that I was with my students commemorating the 20th anniversary of Roe!

The enduring significance of Roe v. Wade lies not just in that it legalized abortion in states where it wasn’t yet legal, but that it has galvanized generations of activists to defend and expand the court’s holding that reproductive activity is fundamentally private. The most precious tenet of reproductive justice is surely that women ought to be sovereign over their own bodies, and Roe gives a constitutional foundation for that sacred right to privacy and self-ownership.  That’s worth celebrating loudly every January 22."

Barkley Stuart

Barkley Stuart

Business leader, social responsibility advocate, environmental steward and human rights champion
Center for Reproductive Rights Board Member

"Roe is important to me because it connects me to my mother and my daughter; my mother because she was active in contraceptive and abortion rights beginning in the 50s until her death in 1985.  My mother taught me that choice means freedom and independence for women.  It connects me to my daughter because I know how fragile Roe is yet how vital it is to the life she is just starting to live.  I want her to live in a world where abortion is safe and available without ever taking it for granted."

Melissa Upreti

Melissa Upreti

Senior Regional Manager and Legal Adviser for Asia
Center for Reproductive Rights

"I come from Nepal, a country where abortion was illegal until 2002.  Women were routinely thrown into prison for having abortions and many more died in the process. Nepal’s ban on abortion represented to me everything that was wrong about the country’s laws; it was cruel, oppressive, ineffective and degrading.  As an activist, I wanted to fight the ban so I looked to America; it was a time when the whole world looked to America for inspiration and that’s what I found in RoeRoe inspired me to think about abortion differently.  It gave me the courage to speak of abortion as a matter of personal choice. It empowered me to question my country's abortion ban and to advocate for a legal regime that recognizes a woman’s choice and dignity instead of denying these things in the name of tradition."

Sophia Yen MD MPH

Sophia Yen MD MPH

Woman, Mother, Wife
Center for Reproductive Rights Board Member

"Reproductive rights are human rights. Women and men have sex. However, only women bear the consequences. If contraception fails, a woman should be able to decide what happens to the ball of cells growing inside her uterus. As my ob/gyn professor told me, 'Nothing will come between a woman and a wanted or unwanted pregnancy.' This means that if a woman wants to get pregnant, she will, and if she wants to terminate a pregnancy, she will. If you make abortions illegal, women will die (from illegal, unsafe and/or self-induced abortions). I am pro-choice because I am pro-life. I don't want to see women die."