Statement from Nancy Northup, President and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights:
This Saturday, January 22, marks 49 years since the U.S. Supreme Court recognized the constitutional right to abortion in Roe v. Wade—the right to make a person’s most basic decisions about family and parenthood, free of government interference. Since then, the Court has reaffirmed that right many times, including as recently as 2020. Yet, Roe is more at risk now than ever, and it’s possible this anniversary could be its last.
The Supreme Court has allowed Roe to become a dead letter in Texas, the second largest state in the country. For almost five months now, Texans have been denied this constitutional right. Of equally grave concern, the state of Mississippi has asked the Supreme Court to overturn Roe completely, and it could act as soon as this spring in one of the most consequential abortion rights cases in decades. It seems Roe is just barely hanging on by a thread.
Right now, Texas provides a startling preview of the chaos and panic that will happen across large swaths of the nation if we lose the protections of Roe. Half of the states are likely to move to ban abortion. People would need to drive as far as 1,000 miles round-trip to find abortion services. Those without the means to do so will be forced to continue their pregnancies, or will seek to end their pregnancies themselves.
These blatant attacks on Roe v. Wade are not supported by a strong majority of Americans. That is evident in polls and in the lived experiences of women. One in four women has made the decision that having an abortion is the right choice for her. For two generations, people have relied on the right to abortion to shape their lives and futures. Much of the progress that women have made towards gender equality in the last 49 years was a direct result of access to legal abortion.
The United States stands in stark contrast to the rest of the world, where we’ve seen a trend of liberalizing abortion laws over the last 25 years. Most recently, in September 2021, Mexico’s Supreme Court recognized a constitutional right to safe, legal, and free abortion services. South Korea lifted its 68-year-old abortion ban earlier last year. In 2018, the people of Ireland overwhelmingly voted to repeal the country’s constitutional ban on abortion. The United States is an outlier, moving down a dangerous and backward path of regression of rights protections.
Whether or not this is Roe’s last anniversary, Congress must pass a federal law protecting the right to abortion nationwide. The Women’s Health Protection Act (WHPA) will do just that. This bill has already passed the House and now all eyes are on the Senate. We cannot wait any longer to take this next step—we have already waited too long.
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