This month, we celebrate a pivotal moment in our country’s history. Forty years ago, the United States Supreme Court changed the destinies of millions upon millions of women with its landmark decision in Roe v. Wade. It helped to transform the American workforce, open the halls of higher education, and reconstitute the makeup of our armed forces.
Women finally had the freedom to decide whether and when to have a child—a fundamental right, prerequisite to the pursuit of happiness, and inextricable from a woman’s equality and dignity.
But Roe v. Wade isn’t simply a moment. It marks the beginning of a relationship between a set of unshakable principles and the people who have vowed to stand up for them. This anniversary is about that relationship and, ultimately, about strength and fortitude and commitment.
From the moment the U.S. Supreme Court issued its decision in 1973, the fundamental rights granted through Roe and protected by the Constitution have been attacked and eroded. Over the years, efforts to limit women’s access to abortion and contraception services have only escalated, increasingly hollowing out women’s reproductive rights. So with those attacks has come the understanding that reproductive rights can never be taken for granted.
A group of lawyers and advocates founded the Center in direct response to the ongoing assault, recognizing the need for a legal advocacy organization focused solely on protecting and advancing reproductive law.
For more than 20 years, we’ve been on the frontlines of this movement, taking on the most outrageous laws, year in and year out:
- Our founding staff included those who argued Casey v. Planned Parenthood before the Supreme Court, preserving Roe‘s protection of the right to abortion even as the court opened the gate to a flood of legislation that has whittled away access in many states.
- We first secured funding for abortion services for low-income women in Women of Minnesota v. Gomez, in 1995, and won similar decisions in New Mexico, Arizona, Indiana, and many other states.
- In recent years, personhood initiatives have threatened to establish outright bans bans on abortion. We’ve defeated an effort to amend Oklahoma’s constitution with a personhood law.
- We have fortified reproductive rights protections in states with some of the most virulently anti-choice legislatures, such as Oklahoma and North Dakota, where a woman’s right to a medication abortion was in danger.
- Extremists across the country have tried to put reproductive health providers out of business with burdensome, unnecessary regulations. The Center has prevented the shutdown of providers in Missouri, Kansas, and other states.
- And every year, we beat back scores of attempts to choke off access to reproductive health care including biased-counseling provisions, waiting-period requirements, restrictions on the use of new health technologies such as telemedicine, and many more.
The fevered pitch of our struggle endures. We’re fighting the most extreme abortion ban in recent memory, passed in Arizona in 2012. And, so far, we’ve been able to stop extreme legislators in Mississippi from shuttering the state’s last abortion clinic.
We don’t fight these battles alone. We lock arms with our sister organizations, fellow advocates, and you, the supporters who stand with all of us every day. Ours is a relationship built on solidarity around the unwavering belief that our reproductive rights are fundamental and should be protected. Never has the vitality of this relationship been more clear than with our Draw the Line campaign, which has seen nearly 200,000 people sign the Bill of Reproductive Rights.
Most anniversaries of relationships are celebrations, often marked by a symbolic gift. Custom calls for the ruby to recognize 40 years. The red signifies the intense heat of fire required to sustain a relationship that long.
Our work is fired by the passion that comes from a fight for fundamental human rights in the face of persistent opposition. We thank you for the fire you bring to our movement and urge you to keep it alive as we continue the long march to equality, dignity, and autonomy for all women.