Roe at 36

January 23, 2009

Directly on the heels of a crazy Inauguration weekend, another celebration of sorts took place yesterday. Thousands gathered here in D.C. to celebrate (or protest) the 36th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to protect a woman’s right to privacy. Roe v. Wade stirs a number of emotions in all of us — for me it’s immense pride in the workings of our judicial system, that it could recognize that nothing is more important that the ability of a woman, in the confidence of her doctor, to decide exactly what her reproductive future will look like.

The counterpoint to that argument has been literally marching through the city for the past 48 hours with posters and flyers — an in your face reminder that we have not yet come to a consensus on how to best reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies without intruding on a woman’s right to choose. I hope, though, that their protests were quelled yesterday by the eloquent and very inclusive statement from our new president recognizing the day:

“On the 36th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, we are reminded that this decision not only protects women’s health and reproductive freedom, but stands for a broader principle: that government should not intrude on our most private family matters. I remain committed to protecting a woman’s right to choose.

While this is a sensitive and often divisive issue, no matter what our views, we are united in our determination to prevent unintended pregnancies, reduce the need for abortion, and support women and families in the choices they make. To accomplish these goals, we must work to find common ground to expand access to affordable contraception, accurate health information, and preventative services.

On this anniversary, we must also recommit ourselves more broadly to ensuring that our daughters have the same rights and opportunities as our sons: the chance to attain a world-class education; to have fulfilling careers in any industry; to be treated fairly and paid equally for their work; and to have no limits on their dreams. That is what I want for women everywhere.”

It’s interesting that he would issue that exact statement yesterday, a day that can now be celebrated not only as the anniversary of the protection of a woman’s right to choose, but also as the day on which the U.S. Senate agreed that the Supreme Court was wrong to overturn precedent in the Ledbetter decision to make it more difficult for women who are victims of pay discrimination to seek vindication.

I can attest to the fact that protests go on today by simply looking out my window here at AAUW’s headquarters in D.C. I will applaud when our president soon overturns the Mexico City policy, also known as the global gag rule, making it possible for the United States to fund health service providers internationally without insisting that they not provide comprehensive services, counseling, or advocacy with regards to abortion care. The decision to lift this policy will reaffirm the statement he issued yesterday, that there are ways to reach for the middle ground of fewer unwanted pregnancies while supporting the ultimate right of a woman to privacy.

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Anne Hedgepeth By:   |   January 23, 2009

1 Comment

  1. Avatar Marian says:

    Thank you, Anne Hedgepeth, for your thoughtful and important message for all of us. We belong to an organization whose mission has been for equity for women. That will never happen unless we are willing to speak up for our beliefs rather than staying silent and letting those who oppose equity for women to be heard. Thank you your example.

    This relates to only one issue for women in healthcare. On Thursday evening people in our community have the opportunity to “Speak Out” about health care for women. Their stories will be available throughout the country.

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