Friday, January 22, 2010

Pro-Choice is Our Choice Too...Roe at 37

First of all, let me say, happy 37th anniversary of Roe v Wade! Now that that's out of the way - don't celebrate, ACTIVATE!

Yesterday, West Coast Organizer Jacqueline, new FMF intern Laura Garnett and myself attended an event called "Pro-Choice is Our Choice Too...Roe v. Wade at 37". It was put together by the National Council of Jewish Women in Los Angeles, along with the Hollywood chapter of NOW and local Planned Parenthood chapters.

The awesome, super-pro-choice speakers included: Rebecca Iaacs, the President and CEO of Planned Parenthood Advocacy Project Los Angeles; Dr. Arthur Fleisher, an OB/GYN who has been practicing medicine since the 50's and performing abortion since BEFORE Roe v. Wade (because abortion became legal in California in 1970); Professor Laurie Levenson of Loyola Law School; and Abbe Land, former Mayor of West Hollywood, current West Hollywood City Councilmember, Co-CEO of the Los Angeles Free Clinic and a past FMF staff member!

The message I would like to convey to you (in case you didn't know) is: OUR RIGHTS ARE NOT SAFE! Roe v. Wade basically ruled that abortion can't be entirely outlawed, but it can be regulated to death - and the anti-choice movement is sure taking advantage! From the Hyde Amendment, to state funding restrictions, to parental notification and consent, biased counseling requirements, mandatory delays, ultrasound requirements, reporting requirements, and more - when it all boils down, abortion is accessible for women with means, and for everyone else, it is not. In fact, 87% of counties in the U.S. do not have a single abortion provider.

In addition to having hugely negative consequences on women's ability to exercise their legal right to abortion, these types of anti-choice tactics are slowly chipping away at the legality of the right itself. Personhood amendments in particular, which we are seeing increasingly (several states had them on the ballot in 2008, state legislatures have considered them and North Dakota's House has even passed one, and we can expect to see them on the 2010 ballots in CA, NV, AK and CO, if not in more states) aim to directly challenge Roe v. Wade.

The North Dakota bill which has passed in the ND House (but has yet to pass in the Senate or be passed into law) defines "personhood" as beginning "at the moment of conception". Of course, the meaning of "moment of conception" is up for debate, but nevertheless, this bill's sole purpose is not only to ban abortion, emergency contraception, and even some forms of birth control in North Dakota, but to make its way to the Supreme Court and overturn Roe v Wade.

And as Laurie Levenson stated yesterday, "We are one vote away from overturning Roe v. Wade". We don't know how Justice Sotomayor will vote on the issue of choice. We know that the two most pro-choice Supreme Court justices, Ginsburg and Stevens, are also the oldest and most likely to retire. So, if Roe v. Wade gets overturned, what next? Well, 15 states actually have unenforceable abortion bans on the books, that would immediately go into effect should Roe be overturned. Oy!

Furthermore, the anti-choice movement has been very successful at making "abortion" a dirty word and making people feel it is a procedure they should be ashamed of. The constant messaging that "abortion is murder" and increased messaging about the connection between fetal/embyronic "life" and "personhood" surely serves their goals well as people internalize these messages like they're a McDonald's marketing campaign.

The reality is that 1 in 3 American women will terminate a pregnancy at some point in their lives. Abortion is one of the most common surgical procedures performed. So why is it so stigmatized?!

Today, on the 37th anniversary of Roe, please treat it not as a celebration, but a call to action! Make sure young people realize the very real and constant threat our rights are under. Raise awareness about abortion - the procedure itself, how common and safe it is, and encourage people to speak up and speak out for our rights!

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