In the early 1970s, trail-blazing feminists had a vision for women’s health centers and abortion service providers. Clinics were to function as places where all women could feel strong, safe, and supported - true centers of female empowerment. With the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, guaranteeing women the right to abortion, the pro-choice campaign seemed to be headed towards this idealist destination.
Few feminists of that era would have predicted that in June 2010 the New York Times would publish an article highlighting 11 states that have passed laws restricting or regulating abortion this year alone. Feminists, particularly those who defended clinics in the 70s, 80s, and 90s, are left wondering, "How is the fight for choice still going on?"
According to the Times article about 370 state bills regulating abortion have been introduced in 2010. Regulations that have made it through state legislatures include an Oklahoma law requiring women to undergo an ultrasound and listen to a description of the fetus prior to abortion, the banning of all abortions after twenty weeks in Nebraska, and a Tennessee bill requiring clinics to post signs stating it is illegal to coerce women into undergoing an abortion procedure. Even scarier, Utah legislators have passed a law allowing a 17 - year - old girl who paid a man to beat her into a miscarriage to be charged with homicide. While my pro-choice colleagues and I are left baffled by this wave of anti-choice legislation, abortion opponents are welcoming the turning tide. As quoted in the Times, Mary Spaulding Blanch, director of state legislation for the National Right to Life Committee, said, "This is a good year as far as victories." She continues, "I do get the impression that the [state political] climate is friendlier." Friendlier to anti-abortion laws, that is.
In an era where many Americans are unaware or dismissive of the gender inequities that exist in our culture, the question I all too often receive when I reveal my feminist passions is, "What do feminists have to fight for these days, anyway?" While there are an unlistable number of answers to that question, one response the feminists of the 70s didn’t think I would have to say is "choice." As evidenced by the recent passage of restrictive laws in numerous states, however, abortion is very much still on the agenda. So alas, the battle rages onward.
photo credit:Leo in Canberra on flickr.com