January 22nd marks the 40th Anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the landmark decision that held that the fundamental constitutional right to privacy includes a woman’s decision whether or not to terminate her pregnancy. The Roe v. Wade decision transformed women’s lives and transformed women’s role in society. It was a critical milestone in the fight for women’s reproductive autonomy and equality.
In the forty years since Roe v. Wade, women’s lives have improved by leaps and bounds. Because women were given the right to control their reproductive health choices, they are pursuing higher education and entering the workforce in record numbers. Women are no longer living in fear of some of the health risks associated with pregnancy, as the United States has seen a significant decline in both maternal and infant mortality rates. Freedom to make decisions about reproductive health care has directly translated to opportunities and independence for women.
But having the right to have an abortion is not the same as having the access to abortion care. The ability for all women to access reproductive health care, including abortion, is the fight that NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts continues to fight today.
Over the last few years, women have been under unprecedented attack. Access to basic health care, including contraception, has been under assault in Congress. State after state has passed laws that restrict access to abortion care and force abortion providers to close their doors.
In Massachusetts, NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts has been fighting a similar battle. In the last legislative session a record number of anti-choice bills were filed in Massachusetts. And while Massachusetts has held back the wave of anti-choice fervor that has swept the nation and sent women back in time, the fight continues even here.
The 40th Anniversary of Roe v. Wade is a time to reflect on how far women have come, and how far women have yet to go before they can access the basic health care the constitution promises.