Roe v. Wade at 34: A Pillar of Reproductive Freedom

Today marks the 34th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 decision that recognized a woman’s constitutional right to abortion. The National Organization for Women, the first women’s organization to call for an end to criminal abortion laws nearly 40 years ago, and a leader in the ongoing fight for reproductive rights, health and justice, salutes the doctors, counselors, clinic owners and activists who stand up every day for a woman’s right to make her own childbearing decisions.

“We have endured more than three decades of challenges and roadblocks from a well-funded opposition, and our rights are more tenuous than ever – but we are determined to fight, and we will not go back to the days when women had 12, 15, 18 children, often dying in childbirth, their bodies spent. Or they died in back alleys or dirty motel rooms, or were left injured and infertile after botched illegal abortions. Most of our grandmothers had no self-determination when it came to pregnancy and childbearing, and we are determined that our daughters will never suffer that fate,” said NOW President Kim Gandy.

In the next few months, the U.S. Supreme Court will be deciding two cases regarding the deceptively-named Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act. Nine justices will determine the constitutionality of the first federal law ever to ban a medical procedure – a law virtually identical to the Nebraska ban that was struck down by the Court in 2000 because it didn’t have an exception to protect the woman’s health. All eyes will be on the high court’s two newest justices – will they be devoted to precedent as they profess to be, or will they deviate from mainstream opinion and follow their own opposition to abortion? Also under close watch is Justice Anthony Kennedy, who voted to uphold the Nebraska ban seven years ago, and whose swing vote may determine whether the federal ban, already struck down by three federal courts of appeal, will become law.

“In this time of many challenges to our liberty, preserving women’s reproductive freedom calls for constant vigilance and concerted action,” said Gandy. “Abortion opponents are attempting to eliminate access to abortion in many states – by passing TRAP (Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers) laws to put clinics out of business, passing waiting periods and notice requirements that cut access for rural women, poor women and young women, and by enacting outright abortion bans that would jail doctors and revoke their medical licenses.”

As we mark 34 years of legal protection for abortion, we renew our determination to end the punitive Hyde Amendment, which 30 years ago decreed that Medicaid could not pay for a poor woman’s abortion,” said Gandy, “and which continues to this day to cause suffering and pain to those least able to provide for their own health care. We must ensure that not one more life is sacrificed by those who would force unwilling women to give birth, but who care little for children after they are born.

“A record number of women voters spoke in the 2006 midterm elections, protecting abortion rights in all three statewide ballot measures, and electing pro-women candidates to Congress. With Nancy Pelosi as Speaker of the House, women’s reproductive rights will be less of a gamble, but remain far from guaranteed,” said Gandy.

In remembrance: read about women who died from illegal and unsafe abortions.


Contact: Caitlin Gullickson, media[at], 202-628-8669 ext 123