Happy anniversary, Roe
Sunday, Jan. 22, 2012, was the 39th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. It should just be another day, because abortion has been legal for almost 40 years in America. Seriously, it’s been decided—legally—by a group of highly qualified Supreme Court justices. It’s done; the legal right to privacy has been cemented, so let’s go tackle the next big issue: world hunger. Or…not. Instead of just marking a historical event, this particular anniversary serves as a nagging reminder of just how big of a gap there is between reality and ideals.
Since we’re in the midst of an election year, the constant hum surrounding abortions and contraception has evolved into a general brouhaha. Why any politician or political group invests time in overturning Roe vs. Wade is beyond me, when the economy is still far from “fixed,” our educational system falls short, and campaign finance laws regulations are flouted. That, coupled with the increasingly uncomfortable abortion restrictions that have been cropping up, just shows how important taking note of this anniversary is and paying attention to reproductive rights issues in general.
There is a reason that organizations such as NARAL (National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Actions League) Pro-Choice America still exist. Far from being vestigial, groups like these take on current issues, including, but not limited to, abortion rights, birth control and general women’s issues. To my mind, it seems as though increasing abortion restrictions is an attempt to impose unnecessary, and anachronistic, restrictions on personal behavior.
Abortion, birth control and sexual health are all private issues (I’m looking at you, Rick Santorum. Googled yourself lately?). Further restricting or outlawing abortion will not “make America great again” or bring back manifest destiny or legislate a moral utopia into existence. Prohibition would only bring problems, ranging from the physical to the philosophical. I don’t like to throw around potent words like liberty, but such an act would be a grave blow to personal liberty if there ever was one. Giving up a certain amount of liberty in exchange for social welfare is logical. No such exchange is implied in outlawing abortion. When presidential hopefuls say they would “overturn Roe v. Wade,” I have to wonder if they have considered all of the ramifications.
While American women do not have to resort to back-alley abortions (nor will they anytime soon), women did die of “back-alley” abortions in the United States, and still do in some parts of the world. According to the BBC, some 10,000 women a year die in Nigeria as a result of illegal and unsafe abortions (“Saving Nigerians from risky abortions,” 2008). While Nigeria and the United States are not precisely comparable, the issue remains. No one is a fan of abortion, and there are better ways to reduce its existence than prohibition. Let’s promote accurate sex education, personal responsibility and birth control, shall we? Break out the cucumbers and condoms; I’m ready.
Any discussion surrounding abortion rights mainly carries implications for women. Feminism, at least in my experience, is ironically similar to presidential hopeful Rick Perry in that it elicits strong responses while being almost too easy to mock. I myself am sometimes wary of describing myself as a feminist because I don’t want to come off as self-righteous or, as the case may be, a radical gender-separatist.
At a party I went to a few weeks ago, I was discussing feminism with a group of college guys I barely knew. One of them asked me if I was a lesbian because “they’re the same, dude.” I must have put on a really good angry feminist face because the topic quickly shifted away from advanced sexuality theory. I am not thin-skinned, I have a boyfriend, and I have been known to laugh at sexist jokes. But I am still rankled when people treat feminism like a radical ideology or a joke, especially an unfunny joke. Yes, those guys were just joking, but when that flippancy extends to the political arena, which it apparently has, there is cause for concern. Restriction on abortion rights is usually framed as a moral issue. But respect for women, or lack thereof, is at the heart of the issue. The anniversary of Roe vs. Wade, even the 39th, deserves notice until abortion rights become an unquestioned part of the status quo.