A New Generation Carries the Torch for Choice
Originally Published: January 22, 2013
Revised: January 16, 2014
Imagine that you had sex and the condom broke. Now you’re pregnant. You aren’t ready and can’t afford to be a parent right now. You have your whole life ahead of you—college, your dream job, starting a family. Your family might just kick you out of the house if you have a baby, and you’ll have nowhere to go. You’re desperate.
You hear of someone that can terminate the pregnancy. He charges $2,000 cash. You have to go to a motel on the outskirts of town in the dead of night. He doesn’t have the proper equipment to perform an abortion; he uses wire hangers. It’s an incredibly unsafe, high-risk procedure, but you don’t know what else to do.
This might sound like something that happens in a faraway country. But this was the reality for women in America for decades—women of our grandparents’ generation. Before abortion was legalized, there was no way to guarantee that a woman who wanted an abortion could get one safely. Since abortion was illegal, these procedures were not performed at a medical facility and were not necessarily performed by trained medical professionals. Some unsavory individuals looking to make a buck would take advantage of desperate women by offering to perform a procedure they knew little to nothing about. Not to mention, if anything went wrong during the procedure, the person performing the abortion, even if they were a doctor or had medical training, most likely wouldn’t take the patient to the hospital, for fear of being prosecuted. Hundreds of women died each year from unsafe abortions.
It’s now up to us—the younger generation—to help carry the torch and make sure that all women have access to make the choice that’s right for them.
Roe v. Wade Changes Everything
And then, on January 22, 1973 everything changed. A 27-year-old lawyer named Sarah Weddington had argued before the Supreme Court in the case of Roe v. Wade that the decision to terminate a first-trimester pregnancy should be decided privately between a woman and her doctor and that this right was protected by the U. S. Constitution. The Supreme Court, which was largely conservative and all-male at that time, decided 7 to 2 that a woman’s right to have an abortion is protected under the 14th Amendment of the Constitution.
Suddenly, things were different. Today women and transgender men make the choices that are right for them, whether that be carrying a pregnancy to term, arranging an adoption or having an abortion.
Now, the chance of dying from an abortion during the first eight weeks of pregnancy is one in a million, according to the Guttmacher Institute. That’s the same chance a person has of being struck by lightning. By legalizing abortion and allowing doctors to perform the procedure with proper medical equipment, the procedure can be safely performed. Today the chance of dying during childbirth is higher than the chance of dying from an abortion.
Abortion Restrictions Challenge Roe v. Wade
Despite the fact that one in three women in the U.S. will have an abortion by the age of 45, a majority of Americans support the government regulating abortions. These regulations can include banning abortion altogether, banning it after the first trimester, banning it except in cases of rape, incest or when the life of the pregnant person is in danger, or making parental notification mandatory for minors.
Parental notification laws, which have become more common, are targeted at teens. Most states require minors to get permission from one or both of their parents to get an abortion or at least notify them. And while most teens do tell their parents if they are planning to get an abortion, this restriction is extremely burdensome for those who come from abusive homes. If you can’t get parental permission, you can get permission from a judge. But judges may have an anti-choice bias, or a case can take weeks to get in front of the judge. By the time all this is done, it may be too late to get an abortion since your state may have restrictions on abortions in the second trimester.
In 2011, 92 state-level abortion restrictions—a record number—were enacted, and in 2012, 43 more were enacted. These restrictions make it harder for people to access the abortion care they need. The ultimate goal of these restrictions is to provoke a challenge to Roe v. Wade and get the case overturned, which could possibly send the U. S. back to the era of unsafe and high-risk abortions.
A Call to Our Generation
A lot of the women who remember what it was like before Roe v. Wade and fought for the right to abortion in 1973 are the same age as our grandmothers. It’s now up to us—the younger generation—to help carry the torch and make sure that all women have access to make the choice that’s right for them. History has shown us that if women want to terminate a pregnancy, they’ll find a way, and the only way to ensure women’s safety is to keep abortion legal, and therefore safe.
On the 41st anniversary of Roe v. Wade, let’s remember that now, more than any other time since 1973, we need to keep fighting—for ourselves, our mothers, our sisters, our aunts, cousins, friends and future daughters and granddaughters—to ensure that the future is safe for them.
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