By Reina Schiffrin
Forty years ago (January 22) the historic U.S. Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade legalized abortion. In 1965, illegal abortions made up nearly one-fifth of all pregnancy- and childbirth-related deaths. In the 40 years since the ruling blocked states from banning abortion, it has been one of the safest medical procedures.
Roe has had a dramatic impact on the health and well-being of American women. And according to a 2012 Gallup poll, 77 percent of Americans think abortion should be legal in some or all circumstances.
Yet despite abortion being legal, constitutionally protected, and consistently supported by a majority of Americans, opponents of women’s health have made it increasingly more difficult for women to access these services. In states such as Texas, South Dakota, Florida, and Michigan, some politicians have eroded access to safe and legal abortion through court battles, ballot measures, and burdensome legislative restrictions.
In 2011, states passed a record 92 laws restricting access -- more than double the number passed in any other year since Roe. That trend continued in 2012 -- a year that chalked up the second highest number of restrictions -- and abortion remains the subject of extensive debate in state capitols and among national policymakers. More than half of all U.S. women of reproductive age (15–44) now live in a state that is hostile to abortion rights, whereas fewer than one-third did a decade ago.
The law may give all women the right to end a pregnancy, but that’s a meaningless promise if women can’t access services.
New York has always been a leader in protecting and advancing women’s causes and it’s exciting to see that we will likely continue that trend. In his State of the State address earlier this month, Gov. Andrew Cuomo outlined a ten-point Women’s Equality Act. This bold and historic measure includes the Reproductive Health Act (RHA), which would affirm a woman’s right to choose contraception and make her own personal health care decisions, as well as treat the regulation of an abortion as a public health issue and not a potential crime.
As a leading women’s health care provider, Planned Parenthood Hudson Peconic works every day to reduce unintended pregnancy and keep women healthy. We understand that abortion is a deeply personal and often complex decision – and there is no need for politicians to be involved. Ultimately, decisions about whether to choose adoption, end a pregnancy, or raise a child must be left to a woman, her family, and her faith, with the counsel of her doctor or health care provider.
The 2012 election results demonstrated the power of women. As we celebrate the 40th Anniversary of Roe, we urge legislators to honor New York State’s tradition as a national leader in women’s health and rights by partnering with the Governor to pass the Women’s Equality Act in this legislative session.
The writer is president/CEO, Planned Parenthood Hudson Peconic
January 23, 2013
January 28, 2013