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Roe v. Wade: A Perfect Storm is Brewing

A perfect storm is on the horizon to uproot the landmark 1973 Roe vs. Wade ruling holding that a woman has a constitutional right to abortion. Holding that that abortion was a fundamental right following the doctrine of stare decisis, or legal precedent, the Court in Roe chose to base its decision on the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, or the "right of privacy" protected in earlier decisions such as Griswold v Connecticut.

Girls Inc: Reproductive Freedom is a Fundamental Right

Girls Inc. supports Roe vs. Wade and freedom of choice, a right, they recognize, that was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1973 in and by the Supreme Court of Canada in 1988 in R v. Morgentaler.

Girls Inc.’s position recognizes the right of all women to choose whether, when, and under what circumstances to bear children. Further, we believe that reproductive freedom and responsibility are essential to other rights and opportunities, including pursuit of education, employment, financial security, and a stable and fulfilling family life. Restrictions of reproductive choice are especially burdensome for young women and poor women.

Now that the right to reproductive choice is in jeopardy, it’s essential that we speak up, that our voices be heard by policy makers and Congressional representatives. Reproductive choice is not just about abortion; it’s about a woman’s right to control her own body, her destiny.

Winds of Change Creating the Perfect Storm

The Composition of the Supreme Court Has Shifted to the Right

The high court reaffirmed this right in a 1992 decision that said abortion restrictions cannot place an “undue burden” on the right and most recently in 2016, when the court ruled against a Texas law that imposed stringent health and safety standards that forced many clinics to close across the state.Now that Justice Anthony Kennedy has retired and been replaced by Brett Kavanaugh, Trump’s conservative appointee, the U.S. Supreme Court, the final stop on all the abortion controversy, has a 5-4 conservative majority, creating a new opening to challenge Roe.

Alabama Nearly Outlaws Abortion

A bill passed by Alabama legislators—only allowing abortion to protect the mother’s health—-would outlaw nearly all abortions in the state. Even rape and incest would not be grounds for an abortion. Alabama’s law bans dilation and evacuation abortions (D&E), the most common method of abortion during the second trimester of a pregnancy.

Doctors who perform abortions could face up to 99 years in prison. The strictest measure in the United States, if signed into law, it will face legal challenges and put the focus on the conservative-majority.

Missouri’s Misfortunate Measure

In the most restrictive legislation to date, the Missouri House of Representatives just passed House Bill 126, "Missouri States for the Unborn," in a 110 to 44 vote.

The sweeping anti-abortion package bans abortions after eight weeks into a pregnancy, among other restrictions, and does not have an exception for victims of rape or incest. The bill will now go to Republican Governor Mike Parson, who's expected to sign the legislation into law.

Sixteen States Have Introduced Restrictive Laws

Legislation to restrict abortion rights has been introduced this year in 16 states. Governors in four states have signed bills banning abortion if a heartbeat can be detected. Two appeals concerning abortion restrictions in Indiana are pending: One requires fetal remains to be buried or cremated and bans abortions performed because of fetal disability or the sex or race of the fetus. The other requires women to undergo an ultrasound examination at least 18 hours before they undergo an abortion.

Kentucky, Ohio, Mississippi, and Georgia this year passed bills that would ban abortions after six weeks. North Dakota in April became the 12th state to enact a D&E ban. In January, a federal judge struck down a similar Iowa law.

Stare Decisus: How Roe Could Go

The Supreme Court could overturn Roe if it decides that the principle known as stare decisis, where the court traditionally stands by its older decisions—-legal precedent—-does not hold sway. But a majority of justices can overrule its prior precedents if they believe the precedent was wrongly decided. In fact, in what many believed to be a veiled reference to a Roe, Stephen Breyer, the third-longest-serving justice on the Supreme Court recently issuing a warning to his conservative colleagues on the bench, urging them to respect precedent and only overrule it when the circumstances demand it. His comments were in his dissenting opinion, ruling that a state cannot be sued in the courts of a different state by a private party unless it gives its permission.

Moving Forward

Now is the time to let your voices be heard. We have come too far to let Roe be overturned. Whether or not you have ever wanted to, or have terminated a pregnancy is not the question. Reproductive choice is a line in the sand. It’s about control...control over women’s bodies.

As Ruth Bader Ginsberg has said, “Women's rights are an essential part of the overall human rights agenda, based on the equal dignity and ability to live in freedom...all people should enjoy." Roe vs. Wade is an essential line in the sand of human rights. If we cross over it, we stand to return to the days when women often died in an attempt to prevent childbirth—using coat hangers, knitting needles, rubber catheters, and bicycle spokes. In the years prior to Roe vs. Wade, there were in excess of 50,000 emergency room post-self-abortion treatments administered annually. And records, according to Dr. David Grimes, clinical profession of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, of over 1,000 deaths a year from septic abortions. Every municipal hospital had a ”septic abortion” ward. Let us all vow now that we will never again cross that line in the sand…that we will harness our political will to do whatever it takes to prevent returning to those days again.


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