By Claire Gastañaga, Executive DirectorForty years ago this month, the U.S. Supreme Court decided Roe v. Wade, the landmark case that recognized that a pregnant woman has a right to make her own decision about whether to have a child or have an abortion. Since then, some politicians have been trying to take that decision out of a woman’s hands.
Over the past two years, these efforts have reached record levels with elected representatives across the country passing almost 140 provisions designed to interfere with a woman and her family’s private decision about abortion. In Virginia, legislators in 2011 approved a Targeted Regulation against Abortion Providers (TRAP) law that singles out women’s health centers that perform abortions for stricter regulation than other similar outpatient facilities. And last year, they passed a bill requiring a woman to undergo a medically-unnecessary ultrasound prior to obtaining an abortion.
Of course, we don’t all feel the same way about abortion. Nevertheless, we should be able to agree that this decision is better made by a woman, her doctor, and her family than by politicians in Richmond.
Indeed, the American people have shown they do not want politicians to interfere in personal, private decision-making. Whether it was the bills that require a woman to have an ultrasound and look at the picture before she has an abortion, the all-male panel that testified before Congress about whether a woman’s insurance plan should cover her contraception, comments about “legitimate rape,” one thing is clear: the American people have had enough.
Last year, across the country, people came together to speak out against the new restrictions on a women’s right to choose and those who pushed them. We won’t forget the national media attention Virginia received as scores of women and men took time out of their busy lives to go to Richmond and tell their representatives to leave these decisions where they belong: with a woman and her family. Similar shows of support for choice were found in Oklahoma, Michigan and Idaho.
Moreover, the American people are not just demonstrating or showing up to testify before their legislatures, they are voting. Voters in states as diverse as Mississippi and Colorado, Florida and North Dakota have all rejected ballot measures that would have interfered with a woman’s ability to make her own decisions about pregnancy and abortion. Politicians with extreme views on abortion lost at the polls. In fact, Americans are so fed up with politicians trying to interfere with a woman’s private health care decisions that a Gallup poll found that 39 percent of women in 12 battleground states – including Virginia—said abortion was the most important issue for women in the election.
Nonetheless, some politicians still have not gotten the message. Over the holidays, Governor Bob McDonnell quietly advanced the TRAP regulations designed to shut down women’s health centers in the Commonwealth. More anti-choice measures have been introduced in the 2013 session, with patrons using religious liberty rhetoric to clothe bills aimed at limiting access to birth control and other reproductive health care services in more attractive garb. In addition, there is a bill that would repeal a law on the books since 1982 that allows low-income women facing pregnancies in which the fetus has an incapacitating anomaly to obtain a legal abortion.
These attacks notwithstanding, we must keep in mind two important lessons. First, however each of us personally feels about abortion, Americans have had enough of politicians trying to take that decision away from a woman, her doctor, and her family. Second, if we continue to speak out, we can continue to stem this tide. We can stop politicians from interfering in our private health care decisions. So this year, when our delegates and senators in Richmond try to push for restrictions on reproductive health care for Virginia women, we must stand together and make them realize just how out-of-touch and out-of-date they are.
(originally posted on Pundits' Podium: http://punditspodium.tumblr.com/post/40529637679/40-years-after-roe-v-wade-lessons-learned)