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Why the Roe v. Wade anniversary matters more than ever this year

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On January 22, 1973, the Supreme Court handed down its decision in the Roe v. Wade case. That decision, made 45 years ago, gave women the legal right to have an abortion. This landmark decision recognized that the constitutional right to privacy extends to a woman’s right to make her own personal medical decisions — including the decision to have an abortion without interference from politicians.

The decision has arguably been one of the most challenged and controversial the Supreme Court has ever made. Almost immediately after the ruling, people opposed to abortion protested, and a number of states have attempted to do everything they can to make abortion inaccessible — efforts that disproportionately affect poor and minority women. Abortion clinics that perform this legal service still frequently face threats of violence: According to the 2016 National Clinic Violence Survey, 34.2 percent of U.S. abortion providers reported “severe violence or threats of violence” in the first half of 2016. In some cases, like one 2015 attack on a Planned Parenthood, these attacks can even be lethal. More recently, President Trump threatened federal funding for Planned Parenthood and proposed only to protect it if the organization stopped providing said abortion services. They declined.

Even though an estimated one in three women will have an abortion at some point in their lifetime and seven in 10 Americans believe Roe v. Wade should remain the law of the land, the procedure is still clearly stigmatized by the government 45 years after this case was decided. Being informed about this case is especially important this year, not just because of the stigma surrounding abortion, but because that stigma may actually lead to funds for it being totally cut: Trump’s 2018 budget proposal aims to cut federal funds to Planned Parenthood entirely in a move that Dawn Laguens, executive vice president of Planned Parenthood, has called “the worst budget for women and women’s health in a generation.” Leading up to the proposal, over 60 women’s rights groups signed an open letter expressing apprehension that it would “strip away basic support for struggling families, reduce access to vital care and services, disproportionately harm the health and well-being of people of color, immigrants, LGBTQ individuals, religious minorities, and low-income women and families.”

This year, the anniversary of Roe v. Wade is about more than celebrating the history the case itself made. It’s about doing everything we can to dismantle the U.S. government’s continued attacks on abortion. Everything Norma McCorvey, the woman at the heart of the case, and so many thousands of other women have fought for could be torn away from us if we do not do anything about it. The 45th anniversary of Roe v. Wade should remind us just how far we’ve come — and how far we still have to go.



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Kayleigh Bolingbroke
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