The New York Times today has an essay from an obstetrician/gynecologist who recalls the days before Roe. He treated women with all sorts of medical problems as the result of attempting an illegal abortion without medical assistance. The stories are harrowing, but incredibly important in understanding just what overturning Roe v. Wade means . . . in real women’s lives, not just in theory. His conclusion is as accurate a statement about the issue as there can be:
It is important to remember that Roe v. Wade did not mean that abortions could be performed. They have always been done, dating from ancient Greek days.
What Roe said was that ending a pregnancy could be carried out by medical personnel, in a medically accepted setting, thus conferring on women, finally, the full rights of first-class citizens : and freeing their doctors to treat them as such.
For anyone who cares about this issue, this essay is a must-read (and yet another reason to think of Justice Stevens’ age and health). I also strongly urge everyone who hasn’t already to get a hold of Motherless, a documentary about 4 people who grew up without mothers because their mothers died from having an illegal abortion in the pre-Roe years.
- David S. Cohen