36 years ago today, the Supreme Court decided Roe v. Wade. Whatever you think of the decision itself (and there are plenty of feminists who criticize the decision from a feminist perspective), the effect of it has been to make abortion in this country, for a large number of women, a safe, common, and non-criminal procedure. Remember this when you ever talk to someone about Roe: The case is not about whether women will get abortions. They will no matter what the law is, probably at roughly the same numbers. Rather, the case is about whether women who get abortions will be able to do so without compromising their health and their families, let alone their and their doctor’s criminal record.
A huge problem remains in this country, despite Roe. And that is access to abortion. For many women in this country, Roe may be the law but it isn’t reality. Thanks to over-regulation from the state and threatening and violent protests from anti-choice groups, there are too few abortion providers. Moreover, thanks to the Hyde Amendment and the dozens of states that have similar versions in their own laws, poor women cannot receive Medicaid for abortion procedures and must sacrifice money for shelter, food, and clothes, usually for young children, in order to have an abortion. Eliminating that bind for poor people needing medical care is precisely why Medicaid exists, but Hyde places hundreds of women in that bind every day.
As we celebrate Roe and what it means for women, we also must work to make abortion more accessible. Supporting abortion providers and lobbying to eliminate Hyde (with a pro-choice President and pro-choice Congress, this should be a high priority) are the least we can do.
- David S. Cohen