Just two days after President George W. Bush is inaugurated for the second time, pro-choice activists around the country will celebrate the anniversary of Roe v. Wade. January 22, 2005 is the 32nd anniversary of the Roe v. Wade U.S. Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion.
Their celebration will be tainted, however, by the uncertainty that surrounds the future of one of the most significant court rulings in U.S. history.
There is much to celebrate about Roe v. Wade. The landmark court decision in 1973 allowed women more control of their reproductive system and the freedom to determine the direction of their bodies.
The decision established a woman’s right to privacy in deciding to have an abortion.
Blackmun pointed to the Fourteenth Amendment’s concept of personal liberty and the Ninth Amendment’s reservation of rights to the people to determine that women should have the right to terminate their own pregnancy.
Whether you are in favor of abortion or personally against it, Roe v. Wade established that the decision to have an abortion is a personal one and should be made by a woman in consultation with her doctor.
The legalization of abortion led to a remarkable decline in women’s deaths from illegal back-alley abortions.
Today, complications from abortions occur in less than one percent of cases, and a woman is statistically less likely to experience complications from an abortion than from a penicillin shot, according to the Allen Guttmacher Institute.
Making abortions safe is a necessity. Making abortions rare should be a priority.
The way to do this is not to make abortions illegal but to expand reproductive choices. Unfortunately, Bush has made access to information and resources increasingly difficult.
Bush is no friend to women’s rights. He has made it clear that he is strongly anti-choice and will work hard to limit access to reproductive information and resources.
Since Bush’s reelection dealt a blow to pro-choice Americans, attention must now be paid to the Supreme Court, where there is currently a 5-4 margin in favor of Roe v. Wade.
It is likely that one or more of the justices will soon step down, and Bush will then have the power to appoint someone to the Supreme Court for life.
There is every indication that an appointed justice would be anti-choice, as Bush has said he will model his choices on Justices Scalia and Thomas, the two most anti-choice justices.
Celebrating the anniversary of Roe v. Wade should be a happy occasion. It should be a time for our mothers to remember the dangerous days of back-alley abortions and think with pride how far our nation has come.
It should be a time for the younger generations to think how lucky we are that we have no such memories.
However, 32 years after the court affirmed a woman’s right to privacy, we face a government that wants to strip women of the right to control their bodies in this way.
We must make our voices heard and protest the stripping away of our rights. With a lot of effort and a little luck, we will contentedly celebrate the 33rd anniversary of Roe v. Wade next year.
Feldman can be reached at