States are Still Scrambling to Save Roe v. Wade on its 47th Anniversary

Today in 1973, the Supreme Court issued a decision that enshrined the constitutional right, through landmark case Roe v. Wade, to get an abortion. However, constant attacks coupled with the most conservative Supreme Court in modern history, have made states begin to scramble to ensure that the right to choose is protected – as there is a very real possibility this historic decision could be overturned. 

To understand how we got here – and endless battle for women to have the right to have autonomy over their own bodies – we have to take a look at what happened in 2010. 

At the start of the decade, statehouses across the country went red. Republicans gained control of 11 state legislatures and increased their majority in three more. Particularly in places like North Carolina, they erased Democratic majorities that had existed since the 19th century! 

Regarding abortion, the impact was swift and powerful. As Republicans quickly moved in and took over control of state House of Representatives, in the words of Teresa Fedor – an Ohio Democrat who served in Ohio legislature since 2001 – they began a “full on assault against women’s reproductive rights.”  

This March, the Supreme Court will hear its first case regarding abortion since Justice Brett Kavanaugh replaced Anthony Kennedy – a former swing vote on cases on abortion. The case, June Medical Services v. Gee, challenges a Louisiana law that requires doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospitals. This time, many believe that the Supreme Court, because of its conservative swing, will vote to uphold this 2014 Louisiana law, paving the way for states to introduce more and more clinic restrictions and make abortions harder and harder to get. 

However, even if the court does not overturn Roe v. Wade, it might do something that could hasten the demise of this critical constitutional right: Uphold the Louisiana law by ruling that abortion providers cannot sue on behalf of their patients. This would pose as an obstacle as only women seeking abortions would be able to challenge restrictive abortion laws in court. 

Abortion opponents have been working to overturn the Roe decision since 1973. And, 2010 was a crucial turning point for them. For some, it is also a reminder that even though presidential and congressional elections tend to get the most attention, state legislators are often the ones that have the most control over women’s access to abortion across America.

This anniversary is a huge milestone, but we absolutely cannot ignore the fact that these continued attacks on abortion rights still leave countless people without adequate protections. Women’s right to choose and have autonomy over their own bodies is not something that should ever be up for debate. Abortion is health care. Abortion is a right. 

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