Roe or no Roe: reproductive rights will remain the same

By
April 23, 2010

Editorial cartoon by Melodie Miu. Contributed by Christina Macias.

There’s no mistaking it: I am pro-choice. But unlike most of the people who prescribe to this belief, I think Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court case that made abortion legal, is not the only legal way for women to have control over their reproductive rights. If overturned, women would still be able to get legal abortions — maybe not in their hometown, but definitely somewhere in the United States.

But, before all of you staunch pro-choice activists out there holler, hoot and come after me, listen to what I have to say.

In a column titled “If Roe were overturned” written for USA Today in 2005, reporter Laura Vanderkam said, “A Roe reversal would not change the country’s total number of abortion providers much. In fact, a year after Roe is overturned, it would be … rare [that a] woman notice[s] any difference in her life at all.”

Vanderkam and I share the same opinion. I love my right to choose, and I wish to maintain that right, but it is frankly unnecessary for there to be a federal law protecting a woman’s right to have an abortion.

Everyone knows there are two sides to the abortion rights debate: pro-choice and anti-abortion. Within the pro-choice movement, two separate groups have emerged, consisting of the pre-Roe generation that remembers the suffering endured before 1973 and the post-Roe generation.

There may be research and history books that try to paint a picture of what the pre-Roe era was really like, but no matter what, there is no replacement for actually living through it. The truth is that, even though young reproductive-rights activists believe in a woman’s right to choose just as I do, they did not live through the era when abortion was illegal and, therefore, do not have the same drive to keep it legal on the federal level as the current leaders of women’s organizations. Due to this “lack of drive,” in a couple of decades when the current pre-Roe leaders retire, there may not be a new set of people ready to step up to the plate with the same fire and passion the current leaders have. If this happens, change is going to occur.

There is no doubt in my mind that pre-Roe was a nightmare. Abortion was illegal and dangerous, and fatal back-alley abortions were rampant across the country. The heart of my opinion is that the status quo cannot and should not be maintained forever.

Every one of us, even if we are not willing to admit it, wants to maintain the status quo in one way or another. Most people who subscribe to the pro-choice belief want everything to stay the same. They do not want to restrict abortion and they definitely do not want it to be illegal again. I am the same way. I certainly do not want to go back to pre-Roe suffering, even though I do not have any personal experience with abortion being illegal.

Where I differ from a lot of other people is that I know maintaining the status quo is not possible forever, especially with reproductive rights being such a “hot” issue. I want abortion to be legal, but I know that change is inevitable in every life situation, including reproductive rights. This is not a question of if but when Roe v. Wade is going to be overturned.

There will be a huge uproar within the pro-choice community when this happens, and each state will have to decide for itself whether or not abortion should be legal. I definitely want to preserve my right to choose, but I live in California, a relatively consistent democratic state, and my ability to get an abortion is not going to be hindered if Roe is overturned.

That being said, I know some states will vote to make abortion illegal if Roe is reversed. Still, even if abortion becomes illegal on the federal level, reproductive rights groups such as National Network of Abortion Funds (NNAF) will be able to provide assistance to women in states where abortion is illegal. Organizations such as these are not going to allow women to be forced into back-alley abortions. They will find a way to help women pay for the travel and cost of an abortion if there is no other option.

I am not trying to be an idealist. I know abortion access can be difficult, particularly for low-income women, but I also believe that major organizations like Planned Parenthood and NNAF have a lot of resources and know a lot of people who will help women in need.

What I am saying may differ radically from the opinions of most people who are pro-choice, but even though my opinion may be controversial, I know a society cannot progress without change. Therefore, I say reproductive rights leaders stop all the fuss and prepare for change because, as Robert C. Gallagher once said, “Change is inevitable — except from a vending machine.”


Roe or no Roe: reproductive rights will remain the same was published on April 23, 2010 in Column, Opinions

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  • Kayla Isaacs

    Alixandra, I am confused by the purpose of your opinion piece. You titled your article “Roe or No Roe, Reproductive Rights Will Remain the Same,” yet then conclude it by calling change inevitable? You want Roe v. Wade to remain intact, yet you believe the status quo “should not be maintained forever?” Why are you so insistent upon “change” when you appear to agree with the law as it stands?

    I think what you mean to say is that, even if Roe v. Wade is eventually overturned, it will not cause the same degree of devastation that some liberals and pro-choice organizations have suggested – though the overturning of the law would not be ideal, it would not be mean complete hopelessness for women seeking abortions. Regarding this point, I would urge you to be grateful for your California residency and your ability to travel across state borders – without non-profit assistance – if need be. Though the USA Today column you quote mentions that the numbers of abortion clinics within Roe-unfriendly states are so minimal that a banning them would be ineffectual, keep in mind that even under these conditions, there are at least a few abortion providers in every state. Though abortion-seeking women in North and South Dakota and Mississippi already travel considerable distances, imagine how much further some might have to trek to cross state lines, especially considering the geographical proximity of many anti-Roe states.

    Lastly, Planned Parenthood and the NNAF should not bear the burden of the unsound public policy that would be the overturning of Roe v. Wade. These organizations’ money could be better spent on sexual education or helping more people pay for their abortions, rather than paying for fewer people’s abortions and travel costs. Roe v. Wade has been threatened, but the decision is by no means certain to be overturned. Though Roe v. Wade’s reversal probably, as you say, would not return us to an era of back alley abortions and female disempowerment, I would prefer not to revoke the ruling only to find out otherwise.

  • Martha Harrington

    Alixandra, what has you so convinced that Roe v Wade is going to be overturned? A USA Today opinion piece from 2005? That’s a rather slender reed upon which to base an assertion.

    Sorry, but it is just a little smug on your part to reassure everyone that women’s lives will be so unaffected, when it’s not your life, or most of your readers’ lives, that will suffer. You are willing to live with poor women having to travel hundreds of miles for abortion services? You are willing for other pro-choice women to pay for this? (You don’t mention any commitment on your own part to pitch in.)

    Yes, the courts have nibbled away at the edges of Roe, but at the same time, it has affirmed the core of the opinion. Now we have a Democrat in the White House, and one, soon to be two, new justices who respect privacy rights and reproductive freedom. It is not exactly the time to give up hope in the Supreme Court.

    Yes, there are a number of red states where it is already difficult to obtain an abortion. A true blue pro-choice woman would be trying to address that problem, rather than advocating complacency over the necessity for Roe to remain law.

    And yes, all the antagonism that has come with the struggle over abortion rights has done us a disservice, politically. Many voters have been wooed into right wing voting over this issue. But the solution is not to throw in the towel on our rights.

    One solution would be to find projects that bring together pro-life and pro-choice women in support of young, vulnerable women and children. There have been many such efforts, that have engendered more understanding and mutual tolerance. See, for example, this article: http://www.mediate.com/articles/prolifeC.cfm. Concensus building would make, in my opinion, a topic very worthy of exploration in The Companil. But advocating complacency? I would say, no.