When I think of the days before the Supreme Court affirmed a legal right to abortion in the case of Roe v. Wade, I think of women who felt they had no good options. Women who had to call random phone numbers handed to them covertly on little slips of paper and trust that the information they received was legitimate. Women who were directed to go to dark buildings or houses and sneak into rooms and hope that the procedure would not leave them sick, infertile or dead. Women who felt like they could not turn to anyone in their life for support because they would be judged or even reported to the police for illegal activity. I think of women forced into exceptionally difficult positions to maintain their own bodily autonomy, do what they felt was best for them and access a health care procedure.
Forty-two years later, I see reports of people who have to take time off work multiple times and risk being fired, try desperately to find care for their kids and pull together whatever little bit of money they may have to pay for abortion care. I read about people who are driving six, eight or ten hours to find a licensed provider. I hear stories from my friends who volunteer on abortion fund hotlines where people are selling their belongings and saving over weeks and then realizing that they have been pushed past what is to them an invisible line where the procedure is more expensive and not out of reach because of cost or an arbitrary cut off created by politicians.
People who need to seek an abortion in 2015 have a legal right to access care, but for far too many people that right is just not a reality. We must do better not only to ensure access to abortion care, but also the promise of Roe.
Roe affirmed that people should be able to seek legal abortion care, but it is so much more than that. It is about women being able to say what happens to their body and make decisions about their future. As I think today about the anniversary, I commit myself to the work to push back on the restrictions that are chipping away at access to care for far too many people – from legislation that is designed to close clinics and cut off availability to laws that deny health coverage for abortion and make services unaffordable. We must also speak out for the policies that enable people to plan healthy pregnancies and prevent unintended pregnancies – from sex education to contraception coverage and family planning funding. And we need to push for legislation and cultural change that ensures that when someone is ready become a parent that they have the support they need – from pregnant worker accommodations to paid family leave to adoption policies that don’t exclude LGBT people or people with disabilities to a fair wage and a safe place to raise their kids where they won’t have to constantly worry if they will make it home.
There is much work to be done. Let’s make not just today, but every day one that we celebrate the promise of Roe and do all we can to make it real for us all.