40 years safe and legal: Let’s keep it that way
It was 40 years ago this month that the U.S. Supreme Court legalized abortion in the historic Roe v. Wade decision. A majority of Americans support and respect the decision each woman must make about her own pregnancy and oppose efforts to overturn Roe v. Wade.
But interestingly, the way people identify with the issue has shifted over the years. No longer do labels like “pro-choice” and “pro-life” reflect the way people think about abortion. The fact is, generations of Americans — across party lines — understand that it’s just not that simple. Abortion is deeply personal, often complex, and not something that can be put squarely in a “pro” or “anti” box. Indeed, the number of Americans who support access to safe and legal abortion is consistently higher than those who identify as “pro-choice.” And many Americans self-identify as both “pro-choice” and “pro-life,” or neither.
What unites people — and what doesn’t need a label — is the shared belief that politicians should not interfere in a woman’s personal decision about her pregnancy. And an underlying principle to such a complex decision is that none of us can understand a woman’s specific situation. We don’t walk in her shoes.
Undoubtedly, voters made it clear this year that they are opposed to policies that demean and dismiss women. In November’s election, voters rejected some of the nation’s most vocal and extreme opponents of safe and legal abortion. Yet, despite the outcome of the election, we continue to see politicians who are working to ban or chip away at abortion access. In state after state, legislators have put forward bills that seek to limit a woman’s ability to make her own decisions about her pregnancy.
As the nation’s leading women’s health care provider and advocate, Planned Parenthood knows firsthand why it’s so critical that women have access to a comprehensive range of reproductive health care services. In 1965, illegal abortions made up nearly one-fifth of all pregnancy-and childbirth-related deaths. In the 40 years since Roe v. Wade blocked states from banning abortion, it has been one of the safest medical procedures.
Planned Parenthood health centers provide professional, nonjudgmental, and confidential health care and information to keep women healthy and prevent unintended pregnancies. In addition to breast and cervical cancer screenings, male wellness exams, STD testing and treatment, and abortion care, our health centers provide contraception that helps women prevent an estimated 486,000 unintended pregnancies and 204,000 abortions every year.
Attacks on women’s reproductive choice fly in the face of public opinion, and more importantly, are extremely dangerous to women. Women must have access to safe, legal abortion services without interference from politicians. Ultimately, decisions about whether to choose parenting, adoption, or abortion must be made by a woman, her family, and her faith, with the counsel of her doctor or health care provider.
Planned Parenthood supports women in whatever decision they make — this is our promise. We’ve protected access to abortion for women for 40 years, and we will continue to protect it for the next 40.
Darrah DiGiorgio Johnson, president & CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Pacific Southwest, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary serving the region.