Did the final anniversary of Roe v. Wade's right to abortion just pass?

·4 min read

For more than 70 million Americans of reproductive age, this past Saturday — the 49th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Roe v. Wade — should be cause for celebration.

That ruling overturned a Texas statute that made it a crime to perform an abortion unless someone’s life was at stake. It put the law where it should be — on the side of an individual’s right to choose what to do with their body — and, thus, with their own life and economic opportunity.

We say Saturday “should be a cause for celebration” because it may actually be the last chance we have to celebrate Roe. That’s because the U.S. Supreme Court has made it clear that our constitutional right to abortion is no longer guaranteed. As a result, the days of legal and accessible abortion across the country are numbered.

This is not a fire drill. This is the real thing. Abortion access is being dismantled. Nearly 600 abortion restrictions were introduced in 2021 alone, including 11 here in Oregon. More than 100 were signed into law — a record number in any one year since Roe. (Thankfully, none in Oregon.)

Here’s why we are at a crisis point: In September, the Supreme Court allowed access to abortion in Texas to be decimated. Then, in December, after hearing oral arguments about a 15-week ban in Mississippi, a majority of justices appeared ready to overturn Roe in its entirety.

Should that happen, politicians in all U.S. states would have the green light to control our personal reproductive decisions. About 26 states would likely move to ban abortion. This would mean 36 million Americans — nearly half of the nation’s people of reproductive age — could lose abortion access. Such an outcome used to be unthinkable. It’s still unspeakable.

With the newly conservative-majority Supreme Court, anti-abortion legislatures and governors have become even bolder in their attacks. More than ever before, they seem intent on making abortion access entirely dependent on where you live and how much money you make. This is simply unacceptable.

Already — even with Roe in place — politicians have steadily put abortion out of reach for millions. Their abortion restrictions disproportionately harm Black, Latino and Indigenous communities, people with disabilities, people in rural areas, young people, immigrants and those having difficulty making ends meet.

Whether or not the court explicitly overturns Roe, the damage has already been done. Elected leaders at all levels of government must fight for our communities and take proactive measures to protect abortion access.

That’s why, when former President Trump tried to impose a gag rule to dismantle the nation’s program for affordable birth control and reproductive health care, Oregon led a multi-state lawsuit to block his cruel and unethical policy. And when anti-abortion politicians in other states tried to use the COVID-19 pandemic as an excuse to ban abortion, elected leaders made it clear Oregon would never budge from our guarantee of reproductive rights — including timely access to abortion.

In 2017, Planned Parenthood Advocates of Oregon worked in coalition to enshrine the right to an abortion in Oregon statute. But in at least six states, anti-abortion politicians have been adopting unconstitutional “municipal abortion bans” as part of their aggressive agenda to ban abortion everywhere. These local ordinances are designed to confuse people about their rights, shame people who needed abortions and intimidate organizations that provide access to care. Make no mistake: As attorney general, and one of the undersigned, rest assured the full force of the Oregon Department of Justice will be deployed should any municipality attempt to violate state law and pass a local ordinance that attempts to infringe on an individual’s right to abortion.

Everyone should have the freedom and power to make their own decisions about their bodies, their lives and their futures without barriers. While we have made huge strides here in Oregon to expand access to reproductive health care, there is still work to be done to ensure access doesn’t depend on where you live, how much you make or whether and how you are insured. We need to dismantle barriers for Oregonians — and for those who will need to travel to our state to get health care.

Ellen Rosenblum is Oregon’s attorney general. An Do is executive director of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Oregon.

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This article originally appeared on Register-Guard: Did the final anniversary of Roe v. Wade just pass?

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