January 22 is one of the most important days in history for women’s rights and independence. It is the anniversary of the landmark Roe v. Wade decision that 29 years ago granted women the legal right to control their own bodies and make choices that would determine their reproductive destiny. As we continue to celebrate that landmark decision, we will do so with the distinct fear and knowledge that this could be the final year women will be able to claim such a right.
What is the right to choose? It is more than the right to obtain an abortion; it is the right for every woman to make her own decisions about her reproductive health. It allows her access to contraceptives such as the birth control pill, emergency contraception and even condoms. The right to choose is not only the right to terminate a pregnancy, but the right of every woman to determine, according to her own belief system, whether and when to have a family.
In addition to the 29th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, January 22 will also mark the one-year anniversary of the reinstatement of the Global Gag Rule – the decision President George W. Bush made on his first day in office preventing U.S. funded international family planning clinics from providing abortion information to their patients. President Bush made it clear during his campaign that he is 100 percent anti-choice and is committed to ending abortion.
When the Roe v. Wade decision was made 29 years ago, Supreme Court Justices ruled 7-2, with an overwhelming majority supporting women’s rights. The pro-choice balance of power on the Supreme Court now hangs by one vote. We can expect that at least one justice will retire this year and President Bush has promised to appoint an anti-choice justice to that vacancy. Anti-choice activists have been working towards this day for 29 years, and when the day comes, the Roe v. Wade decision will be overturned, and women’s rights will be removed again. There are no appeals after the Supreme Court.
Today we will celebrate the many rights that we have as women, but it is time to look critically at the threat to those rights and to take a stand against them. Young women can’t remember a time when abortion was illegal and find it hard to believe that this right is at risk. Unfortunately, this fate is a real possibility and it is time for all women’s rights activists to oppose this threat to our freedom. It is better to fight to uphold these laws than it is to fight to reinstate them. Today marks an important day in women’s history and a time for young women to commit to work for the protection of our reproductive freedom. Today from noon to 1 p.m. in Storke Plaza there will be a rally with information about how to protect our rights; please come support this cause before it is too late.
Lauren Giardina is a senior art history and English major.