The UCSB pro-choice community hosted several events yesterday in celebration of the 35th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s historic Roe v. Wade decision.
The Santa Barbara Pro-Choice Coalition and the UCSB Women’s Center sponsored the events, which highlighted the importance of legalized abortion, and placed it in the context of the larger issue of reproductive justice. SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Health Collective founder Loretta Ross addressed a crowd at the Faulkner Gallery downtown, while UCSB women’s studies professors Beth Currans and Mireille Miller-Young spoke to students in the MultiCultural Center Theater.
The speech was one of a series of upcoming events celebrating the court case’s anniversary. On Jan. 30, Vox: Voices for Planned Parenthood will hold a discussion on abortion, as well as a screening of “The Abortion Diaries” for its “35 Years of Choice” party.
According to Currans, the groups are using the anniversary of Roe v. Wade to draw attention to a broader range of sexuality-related issues concerning not only women, but also men and transgendered people.
“I think Roe v. Wade is part of a broader reproductive justice model, [although] it often gets talked about as if it is the only part,” Currans said. “This is a way we can include more people.”
In 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court under Chief Justice Warren Burger[ ruled 7-2 that abortion was a fundamental right under the Constitution and that all laws restricting it were subject to “strict scrutiny.” The ruling granted women the right to privacy and, consequently, the right to legally terminate a pregnancy. The court cited the Constitution’s 9th Amendment and the Due Process Clause as well as the right to privacy established in the earlier case of Griswold v. Connecticut (1965), which repealed a state ban on contraceptives.
The lectures mentioned several key issues in the reproductive justice field, such as forced sterilizations of women of color as recently as the 1980s. Currans also spoke against family cap laws for those on welfare, which effectively limit the number of children a family can have by denying benefits to additional children.
“It’s not just an issue of whether you can choose to have an abortion,” Currans said. “[It is] also an issue of choosing to be fertile.”
While the lecturers focused on a variety of concerns, Roe’s significance remained central in their talks, Currans said. The speakers repeatedly acknowledged the importance of access to safe and legal abortion for women as a key issue.
“Roe v. Wade is threatened, and a lot of women don’t have access to the legality of abortion,” Currans said. “But men have reproductive issues too.”
Since Roe passed in 1973, several attempts were made to overturn the court ruling. Most recently, on Feb. 24, 2006, South Dakota passed a bill to make abortions illegal, except when the mother’s life is endangered due to the pregnancy. The bill was signed into law in March 2006; however, it was repealed by voters in November of that year.
In addition, California Proposition 85 – which would have required doctors to notify a minor’s parents before performing an abortion – came to a vote during the Nov. 2006 general election. However, Prop. 85, which was similar to 2005’s failed Prop. 73, did not pass.