Pro-choice advocates marked the 30th anniversary of Roe v Wade today with events that included a student leadership conference sponsored by the Feminist Majority Foundation. The Never Go Back conference drew 400 students from 33 states and DC to the nation’s capitol in support of abortion rights. Planned Parenthood held a rally at the Supreme Court today that drew pro-choice supporters as well as anti-abortion counter-protesters. This evening, the National Organization for Women will hold a candlelight vigil at the Supreme Court in support of abortion rights. “We will remember the lives lost or destroyed by dangerous illegal abortion and rededicate ourselves to protecting reproductive rights for future generations,” said NOW President Kim Gandy in a news release. The Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice will hold an interfaith service supporting a woman's right to choose tonight as well.
Meanwhile, the threats to abortion rights were made clear as abortion rights opponents participated in a “March for Life” beginning at the Washington Monument. President Bush phoned in a message of support for the anti-choice activities from St. Louis, Missouri. Right-wing political leaders in Congress are hoping to pass a number of anti-abortion bills this year, with a Republican majority in both houses of Congress and a supportive President. Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS) told the Associated Press that “we will pass the first significant pro-life legislation actually limiting abortion in 30 years,” predicting that a ban on so-called “partial-birth” abortion would be passed quickly by Congress.
At the press conference in support of abortion rights this morning, several women testified to the importance of legal and safe abortion. One woman spoke about her mother’s death from an illegal abortion. Angel Foster, president-elect of Medical Students for Choice, told the Christian Science Monitor that her mother had a pre-Roe abortion, and that “that experience was really traumatic for her—not the abortion itself, but what she had to do to get it.” Pro-choice advocates worry that if Roe v. Wade is overturned, women will be forced to return to the days when abortions were dangerous. Worldwide, 14 percent of the annual 500,000 maternal deaths are due to unsafe abortions, according to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).
In the 30 years since Roe v. Wade was decided, the percentage of counties without abortion providers has increased, from 84 percent in 1973 to 87 percent today. The percentage of Americans today who think the Supreme Court decision was a good thing for the country is 53 percent. The Pew Research Center for the People and the Press reports that 62 percent of Americans do not want to see Roe v. Wade overturned. Among various subsets of the population, white evangelical Protestants are the only group in which a majority (55 percent) favor overturning Roe.
Media Resources: Associated Press 1/20/03; Washington Post 1/22/03; Christian Science Monitor 1/22/03; Gallup 1/20/03; NOW 1/17/03; Pew Center 1/16/03; Feminist Majority Foundation