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1-Incantation: Sex, families, pregnancy — these are intimately personal issues, whether called choice or choices, reproductive freedom or justice. Today, they are also highly politi-cized. One example: the 2008 ballot measure 48 in CO, sought to change the defini-tion of ‘personhood’ to the moment of fertilization. While soundly defeated, the same measure was introduced in 5 more states in 2009. The intense politicking around these personal issues calls upon people to make new connections to the paths of justice and freedom.
2-Letters to Justice Blackmun: The decision in Roe v. Wade on January 22, 1973, authored by Justice Harry Blackmun, resulted in more mail to the U.S. Supreme Court than any other opinion. By a vote of 7-2, the Court struck down criminal abortion laws in the state of Texas, holding that the right to decide whether or not to bear a child is a fund-amental right guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. The Court recognized a right to privacy in intimate decisions. Today, legal abortion is one of the most common and safest procedures for women, and about 1 in 3 U.S. women (over 1 million a year) has an abortion.
3-The Line: New technologies aid women’s reproductive decisionmaking, none more so than over-the-counter pregnancy tests by which women can learn in the privacy of their own homes about a pregnancy. Other devel-opments since Roe include the morning-after pill or Emergency Contraception, which can prevent a preg-nancy from being established in the 2-3 days after sex. EC is permitted to be sold at drugstores without a pres-cription, but some refuse to carry it on religious grounds.
4-Rev. Jimmy Fearall: The anti-abortion movement has a multi-faceted campaign to stop reproductive decision making by women, ranging from lectures to protests, broadcasts, hit-lists, violence, stigmatization and false promises to pregnant women. The Christian Right seeks to enforce its religious pers-pective through government regulation of women’s health care.
5-The Seminary: Many religious institutions are pro-choice, according to the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, an interfaith network of more than 40 prominent religious groups. Nearly 8 in 10 U.S. women who have abortions say they have a religious affiliation, self-described as
Protestant (43%), Catholic (27%), and other (8%).
6-Nobody: Catcalling, unwanted sexual advances and treating women as objects continue to affect new generations, as do persistent-ly high levels of rape, incest and sexual violence. Human Rights Watch reports that 200,000 to 250,000 indiv-iduals in the U.S. report rapes to the police every year.
7-End of a Period: Reproductive health affects women in many ways, and they are dependent upon access to safe, reliable and affordable care, whether or not they desire to become pregnant. This includes products ranging from tampons to contraceptives, and services that include testing and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases, cysts and HIV, as well as the complete and ready ability to get medically accurate answers to their health questions.
8-Matt’s Story: Estimates of the number of illegal abortions in the U.S. in the 1950s and 1960s range from 200,000 to 1.2 million per year. In 1972 alone, 130,000 women underwent illegal or self-induced abortions, ac-cording to the Centers for Disease Control and Pre-vention. In Chile and other places where abortion is illegal today, women face arrest for having or aiding an abortion.
9-Approximating Mother: Currently, 46.8 % of high school students report that they have engaged in sexual intercourse at least once. Annually, over 250,000 teens under 18 become pregnant in the U.S.; 82% of these pregnancies are unintended.
10-Opposing Arguments: Crisis pregnancy centers have proliferated across the U.S. These outposts, evangelical in nature, are operated by conservative religious groups that use shame, guilt, fear, pressure, false information and deception to convince women not to have abortions. From 2000-2008, they received millions of dollars in government funding.
11-Kathy: Although the Catholic Church opposes abortion and birth control, only 25% of Catholics believe that church leaders should have the final say-so on an abortion decision.
12-Jana: Autonomy is decision-making by women has been hard to come by. For centuries women were seen as the “property” of their husbands or fathers, and were not given the power over basic decisions, such as whether to marry, have children, work, spend money, buy property or make moral decisions. Jana Mackey, a young woman in Kansas, understood this clearly. Sadly, she was murdered by a violent ex-partner in 2008. She was 25.
13-Siege: Doctors who provide legal abortions have been subjected to constant harassment by the anti-abortion movement, includ-ing threats, neighborhood invasions, picketing, ‘death wanted’ posters and assass-inations. In May 2009, Dr. George Tiller was murdered point-blank by an anti-abortion zealot.
14-On the Hill: Efforts to restrict reproductive rights come in many forms. Anti-abortion legislators used healthcare reform as a tool for inscribing additional barriers to women’s equal ability to access abortion services. Anti-abortion crusaders have pushed laws through Congress, starting with the Hyde Amendment in 1976 that had the effect of making abortion widely unavailable to women of limited economic means, while Rep. John Boehner and Rep. Bart Stupak secured significant concessions from Congress and the president in healthcare legislation, the effects of which will be felt by the next generation of women and men.
15-Laws I Want: Subsequent to Roe v. Wade, an increasing number of restrictions on women’s access to abortion were pushed in states. From 1995-2008, 581 abortion restrict-ions were passed, including 24-hour waiting periods, state-mandated information to scare women about abort-ion, parental notification laws and funding prohibitions. In 2011, 92 anti-abortion provisions were passed, the most since Roe was decided. Working to stop these assaults saps the ability of prochoice activists to realize other goals, such as securing better access to affordable birth control and other healthcare services.
16-blessed: Reproductive rights are human rights. They include the ability to decide to bear children or not, use contraceptives, make sexual choices, have a safe abortion, and to raise children in a healthy environment. On April 25, 2004, more than one million people of every age, gender, race, religion and sexuality marched in Washington D.C. for reproductive freedom and women’s lives, one of the largest demonstrations in history.
NOTES and SOURCES
Center for Reproductive Rights http://www.reproductiverights.org
Alan Guttmacher Institute: http://www.guttmacher.org
Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice: http://www.rcrc.org
Human Rights Watch: hrw.org
Nat’l Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy: teenpregnancy.org
Catholics for A Free Choice: http://www.catholicsforchoice.org
National Abortion Federation: http://www.prochoice.org
RH Reality Check:rhrealitycheck.org
Planned Parenthood (Library): http://www.plannedparenthood.org
NARAL Pro Choice America: http://www.prochoiceamerica.org
Suzanne Grossman helped prepare Facts Behind the Stories.