On this day in 1973, the US Supreme Court handed down the decision that gave women the right to a legal abortion. In a 7-2 decision written by Justice Harry Blackmun, the court found that laws restricting abortion violate a woman’s constitutional right to privacy under the 14th amendment.
Today, however, women’s rights leaders are concerned that the right to an abortion is in jeopardy. NARAL Pro-Choice America recently graded the country based on abortion access and reproductive freedom; overall, the country scored a D- average. According to NARAL, 26 states have bans on the books that could outlaw abortion as early as the 12th week of pregnancy without exception for a woman’s health if Roe fell.
Congress also passed the so-called “Partial Birth Abortion Ban” in 2003, which was immediately challenged as unconstitutional because of its broad scope (it could restrict abortions as early as 12 weeks) and its lack of an exception to protect a woman’s health. The Supreme Court heard two cases challenging the federal ban in November 2006 and is expected to issue a decision in 2007. With two recent Bush appointments sitting on the Supreme Court, however, reproductive rights advocates are concerned with how the justices will decide the case, though Justice Kennedy may provide the fifth crucial vote for abortion rights.
Voters, however, have rejected restrictions on abortion access and reproductive freedom. In November 2006, voters in South Dakota resoundingly defeated a complete ban on all abortions, and California and Oregon both voted against parental notification measures.
Reproductive rights activists and advocates are taking today and tomorrow to remind the country of the importance of reproductive freedom and policies affecting reproductive health and abortion rights. The National Organization for Women is holding its annual vigil on the steps of the US Supreme Court, and the blog BushvChoice.com has announced that today is a “Blog for Choice Day,” encouraging bloggers everywhere to express why they are pro-choice.