Today is the 37th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade. It's also Blog for Choice Day, sponsored by NARAL Pro-choice America. Pro-choice bloggers and activists write about what choice means to them and go about making resolutions for the coming year; in many ways, it's a kind of New Year's for the pro-choice movement. But I've been putting off writing my post this year -- not because of a change in my convictions, but because I'm feeling more and more depressed about the outlook for reproductive choice and justice in America.
The thing that people tend to gloss over on a day like today, when pro-choice activists are resolving to fight (and anti-choice activists march through the streets with photos of fetuses) is that we already live in a country where it's pretty difficult to get an abortion. Thanks to the Hyde amendment, which has been around almost as long as Roe v. Wade, women cannot use federal government funds to pay for an abortion. And though an early-term abortion is relatively inexpensive -- a few hundred dollars -- for the poorest of the poor, this is often an insurmountable price when the entire cost of an abortion is more than they have to live on. The Hyde amendment, as my colleagues Larry Korb and Jessica Arons wrote, also ensures that women in the military, who risk their lives for the rights of Americans, have terrible reproductive health care and virtually no access to abortion when deployed to war.
Furthermore, late this last year, as the health care debate seemed close to closing (and now seems as if it may be stalled forever), Representatives Bart Stupak and Joe Pitts decided to introduce the most restrictive abortion legislation in a generation, that would eventually eliminate private insurance coverage of abortions. In some ways, though I was angered by the amendment, it seemed fitting that finally, middle-class women whose abortions are covered by their employer-sponsored insurance, would face some level of financial difficulty in obtaining an abortion (even if it is largely a matter of convenience). Don't get me wrong, from a pro-choice perspective, the Stupak-Pitts and Nelson amendments are unacceptable in health care reform. But. I think they are a strong reminder of exactly how bad things are from a pro-choice perspective in this country. We're fighting for a status quo that's already bad.
I don't even think I need to mention that one of the few doctors who was willing to actually perform abortions was murdered in cold blood and his shooter actually had the nerve to plead manslaughter. Although I guess the silver lining is the judge knew to call such a plea bullshit.
The thing that we always forget about the abortion debate is that this is an issue that is fundamentally about class. Women with a certain amount of money and privilege will always have access to abortion -- even if it were to be made outright illegal in this country. But disadvantaged women have it much, much harder. Women's abortion rights have been drastically rolled back over the years. As a writer at RH Reality Check, I wrote regularly about the various ways states were trying to rollback the right to abortion: introducing waiting periods, TRAP laws, ultrasound requirements, personhood amendments, and more. Even on television and in TV shows, it has become taboo to discuss abortion.
I hate to sound so pessimistic, but I honestly think pro-choicers lost more of this battle than we like to believe. Here's hoping that the coming year in reproductive rights will prove me wrong.