January 22, 2013 — To mark the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, many news outlets published opinion pieces and analyses discussing the abortion-rights debate. Summaries appear below.
~ Jessica Arons, New York Times: In response to Times columnist Gail Collins' suggestion that young people might object to the label "pro-choice," Arons writes that "the younger generation of activists who support the right to a full range of reproductive health services, including abortion, already has a name for its movement: reproductive justice." Arons, director of the Women's Health and Rights program at the Center for American Progress, adds that reproductive justice not only involves preventing politicians from interfering with women's decisions, but also "providing resources to women, like insurance coverage for abortion even for women who are eligible for Medicaid and other government programs, so that no woman is forced to make such an important decision based on economic need" (Arons, New York Times, 1/20).
~ Charles Donovan, New York Times: "Americans seem to be traveling in opposite directions on abortion," with liberals opposing any further restrictions on the procedure, while conservative legislatures in the past two years have passed "the highest number of laws regulating or restricting abortion in decades," writes Donovan, president of the Charlotte Lozier Institute, the research arm of the Susan B. Anthony List. Donovan argues that abortion-rights supporters and opponents should both "insist that abortion statistics be comprehensively gathered, rapidly totaled and assessed, and reliably published by a publicly accountable body" (Donovan, New York Times, 1/21).
~ Janet Golden, Philadelphia Inquirer's "The Public's Health": Golden, a history professor at Rutgers University, writes that "vehement debates over abortion and the cultural divide those arguments represent have grown ever more virulent" in the years since the Roe decision. She calls the ruling "a public health success story" because it led to a significant decline in maternal mortality, adding that "the next chapter ... will involve reducing the rate of abortion by increasing access to contraception" (Golden, "The Public's Health," Philadelphia Inquirer, 1/22).
~ Rep. Diane Black (R-Tenn.), Politico: Black, who opposes abortion rights and federal funding for Planned Parenthood, writes that Roe has resulted in "a new form of injustice" because "one third of [her] daughters' and granddaughters' peers are not here to benefit from the progress" made in women's rights over the past four decades. "In order to combat the heinous injustice of abortion, we must renew our commitment to communicate the real impact of abortion, improve education, expand adoption opportunities and prenatal care as well as help to strengthen families and advance anti-abortion legislation," she adds (Black, Politico, 1/22).
~ USA Today: "Roe is the leading symbol of the country's social division," the editorial states, adding, "Forty years after Roe, the nation is no closer to a consensus, virtually ensuring that the [abortion] debate will still be raging 40 years from now." The editorial also notes that public opinion has "barely budged" and remains in favor of legal abortion with some limitations, despite "all the protests mounted, lawsuits brought, votes cast and violence committed over the issue since 1973" (USA Today, 1/20).
~ Terry O'Neill, U.S. News & World Report: "The impact of Roe has been both inspiring and frustratingly insufficient" because minorities and young women disproportionately lack "access to the full spectrum of reproductive care," writes O'Neill, president of the National Organization for Women. Without such access, "a woman's ability to define her place in society will remain elusive," she writes, adding that abortion-rights organizations "need to ensure voters are educated and mobilized about women's access to reproductive healthcare" (O'Neill, U.S. News & World Report, 1/18).
~ "ND's Only Abortion Clinic Takes Spotlight," AP/Atlanta Journal-Constitution: The AP/Journal-Constitution outlines the challenges facing North Dakota's only abortion clinic, the Red River Women's Clinic in Fargo. The clinic performs more than 1,200 abortions annually using surgical and medication methods. Red River has sued the state over a law that would ban a type of medication abortion (Huebner, AP/Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 1/20).
~ "Four Decades After Roe: A Legacy of Law and Morality," CNN: Forty years after the Roe ruling, "[s]ocial, religious and family values, as well as finances and politics, still play a role in shaping the abortion issue, but many legal and medical experts say the debate has become entrenched," CNN Supreme Court producer Bill Mears writes. "If there is one overriding legacy of the Roe decision, it may be that it opened and expanded the debate on the rights of women, sexuality, health care, and medical decisions," according to Mears (Mears, CNN, 1/19).
~ "Interactive Map: America's Abortion Clinics," Daily Beast: The Daily Beast attempted to identify every abortion clinic in the U.S. by calling more than 750 abortion providers to see where they are located and the scope of their services. The result is an interactive map that shows the distance to the nearest clinic from any point in the U.S. and what legal restrictions providers must contend with (Abelson et al., Daily Beast, 1/22). The map coincides with an analysis describing barriers to abortion access in different parts of the country (Keller/Yarrow, Daily Beast, 1/22).
~ "The People's Choice," New Yorker: New Yorker legal affairs correspondent Jeffrey Toobin writes that as the Supreme Court issued additional decisions on abortion in decades after the Roe ruling, "the rationale for its decisions shifted." He notes, "This sort of evolution is not unusual in the history of the Supreme Court." Toobin adds that on the Roe anniversary, "it is worthwhile to celebrate a landmark of what is, in the truest sense, women's liberation," although "it wasn't the Supreme Court Justices alone who made sure that Roe survived." He concludes that "it is the voters and the President they elect who will decide whether abortion rights survive for the next four decades" (Toobin, New Yorker, 1/28).
~ "'Roe v. Wade' Turns 40, But Abortion Debate is Even Older," NPR's "Shots": The "conventional wisdom" that Roe "marked the beginning of a contentious battle that still rages today is not the case, according to those on both sides of the dispute," "Shots" reports. Linda Greenhouse, a Yale Law School lecturer and former New York Times reporter, points out that medical and legal professionals were the first groups to fight state abortion restrictions in the decades before Roe (Rovner, "Shots," NPR, 1/22).
Debra Ness, publisher & president, National Partnership
Andrea Friedman, associate editor & director of reproductive health programs, National Partnership
Melissa Safford, associate editor & policy advocate for reproductive health, National Partnership
Perry Sacks, assistant editor & health program associate, National Partnership
Cindy Romero, assistant editor & communications assistant, National Partnership
Justyn Ware, editor
Amanda Wolfe, editor-in-chief
Heather Drost, Hanna Jaquith, Marcelle Maginnis, Ashley Marchand and Michelle Stuckey, staff writers
Tucker Ball, director of new media, National Partnership