January 23, 2013 — Several news outlets marked this week's anniversary of the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision with opinion pieces, interviews and profiles related to the abortion-rights debate. Summaries appear below.
~ Kate Manning, New York Times: "Women's historical willingness to endure horrible dangers, to submit to extreme and prolonged pain, to risk grave injury and death rather than remain pregnant, tells us something important about female desperation and determination, and the price women were -- and still are -- willing to pay to control their own bodies," writes Manning, an author, in a piece discussing abortion methods throughout history. "For most of history, abortion has been a dangerous procedure a woman attempted to perform on herself," through ingesting poison, self-injury, inserting objects or certain substances into her body, and other methods that caused "excruciating pain and considerable risk," including death, Manning explains. "There is no law that will end the practice of abortion, only laws that can protect a woman's right to choose it, or not, and to keep it the safe and private procedure still available to us in 2013, 40 years after the Supreme Court made it legal," she concludes (Manning, New York Times, 1/21).
~ Katrina vanden Heuvel, Washington Post: "Over the past 40 years, state legislatures across the country have managed to place a slew of impediments, inconveniences and indignities between women and their right to choose," columnist vanden Heuvel writes. Although the court has said states can impose these restrictions as long as they "do not constitute an 'undue burden' on woman seeking abortion services, ... the interpretation of 'undue burden' has turned out to be pretty narrow," she adds. Nonetheless, it is "worth celebrating" the fact that the restrictions have brought "women's reproductive rights ... back in the conversation," according to vanden Heuvel. It also is important to commend state-level leaders and women's advocacy groups that are advancing legislation to support women, as well as President Obama for acting on women's issues during his first term, she adds (vanden Heuvel, Washington Post, 1/22).
~ Nancy Keenan, CNN: Keenan -- who is stepping down as president of NARAL Pro-Choice America at the end of the month -- writes, "There have been a few moments in our history when a generation has used the power of its numbers and its passion for a cause to transcend a deeply divided society and change the course of the future for the better." She continues, "While Roe might guarantee the right to choose, a loud and organized movement is chipping away at a woman's ability to exercise her reproductive rights." Keenan calls on "pro-choice millennials [to] continue to see the connection between the personal and the political because anti-choice activists are not slowing down," adding that it is time for young activists to "secure this hard-fought freedom for generations to come" (Keenan, CNN, 1/22).
Interviews and Profiles
~ Sharon Lerner, American Prospect: Lerner profiles Willie Parker, an ob-gyn and former medical director of Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan Washington, who has become "the public face of the latest legal fight to defend Mississippi's sole remaining abortion clinic." Parker, who travels a few times per month to the Jackson Women's Health Organization to provide abortions, has faced "some of the ugliest anti-abortion hostility in the nation." However, Parker said he finds solace and inspiration in the words of Martin Luther King Jr. Parker said, "I draw a lot of strength from thinking about how [King] faced more explicit danger and threats, yet continued to focus on the work he thought it was right to do" (Lerner, American Prospect, 1/22).
~ Terry Gross, NPR's "Fresh Air": Gross interviewed Carolyn Jones, a journalist who wrote in the Texas Observer about her experience obtaining an abortion in Texas two weeks after the state's ultrasound law took effect. Jones said she and her husband decided to seek an abortion after learning that the fetus had severe neurological defects that also affected physical development. She described complying with the law -- which requires physicians to inform women about the fetus' characteristics, describe alleged risks of abortion and play a recording of the fetal heartbeat -- as "traumatizing," adding, "That someone could invade upon that [decision] -- a politician, who has absolutely no jurisdiction over my private life -- that they could invade upon that and so reduce my dignity, I do feel that that's an incredible injustice; and I still do" (Gross, "Fresh Air," NPR, 1/22).
~ Valerie Lapinski, Time: Time's Lapinski interviewed Sarah Weddington, a Texas attorney, about her experience as a plaintiff's attorney arguing Roe v. Wade before the Supreme Court. Weddington said that the arguments she used 40 years ago are still relevant today. "I was saying, 'We are not asking this court to decide that abortion is good, or that everyone should have one. We are asking this court to decide that that issue is one for the individual to decide, not the government,'" Weddington recalled (Lapinski, Time, 1/22).
Debra Ness, publisher & president, National Partnership
Andrea Friedman, associate editor & director of reproductive health programs, National Partnership
Marya Torrez, associate editor & senior reproductive health policy counsel, 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