The 49th anniversary for Roe V. Wade could be its last unless you take action

·5 min read

Saturday marks the 49th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the landmark case that established the constitutional right to abortion care in the United States. But many of us who fight for reproductive freedom are asking the same question: Could this anniversary be Roe’s last?

It’s clear that activists and politicians hostile to abortion believe it may be. Last year, anti-choice lawmakers waged an all-out assault on abortion access in an attempt to interfere in personal decisions about if, when and how people can start or grow their family. And soon, the U.S. Supreme Court’s conservative supermajority is expected to rule on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, a case out of Mississippi that directly challenges Roe and centers on a Mississippi law that attempts to ban abortion at 15 weeks.

To put it simply, if the Supreme Court upholds Mississippi’s ban, the constitutional right to abortion recognized in Roe will be undone.

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Each person in our country – no matter who they are, where they live, or how much money they make – should have the freedom to make their own decisions about whether to start or grow a family, and those decisions should be treated with respect and dignity. The vast majority of people in the United States believe this to be true. Polling shows that 8 in10 Americans support the legal right to abortion.

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Yet lawmakers, emboldened by the presence of justices nominated by former President Donald Trump on the Supreme Court, have disregarded the will of the majority of voters by ramping up their efforts to decimate abortion access. More than 100 restrictions on abortion were enacted at the state level in 2021 alone according to the Guttmacher Institute, making it the worst year for abortion rights since Roe was decided in 1973.

Devastating consequences

We know that the consequences of Roe falling would be devastating. At least 28 states are expected to take action to restrict or ban abortion, leaving people in more than half of the country – particularly across the South and Midwest – without access to abortion care.

And, as is already the case, it will be people of color, LGBTQ individuals, those working to make ends meet and others who face systemic barriers to care who will continue to be hurt the most by efforts to undermine reproductive freedom. Even now, as Roe stands, its promises remain unfulfilled for many.

We don’t have to wait for the Supreme Court to rule in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health to see what happens when abortion becomes nearly impossible to access – just look to my home state of Texas. In September, Texas’ vigilante-enforced ban on abortion before many people know they are pregnant, (SB 8), deputized private citizens to act as bounty hunters went into effect after the Supreme Court failed to block the blatantly unconstitutional law.

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The Supreme Court’s decision to allow this draconian ban to go into and remain in effect has left Roe v. Wade essentially meaningless in the state.

It doesn’t stop there: There are lawmakers in Florida, Ohio, Alabama, Arkansas and Missouri racing to bring Texas’ draconian abortion ban to their states.

In Kentucky and Kansas, lawmakers hostile to reproductive freedom are pushing amendments to their state constitutions to entirely deny the right to abortion for all people in the state. And there are also politicians in states across the country who have launched targeted attacks on safe and effective medication abortion care in an effort to undermine access.

Take action now

Accessing abortion care shouldn't depend on where you live, but the reality is that abortion access is already decimated in many states and it will be even worse if the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade.

Abortion rights advocates and anti-abortion protesters demonstrate in front of the US Supreme Court in Washington, DC, on December 1, 2021.
Abortion rights advocates and anti-abortion protesters demonstrate in front of the US Supreme Court in Washington, DC, on December 1, 2021.

Important decisions about our fundamental freedoms are being made by lawmakers, who are paid to listen to you. Whether it's state legislators who go to your state capital to represent you or members of Congress who go to Washington to vote for policies to support their constituents, these decision-makers operate in a democratic system that is designed to elevate the voices of the people.

You have a say in this fight. A first step in using your voice for change is to find out what is happening in your state. It is critical to know whether anti-choice laws, including “trigger bans,” that would automatically ban abortion if Roe is overturned, are in place where you live.

Then, contact your state representatives and federal delegation.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday, Jan.19, 2022, in Washington. (AP Photo/Mariam Zuhaib) ORG XMIT: DCMZ110
The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday, Jan.19, 2022, in Washington. (AP Photo/Mariam Zuhaib) ORG XMIT: DCMZ110

At the state level, tell your representatives that you oppose efforts to undermine abortion access and that you want to see your state move to protect and advance reproductive freedom. Next, let your representatives and senators in Congress know that they must protect reproductive freedom. Last year, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Women’s Health Protection Act (WHPA), a bill that would safeguard the legal right to abortion throughout the United States even if Roe falls. Now, we must urge the Senate to pass this critical legislation as soon as possible.

Many of us know someone who says: "I don't get involved in politics." Maybe we’ve even said this ourselves. But we can’t realize a future where each of us has the fundamental freedom to make personal decisions about abortion unless we act.

Now is the time to get involved in politics, contact your legislators, or maybe even consider running for office yourself.

When my family immigrated to this country, we never could have imagined a world where our children and grandchildren would have less, not more, of their fundamental rights and freedoms recognized than we did. For the last 49 years – my entire lifetime – Roe has been a foundational piece of our work to realize a world where all of our families and communities have what they need to thrive. We can and must make our voices heard and fight together to protect its promises.

Mini Timmaraju is the president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, a membership organization dedicated to fighting for abortion access. Follow her on Twitter @mintimm.

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Roe v. Wade may be overturned; Congress should take action

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