Roe v. Wade at 42: Important for All Women

On this 42nd anniversary of Roe v. Wade -- when the spotlight is on the right to decide whether or not to have an abortion -- let's remember that Roe benefits all pregnant women. As the US Supreme Court said in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, Roe "has been sensibly relied upon to counter...suggestions that the State might as readily restrict a woman's right to choose to carry a pregnancy to term as to terminate it."

Yet, ALL pregnant women -- whether seeking to end a pregnancy or go to term -- are finding that their rights and personhood are under attack.

In Wisconsin, Tamara Loertscher is challenging Wisconsin's "cocaine mom" law used to strip pregnant women of virtually every civil right associated with constitutional personhood. NAPW, along with our co-counsel at the Carr Center for Reproductive Justice at NYU School of Law and the law firm Perkins Coie in Madison, recently filed a motion asking a federal district court to declare the law unconstitutional and stop it from being used again.

In New York, Rinat Dray has sued a Staten Island hospital and its medical staff for malpractice for forcing her to have cesarean surgery over her objection and without her consent. The hospital is defending what happened by suggesting that a pregnant woman going to term loses all of her rights -- including the rights to medical decision making and bodily integrity. NAPW filed an amicus (friend of the court) brief explaining that Roe does not mean that there is a point in pregnancy in which pregnant women lose their civil rights, and describing the increasing recognition by international human rights laws and other nations that forced medical procedures on pregnant women are "obstetric violence," a form of gender-based violence.

And throughout the nation, the fight continues not only for all women to have the right to abortion, but also for access to it. Today, members of the House planned to vote on a 20-week abortion ban, but at the eleventh hour decided not to. (Read NAPW's analysis of such bans, "Are Pregnant Women Persons After 20 Weeks?"). Despite this small victory, the House replaced the 20-week ban proposal with one that would extend the ban on federal funding for abortion. Abortion restrictions like these are deeply problematic for all pregnant women. And for women who seek to find a way to end their pregnancies, it has become increasingly clear that they may face prosecution and incarceration. For example, the state of Indiana charged Purvi Patel with feticide for allegedly attempting to terminate her own pregnancy with medication. As NAPW's amicus brief filed in that case explains, jailing women for having abortions violates their constitutional and human rights, undermines public health, and hurts women and their families.

As 2015 begins, NAPW asks for your continued support for our work to protect what should be the real meaning of Roe: that a woman is a person with civil and human rights throughout her pregnancy.