January 22 is the 41st anniversary of the landmark Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision. When the Supremes ruled that the right to privacy in the constitution covers the right to have an abortion, women had been dying from back-alley abortions for decades. Roe was supposed to put an end to the fight over access to a life-saving procedure.
Far from it. The opposition forces saw the decision as a clarion call to take up the cause of banning abortion forever. Attacks on the ruling have never stopped, and by all objective counts, abortion foes are now winning the battle.
It's ironic that some of the worst setbacks are coming out of Texas, where Roe v. Wade originated. Last summer the state legislature passed laws requiring clinics to meet surgery-center standards, even if they only provide nonsurgical abortions using medication. On top of that, if clinic doctors can't obtain admitting privileges at nearby hospitals, no surgical abortions can be performed. Courts have so far upheld the restrictions, and nearly half the state's clinics have closed, denying women not only abortion services but mammograms and birth control information as well.
Unfortunately Texas is not alone. Twenty-two other states have enacted 70 different restrictions in the last year. But that's just last year. According to the Guttmacher Institute, more restrictions have been put in place since 2011 than were adopted during the entire previous decade. And abortion and the doctors who provide them aren't the only targets in the opposition's gun sights. Birth control, which surely reduces the number of abortions, is also under attack from ongoing lawsuits against insurance coverage for it in Obamacare.
Every year on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade there is a so-called "March for Life" on the national mall, and both sides gather on the steps of the Supreme Court. Women's groups will be out in force to show their support for the ruling (and for the lives of women) and call attention to the serious erosion of reproductive rights since 1973. On the other side, a new contingent will join the usual rabid opponents and Catholic school groups this year. The Republican National Committee has postponed its annual meeting so it can bus members to the mall to march against women's rights.
Funny, just weeks ago the Grand Old Party started an initiative to teach candidates how to talk to women. They're talking all right. There has never been a better example of actions speaking louder than words.
Read and listen to an interview with Sarah Weddington, who argued Roe and won, here.