01/25/2013 04:19 pm ET Updated Mar 27, 2013

Commemorating Roe v. Wade

Last Tuesday, Americans marked an important milestone in their history -- the fortieth anniversary of Roe v. Wade. The Supreme Court decision on January 22, 1973 made abortion legal across the nation.

It was a pivotal moment for women's rights in America. It granted women more control over their family-planning decisions, and freed them from the risks inherent in backstreet abortions. Previously when abortions were illegal, that didn't stop them happening -- the evidence indicates that they still occurred, usually in stressful and hazardous conditions.

What this anniversary also reminds us is how fragile these rights still are. In a recent article in Businessweek magazine, a woman who opened her own abortion clinic in Michigan spoke about the threats and intimidation she faces on a daily basis; at the same time new state regulations have been making her work harder.

Indeed, over the past two years, states have passed 135 laws restricting abortion. Planned Parenthood, which is the largest single abortion provider in the nation, has been vocal about the growing struggle abortion providers face in some areas. In Texas, a ban on giving state funds to Planned Parenthood may deprive many of access to abortion and make it more difficult for thousands of women to get basic lifesaving healthcare.

For the fortieth anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Pew Research Center published an interesting poll. It showed that most Americans do not want to see Roe v. Wade overturned. However, it also revealed that many young people did not know very much about that groundbreaking Supreme Court decision.

So we know what our task is looking forward: first, we must make sure that our young people are informed about this history. And second we must work to ensure that abortion rights -- and women's rights -- are maintained.