On the 40th Anniversary of Roe v. Wade , Republicans Applaud its True Meaning

01/23/2013 08:35 am ET Updated Mar 25, 2013

This week marks the 40th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark decision recognizing a woman's fundamental constitutional right to privacy and freedom when it comes to making personal health choices.

The Roe v. Wade ruling will forever be remembered as the decision legalizing abortion; however, at its heart, Roe reaffirms American women's essential right to make personal health decisions privately and without interference from government. It was, and remains, a vital reaffirmation of all Americans' individual freedom and equality of rights under the law.

Viewed through the prism of our nation's venerable Constitution, Roe reflects all that is quintessentially American. It is a profound ruling worthy of celebration.

And yet, despite this, forty years after Roe became the law of the land, it still is subjected to endless divisive public debate. Its opponents, chiefly from the extreme religious right-wing of the Republican Party, continue efforts to erode Roe in state capitals across America and in the halls of Congress. So-called "pro-life" advocates, bound together by the fanatical conviction that a government ban on abortion without exception is essential, continue to work ceaselessly to reduce family planning options and curb women's reproductive freedoms. Paradoxically, this agenda leads to more unintended pregnancy and compromises real success in our mutual goal of reducing abortion.

After forty years of this destructive conflict, it's time for a new direction.

The Republican National Committee has a prime opportunity as its Winter Meeting this week, coinciding with Roe's 40th anniversary, to chart a new and more productive course for the GOP regarding the historically divisive issues of choice and family planning.

We call upon the RNC, as well as Democratic Party leaders, to turn away from alienating labels and litmus tests and open a meaningful dialogue on social issues. If our leaders could work toward the larger goal and would focus, not on abortion, but on reducing the number of unplanned pregnancies in America, there are many areas where common ground can be found. This can be achieved in pro-active ways: by promoting age-appropriate education that includes details about the positive benefits of abstinence, but also gives teens and young adults honest facts, as well as by ensuring that safe contraception and family planning measures are available to all women, regardless of income.

Let us not lose sight of the fact that polls repeatedly show the vast majority of Americans support the right to choose. More than four in five Americans believe abortion should be allowed when a woman's life is threatened, or in cases of rape or incest. And seven in ten Americans oppose any efforts to overturn Roe v. Wade. This overwhelming consensus that abortion should remain an option reflects fundamental widespread support for the true intent of the Roe decision.

Given this reality, it's time for the GOP to stop trying to overturn settled law that is ingrained in the fabric of our society. It's time for the anti-choice factions in the Republican Party to recognize that one can oppose abortion and still understand that our most valuable American rights -- individual freedom and religious freedom -- must be protected.

It's time to move on.

We need more broad-minded, consensus-building leadership to move this unending debate forward. And the Republican Party needs to remember, as it looks to its own future viability, that women fought hard for this equal right and will not let it be taken away.

So today, let us join together to celebrate the true significance of Roe v. Wade as a vital ruling that strengthened Americans' right to individual freedom and personal choice. With that in mind, we urge our elected leaders, on both sides, to stop using Roe as a political football and instead start working together toward commonsense solutions to the ongoing family planning challenges facing America.