So today is the anniversary of Roe vs Wade. If any of you are in DC, unfortunately you will notice that it’s also a huge day for the anti-choice community. Tons of people come from all over the country on this anniversary to lobby Congress and rally for the rights of fetuses. Meanwhile the members of the pro-choice community celebrate today as a milestone in the fight for women’s reproductive rights, since the Roe vs. Wade Supreme court case decriminalized abortion in the United States.
So in honor of the anniversary of Roe vs Wade, I’m blogging today about a new Guttmacher report that was just released about the status of abortion today. Abortion levels have now fallen to back to 1974 rates, continuing a decline from the spike in 1981. The steady decline in abortion providers is also leveling off, in part due to the increased provision of early medication abortions (like RU-486) which many providers are only offering.
It’s hard to know if this is good news or bad. Are women getting less abortions because they have better access to things like emergency contraception and birth control? Or are they getting fewer abortions because 83% of counties have no abortion provider, restrictions like the Hyde Amendment prevent low-income women from obtaining abortions (the report said that the average cost for a 10 week abortion was $413), and anti-choice sentiment around the country is making women feel shamed into carrying these unwanted pregnancies to term? Not to mention recent clinic violence, increases in medically inaccurate abstinence only education funding as well as a rise in crisis pregnancy centers–now two for every one abortion provider.
The answer is I don’t know. The jury is still out on this one–it’s a really hard thing to determine. We know that 1 in 5 pregnancies in still ending in abortion, and that half of all pregnancies are still unintended. What we don’t know if if those unintended pregnancies are also unwanted. No one is asking women as they give birth, “Oh, by the way, did you want to have an abortion but weren’t able to?” and who knows if they would provide an honest answer.
So until then, I say we need to continue to fight for wider access to services for all women–both “prevention” focused things like birth control, comprehensive sex ed, and emergency contraception as well as abortion services. My hope is that the abortion rate will one day reflect exactly that–how many women need and want that form of pregnancy termination.
PS If you want to go to a Roe vs Wade anniversary event, look here for a sampling of whats going on in your city.