You Do Uterus: Years after Roe, the fight continues

Kylie Cheung | Daily Trojan

This Monday marked the 45th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision, a ruling that made abortion legal on the federal level. What preceded the Roe decision was a dark age for women; in the many states that had not legalized the procedure, socioeconomic status and the government had the unilateral power to force a woman to give birth, or subject her to the cruelty and danger of a back-alley procedure. In a society where abortion is illegal, those are the  only options available to women who lack the privilege of being able to receive education about or afford birth control. And historically, the women who found themselves caught in this trap were often low-income women of color and immigrants.

Forty-five years later, we may never know how many died or were severely injured while having unsafe versions of the procedure in parts of the country where abortion was illegal, nor how many women were deprived of opportunity from being impelled to go through with an unintended pregnancy.

Today, “Never going back” is a defining slogan of the abortion rights movement because it acknowledges the past that we as a country have progressed from.

Last summer, Oregon’s female governor signed into law a bill that ensured insurance coverage of abortion for all, including undocumented women in the state. Last fall, Illinois’ notably Republican governor signed into law a bill ensuring low-income women and government workers received insurance coverage for abortion. Last week, California’s state Senate Education and Appropriations committees moved forward a bill that would require the state’s public colleges to offer medication abortion services. Since the Roe decision more than four decades ago, different parts of the country are embracing progress; every Jan. 22, it’s important to celebrate the landmark decision that made this progress possible.

And yet, the anniversary of the Roe decision must also serve as an annual reminder of how much work there remains to be done. Perhaps fewer women are dying from botched back-alley procedures, but the fact that this phenomenon persists 45 years later is concerning. 

Art by Elizabeth Gu | Daily Trojan

In 2018, 87 percent of U.S. counties lack an abortion provider. The United States has the highest maternal mortality rate in the industrialized world, and states with more restrictions on abortion have even higher mortality rates. Abortion restrictions have detrimental consequences for women’s health, in general, but disproportionately affect women of color: Black women are 243 percent more likely to die of pregnancy or birth-related causes than their white counterparts.

Across the country, a quarter of all of the more than 1,050 restrictions on abortion enacted since Roe were passed in the five years between 2011 and 2016 alone; they range from bans on the procedure at different stages of the pregnancy to costly mandated waiting periods and counseling. The 42-year-old Hyde Amendment and myriad state laws across the country bar insurance coverage of the procedure, rendering basic health care virtually inaccessible for low-income women.

Barriers to access extend beyond anti-abortion legislation. Between 1977 and 2015, anti-abortion extremists engaged in more than 7,200 reported acts of violence against abortion providers, ranging from death threats and assaults to bombings and arson, according to the most recent data from the National Abortion Rights Action League.

Even as abortion enters its 45th year of legality, this trend persists, and even appears to be on the rise. And while the internet has helped circulate crucial women’s health information to more women around the world, it has also fostered the circulation of dangerous propaganda about the procedure, such as the disproven lies that abortion causes infertility, breast cancer or post-traumatic stress disorder, effectively stinting women’s right to make informed choices about their bodies.

With few exceptions such as Gov. Rauner and Maine Sen. Susan Collins, Republicans across the country have constructed their platform around demonizing and dismantling access to abortion and reproductive health care — all while Democratic Party leadership attempts to distance the party from the controversial issue.

Today, minors, undocumented women, trans and gender-nonconforming people, low-income women and women of color still face far too many obstacles to access a basic medical procedure; the technical legality of abortion has only symbolic value for these groups. For feminists, the fight must continue until everyone has access to abortion without stigma or undue burden.

Rather than be daunted by all the work that remains to be done, we should rise to the challenge.

With every election, we have the opportunity to elect lawmakers who will fight for reproductive rights and impact real change. And in 2018, with midterm elections on the horizon, we could soon be celebrating not only Roe’s 45th birthday, but also the start of a new era of choice.

Kylie Cheung is a sophomore majoring in journalism and political science. She is also the associate managing editor of the Daily Trojan. Her column,“You Do Uterus,” runs Thursdays.

5 replies
  1. John Doe
    John Doe says:

    Only a creature as degenerate as a campus feminist would celebrate the
    systematic murder of helpless infants and the sale of their body parts.

  2. Thekatman
    Thekatman says:

    So, now the DT is censoring contrary opinion? They deleted my post from this morning, and it was not vile, hateful or vulgar. But it was contrary to the liberal ideology of legal genocide.

    • GeorgeCurious
      GeorgeCurious says:

      I’m not surprised that they would delete a post that is contrary to “popular opinion.” One would hope that a university would encourage open dialogue, which would obviously enhance their students’ education. Instead, they redefine contrary viewpoints as being “hate speech” and quash them every chance they get. Killing millions of unborn children is certainly a form of genocide, but in their minds they are not human, so no harm, no foul.

  3. Lunderful
    Lunderful says:

    You’re dreaming up straw men to have something to target. There is no trending that indicates threats to women’s rights. You can kill your offspring any time you choose without obstruction. The only debate centers on funding. Simply stated, if you want to kill a/your baby, then fine, go ahead and do so, but don’t make me or others pay for it. It’s all on you. Being equal to men means you have the wherewithall to cover your own costs in life. Stop whining. Grow up and act the WOMAN!

  4. Thekatman
    Thekatman says:

    Justify abortion all you wqnt. The fact remains the founder of Planned Parenthood, Margaret Sanger, was a racist whose goal was and remains today to reduce the number of blacks Americans in this country. Don’t take my word for it, look it up yourself. But check out the pro life sites too, not just a quick Google search. Google search algorithms are tainted.

    The sad thing is women today have been brainwashed into believing that killing your unborn child is socially acceptable. It is not. Over 230,000 babies are ripped from their mother’s womb every year, and how many of them are girls? The Woman’s Lib movement promotes girl power, but is aligned with abortionists that kill so many female babies who never get a chance at life outside the womb. How barbaric is this behavior and law?

    Genocide is murder no matter how you justify it. Think about it.

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