Forty years ago this month, the Supreme Court decided Roe v. Wade, the landmark case which recognized that a pregnant woman has a right to make her own decision about whether to have a child or have an abortion. Roe remains the law of the land, even though states across the nation — including Florida — have enacted laws that, bit by bit, chip away at that right. Deciding whether and when to bear children, including whether to terminate a pregnancy, is an intensely private matter between a woman, her doctor, and often, her family and her faith. But over two short years, our elected representatives in Tallahassee have passed laws that intrude into the doctor-patient relationship, and have tried to regulate abortion providers out of existence.
There has always been, and may always be, passionate disagreement over whether women do, in fact, have the right to make these decisions. Abortions have occurred for centuries, but only since Roe v. Wade have they been legal and safe in the United States.
Although we must remain vigilant in keeping politicians out of private medical decisions, we must also strive to reduce the frequency of, and need for, abortions. Young men and women must learn how to prevent unintended pregnancies. Medically sound sex education must be every parent’s responsibility, and should also be available in our schools. Moreover, appropriate prenatal medical care and parenting classes must be available to all who choose to have a family.
No matter how each of us personally feels about abortion, Americans have had enough of politicians trying to take that decision away from a woman and her doctor. So, on the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, let’s not only commit ourselves to working to keep abortion safe and legal, but also to ensure that women who choose to continue their pregnancy have the medical care and resources they deserve, and that their children can thrive in homes where they are cared for and loved.
Maria Kayanan, associate legal director, ACLU Foundation of Florida
Ethelyne Jones, M.D.