On the Anniversary of Roe v. Wade, a Right Under Threat


Atima Omara | The American Prospect | January 22, 2016

January 22 marks the 43rd anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the landmark Supreme Court ruling that established the legal right to abortion in the United States. But what does the right to end a pregnancy mean if you can’t afford it? Access to abortion care and other family planning services are inexorably linked with women’s economic security. Going into the 2016 election, elected officials would do well to keep that in mind.

The Roe v. Wade decision, along with a 1965 high court ruling that legalized contraception, gave many American women autonomy over when and whether they would have children. This decision carries significant economic weight for women, who increasingly play the role of primary or sole breadwinner in American families.  One 2012 survey by the Pew Research Center found that nearly one-third of U.S. couples between the ages of 18 and 34 put off marriage or postpone having a baby for economic reasons.

Anti-abortion politicians have failed to overturn the Roe decision, but they have imposed so many new restrictions on abortion that the ruling has become effectively meaningless. In the last two years, the number of abortion restrictions passed in state legislatures has increased exponentially. In fact, more than one-quarter of the state abortion restrictions enacted since Roe v. Wade were imposed between 2011 and 2015.

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