22 January 2013

Forty Years After Roe v. Wade, Access Diminishing

Forty years ago, U.S. women were riding a tidal wave of new rights. The Griswold v. Connecticut decision had granted married couples the right to use contraception in 1965, and Eisenstadt v. Baird extended that right to all couples, just the year before. Indeed, 1973 was shaping up to be a good year for women, with the Supreme Court guaranteeing the right to abortion in Roe v. Wade, before the end of January. Later that year, a group of committed women’s activists, led by Gloria Steinem, founded the Ms. Foundation for Women to further tear down the barriers that stood in women’s way of full equality.

But 40 years later, the tide has turned. The last two years were particularly threatening to women, with record numbers of restrictions on abortion enacted across the states.

Low-income women have been impacted most severely by these attacks on reproductive rights. Onerous restrictions such as waiting periods require that women make multiple trips to their health centers, increasing lost wages from missed work, child care fees and travel costs. Insurance and public funding bans on abortion further cause delays to equal access, as women struggle to save up enough money for their health care services. While women with financial means and resources are able to more easily navigate the barriers that emerge, low-income women – particularly, women of color – suffer the cruel fate dealt by legislators. Four decades after Roe, our foremothers never could have imagined this.

What hasn’t changed all these years later is the Ms. Foundation’s commitment to women. We’re fighting to keep lawmakers and public figures in check, to ensure that all women in the U.S. have equal opportunities and access to reproductive health care. We believe that wealth should not be a prerequisite for good health.

That’s why we work closely with trailblazing groups like ACT for Women and Girls, which is engaging young women in rural and immigrant communities in leadership and advocacy to promote reproductive justice activism. It’s why we support Young Women United, a community organization led by and for young women of color that has advanced access to comprehensive sex education at state and local levels in New Mexico. And it’s why we put our trust in Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights, which promotes the policy priorities and perspectives of Latinas on reproductive rights and health.

We need your help to ensure that 40 years from now, in 2053, our daughters won’t be fighting for the same rights that our mothers and grandmothers thought they had already secured long ago. The Ms. Foundation was awarded a $150,000 Catalyst matching grant to build the capacity of women of color-led reproductive justice efforts at the state level. Your gift will be matched dollar for dollar – doubled in impact. Help us leverage this opportunity to reverse the trend of restrictions on our reproductive rights.

On the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, reproductive justice is inextricably tied to economic justice. Lifting up those women with the most onerous barriers to reproductive health care (and economic security) lifts us all. To secure a better future for ourselves, our families and our communities, this is a fight we can’t afford to lose.

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