Rachel Hart,
Reproductive Freedom Project
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January 22, 2008

Today marks the 35th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark abortion rights decision Roe v. Wade. In honor of the anniversary, the ACLU put together a video featuring interviews with ACLU staff from across the organization concerning the role of reproductive freedom in ensuring the full-range of civil liberties. If you think that access to abortion has nothing to do with gay and lesbian rights, racial justice, or immigrants’ rights, think again.

A statement about today’s anniversary from Louise Melling, the Director of the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project, is also online and draws important links between abortion and women’s equality:

With this anniversary we mark not only 35 years of reproductive freedom, but 35 years of impressive gains in the fight for women’s equality….The numbers alone tell a significant piece of the story: Thirty-five years ago, there were 15 women in Congress; only 3 had ever held the office of state governor. Today, 92 women sit in Congress, including the first Madame Speaker; 26 women have served as governors; and in the current race for president, for the first time in our nation’s history, a woman candidate is one of the leading contenders for the nomination of a major political party.

The timing of these advances is not serendipitous. At the core of women’s equality is the ability to control whether and when we have children. The legalization of contraception in the 1960s and abortion in the 1970s fostered women’s ability to make important life decisions about themselves and their families.

This fact is not lost on the only two women to date ever to serve on the Supreme Court. Justice Sandra Day O’Connor co-authored an opinion preserving Roe in 1992 that acknowledged, “The ability of women to participate equally in the economic and social life of the Nation has been facilitated by their ability to control their reproductive lives.” And just last year, in a powerful dissent to a Supreme Court decision upholding the first-ever federal ban on certain abortion procedures, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg passionately argued that the core of the right to abortion “center[s] on a woman’s autonomy to determine her life’s course, and thus to enjoy equal citizenship stature.”

The ACLU has also put together documents summarizing the year ahead in the courts and in Congress for reproductive rights.

Last but not least, a federal appeals court in Missouri today upheld a ruling allowing women prisoners in Missouri to obtain timely, safe, and legal abortion care. Not a bad day to issue the decision if you ask me.

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