Roe v Wade: Celebrate 38 Years by Moving Beyond Abortion

 By Sunny Daly*

Roe v Wade: flagship, war cry, historical reference, generational divide, false security blanket, real security blanket, cause for a party.

This weekend marks the 38th anniversary of the landmark decision and it remains as fertile in political and personal meaning as ever.

It is a complex anniversary. Roe v Wade re-centers our attention on abortion as the paradigmatic issue that defines the state of reproductive rights in America. Yes, we have cause for concern as the new Congress takes its seat, and as new restrictions and amendments signal that Hyde – and therefore guaranteed disparities in access – remain strong. But hasn’t this paradigm of abortion as reproductive rights proven limited? When we speak of reproductive and sexual health as a more complete package, and we emphasize the whole range of choices inherent in “pro-choice,” a larger puzzle comes into view where abortion is one piece of many, intertwined with sexuality education which is connected to financial access that locks in to contraception and is bordered by comfort, curiosity and excitement about being a woman.

On the other hand, anniversaries, like birthdays, prompt retrospect, self-reflection, resolution – something women’s health advocates need right now, as health reform sits precariously on the chopping block. This January 22nd, support abortion providers in your community, but also support your sex ed teachers. Help ensure contraception is covered in health care. And teach your friends, daughters and mothers something new about women’s bodies (there’s lots! Resolve to read Natalie Angier’s Pulitzer Prize winning Woman: An Intimate Geography).

*Sunny’s recent article, “Young Women as Activists in Contemporary Egypt: Anxiety, Leadership and the Next Generation” is available in the Spring 2010 Journal of Middle East Women’s Studies, and she is currently a grantwriter for the women’s health programs at the Ms. Foundation for Women.

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