40 Years of Having a Choice

This post originally appeared on quietmike.org, republished with permission of the author

This Tuesday, we mark the 40th anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court decision on abortion. The January 22, 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling was a 7-2 triumph that established a nationwide right to abortion. While the ruling could be considered a landslide by today’s standards, there has been no politically charged topic that divides the United States more than abortion.

Nowhere is the divide more visible than at the state level, where state’s like New York are promising to broaden abortion rights while other states do what they can to reduce them.

Over the last few years, as conservatives have shifted further to the right, we have seen a massive movement to limit access to abortion and reproductive rights. These actions include mandated performance of non–medically indicated ultrasounds, restriction of abortion coverage in private health insurance plans and required pre-abortion counseling that is medically inaccurate or misleading.

In 2011, all fifty States introduced 1,100 provisions related to reproductive rights. In the end, 135 of the new reproductive health provisions were enacted. Ninety-two (or nearly three quarters) of these enacted provisions sought to restrict abortion in some form, three times the previous record for just one year.

While the race to limit abortion rights is being won by conservatives, mainly in Republican controlled states, public opinion is still divided nationally. 63% of Americans believe Roe v Wade should not be over turned, while 52% say abortion should be legal under certain circumstances. On the extreme side, 25% want it legal in all cases and 20% want it outlawed in all cases. All these numbers are roughly the same as they were back in the 70’s.

There have been fifty-five million abortions in the United States since 1973, an astounding number when you see the number on paper. However the number itself does not tell the whole story, the social benefits of terminating fifty-five million unwanted pregnancies is equally staggering.

For instance, if abortion had remained illegal there would be tens of millions more Americans. A higher population is not necessarily a bad thing until you consider that all of these people were unwanted. The majority of undesired children come from poor households, aren’t raised properly and they are often mistreated, beaten or worse.

pro_choiceHad abortion remained illegal, it would have had a negative effect on the social safety net with millions of more uneducated or unmotivated adults draining the system. Not only would the kids have been more prone to living off the system when they grew up, but the parents, often teenagers at the time of their pregnancy would have been forced to abandon their education and get a job.

Let’s not forget the most important aspect of all this; unwanted kids are often cast aside as a burden or nuisance by the parents which often leads the children to live a life of crime when they come of age. It is no small coincidence that crime rates across the country started to drop drastically 18 years after Roe v Wade. The mid 1990’s saw a significant reduction in crime thanks to millions of unwanted babies not being born anymore; don’t be fooled by Rudy Giuliani’s tough on crime nonsense.

Whatever issue comes up in Washington, Republicans usually espouse liberty as their fundamental motivation for supporting certain laws, but abortion is not one of them. Even though legal abortion has proven to lighten the load on the safety net and reduce crime, Republicans are guided by a higher power. Sometimes it seems they don’t mind killing or locking up the poor so long as they’re born first.

As for me, I like to consider myself of strong moral fiber so I’ve always thought that should I get pregnant, I would go through with the pregnancy. I know these are strong words coming from a man who will never be in a situation where I’m forced to make that choice.

Regardless of my opinion, I still have no business telling individuals of the opposite sex what they can and can’t do with their own bodies… I’d like to think that was the final thoughts of seven Supreme Court justices forty years ago.

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