Mixed reactions surround Roe v. Wade 40th anniversary
Published: Tuesday, February 19, 2013
Updated: Monday, April 22, 2013 21:04
Roe v. Wade, the landmark Supreme Court decision that extended constitutional protection to a woman’s right to abort, has set legal precedent for years and continues to create controversy in the American political landscape.
History professor Anne Boylan said Roe v. Wade happened during a time when many changes involving family structure occurred, such as practices towards contraception and divorce. The decision, which had its 40th anniversary on Feb. 5, was beneficial to the women’s rights movement, but has been used as a tool in politics, she said.
“The problem is that political parties have found out that they can use reproductive rights to mobilize voters on both sides during elections,” she said.
The Republican Party, which has long advocated conservative interpretations of the Constitution, shifted politically to endorse outlawing abortion during the ‘70s in order to appeal to Catholics, who are generally against abortion, Boylan said.
Women’s studies professor Kathleen Turkel said the women’s rights movement does not follow a linear progression.
“We’ve seen an expansion, but in more recent years we’ve seen a contraction, including fights over funding for Planned Parenthood and states wanting to impose requirements that make women have vaginal ultrasounds before abortions,” Turkel said.
While the decision did guarantee abortions constitutionality, the increase in restrictions created by states has caused backtracking in women’s rights, she said.
While abortion being legalized was a major step for women, gender discrimination still exists, Boylan said. Every step made comes with major restrictions and debates.
“It is important to remember that abortion was only one step in the big picture,” she said.
Many students believe abortion should be a right unfettered by any government regulation. The restrictions placed on it can make it a challenge, said senior women’s studies major Katrina Gearhart.
“Abortions should be easily accessible to all women in both a physical and financial sense,” she said. “Being legal simply isn’t enough.”
Junior nursing major Alexandra Meyer said the right to choose should be protected because every woman has a different reason for wanting or needing an abortion, so it should be available for all cases.
“If women didn’t have the option to get a safe, legal abortion they would end up getting unsafe ones if they really wanted,” she said. “Making it illegal wouldn’t stop women, it would just make it more dangerous for them.”
Turkel said the fight for abortion rights is ongoing and the opponents continue to find ways to make getting an abortion difficult.
“Over the years, states have been able to carve out greater and greater ability to restrict abortion within their borders, short of making abortion illegal,” she said.
Junior education and human development major Maggie Hibner said abortion should be used sparingly, but making it illegal would be a major detriment to society. If a family is not ready to raise a child, not only will that family suffer, but so will the society that has to pay for it, she said.
“Abortion should not be looked at as a form of contraception, but as an option to ensure that a child and their family doesn’t have to suffer in society because of one mistake,” Hibner said.
Junior engineering major Rebecca Ellis said that abortion should be legal for cases of emergency such as rape or a mother’s risk of death, and making it illegal would be a great disservice to the victims. Besides those circumstances, she says abortion should not be used.
“Unfortunately abortion being legal lets people use it as birth control and gender control,” she said. “These are detrimental to both the mother and our society.”