45 years Since Roe v. Wade: Conversations on Abortion Must Stay in the Hands of Women

45 years ago, on January 22, 1973, the United States Supreme Court ruled 7-2 that the right to privacy under the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment extended to a woman’s choice to have an abortion. Roe v. Wade, as most people know it, catalyzed a paradigm shift in America life. Legally it prohibited the federal government from banning abortion. Culturally it granted women what many consider to be a fundamental human right: bodily autonomy.

Although this decision made waves across the states and worldwide, it was just a drop in the bucket – and a leaky one, at that – in the march toward equity. Despite the four-and-a-half decades since the ruling, the conversation surrounding abortion in the United States remains largely in the hands of men.

On Friday, Trump became the first sitting president in U.S. history to address the March for Life – an anti-abortion march in Washington D.C. that draws thousands each year. Some have called Trump – who has vowed earlier to overturn Roe v. Wade – the most anti-abortion president in American history.

Many celebrate the anniversary of this monumental decision, but millions of women live in fear daily that under this administration, they will wake up to a news alert declaring access to reproductive healthcare – ranging from annual exams, STD tests, cancer screenings and, yes, abortions – has been stripped away.

Yet conversations regarding abortion and reproductive access remain relegated to Congress and mass media pundits. They are co-opted by a man (and others like him) who calls himself a “very stable genius,” yet also sputtered out during Friday’s anti-abortion rally that right now, “the laws allow a baby to be born from his or her mother’s womb in the ninth month. It is wrong; it has to change.” He’s not wrong about this one; babies are, in fact, born after nine months in the womb.

There is one common thread connecting those who dominate discussions of women’s bodies today and for the last several centuries: they are cis-gendered white men. This was true 45 years ago and it remains true today, this time with an unprecedented sense of immediacy.

This is why the Spectator Editorial Board believes that conversations going forward about abortion and reproductive healthcare need to remain in the hands of women. Not just upper-class white women like they have been historically, but those who are marginalized and silenced, for whom access to abortions and reproductive care is met with a tangled web of systemic and cultural barriers.

We believe it is critical for these conversations – on the Seattle University campus and worldwide – to be spearheaded by those historically oppressed such as women of color, low-income women, queer women, disabled women, undocumented women and trans and non-binary women. Only now are we even beginning to understand how to define “woman”; not all women have vaginas and not all those with vaginas are women.

We need to talk about reproductive healthcare and we need to do so now because we are watching our basic human rights slip away before our very eyes. Our current administration is doing so willingly, eagerly and with a sneer on its face, crafting Orwellian policies under the guise of family values. We will not be ashamed of our bodies or ever stop demanding to be treated as full human beings.

We are encouraging conversations about abortion rights, access to reproductive healthcare and sexual autonomy. Contact us if you have opinions on any of these topics and would like to use our platform to share them, if you have an issue with the way we have covered these issues in the past or anything in between.

—Women of the Spectator Editorial Board

↑ Back to top