Center Urges Elected Officials to Protect Access to Abortion on Roe Anniversary

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(PRESS RELEASE) Today, we celebrate the 37th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the historic decision by the U.S. Supreme Court that recognized a woman's right to abortion. Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights, made the following statement:

"Today's anniversary of Roe v. Wade should remind all of us how vital the right to abortion is to women's health, dignity, and lives. But for countless women in the U.S., the right has increasingly become meaningless. Punishing abortion funding limitations, ongoing violence and intimidation against abortion providers, and harmful legal restrictions have made it far more difficult for medical professionals to provide access to abortions and for women to secure needed healthcare.

"The recent debate over healthcare reform was another disappointing sign that abortion remains stigmatized. Healthcare reform promises to expand affordable healthcare coverage to all Americans, and we expect our elected officials to treat abortion services as any other fundamental health need. Unfortunately, anti-choice members of Congress hijacked the reform legislation to push their own agenda, and millions of women may now stand to lose abortion coverage that they already have. The bill passed by the House of Representatives bans anyone who receives federal subsidies from using even their own money to buy abortion coverage. The Senate legislation piles on so many administrative burdens that insurance companies will likely be deterred from offering abortion coverage at all. A constitutionally protected right means very little when people cannot afford to exercise that right.

"Outside the halls of Washington, a persistent campaign of harassment and intimidation -- from death threats to stalking and break-ins -- are driving medical professionals away from providing abortion services, effectively reducing their numbers. In May of 2009, Dr. George Tiller, one of only a handful of doctors in the U.S. trained to offer abortion services later in the pregnancy, was shot and killed while ushering in his church by an anti-abortion activist. His clinic closed its doors shortly after, leaving many women to face medical decisions about their pregnancies with even fewer options for care.

"Spurious legal restrictions also threaten to shut down abortion providers. Mandatory waiting periods, biased counseling requirements, and laws requiring unnecessary renovations serve no medical purpose, but make abortions more expensive and impose numerous obstacles. Because of both the physical and legal harassment abortion providers face, new doctors are deterred from entering the field and skilled physicians are forced out. The number of abortion providers in the U.S. fell by 25% just between 1992 and 2005, and 87% of U.S. counties currently lack an abortion provider. The result is a denial of rights for the one in three American women who will seek an abortion in their lifetimes.

"Making abortion services out of reach, whether financially or physically, is a betrayal of Roe v. Wade's promise of freedom and equality for women. The Center for Reproductive Rights urges women everywhere to stand up for our rights and health, and to join us in working to improve access to abortion."