ASU Senior Reflects: 42 Years of Roe, Legality ≠ Access

By Maddie Majerus, Former NARAL Pro-Choice NC Intern and Appalachian State University Senior

Tomorrow marks the 42nd anniversary of Roe v. Wade, a Supreme Court decision that protects a person’s right to reproductive choice. Deciding when to start a family is one of the most fundamental elements to a person’s autonomy and plays a hugely significant role in shaping the future of their life. I have only ever known a post-Roe society, but just because abortions are legal does not mean they are easily accessible for people in our state who need one.

The debate boils down to legality versus access. Yes, getting an abortion is completely legal in our state and in our country, but our politicians continue to place unnecessary restrictions on abortion, making it complicated for people to get one. Medically unnecessary laws, such as ones that dictate the width of door frames in clinics or that demand a person seeking an abortion receive counseling aimed to discourage them from getting an abortion, do not serve to benefit and support the people seeking abortions; they serve as obstacles for people trying to obtain a legal medical procedure. Many people live hours away from abortion clinics, making it hard or impossible for someone who does not have access to a car, or someone who cannot afford to take a lot of time off work, to travel to a clinic. Imagine if every time you went to the dentist or needed to go to the hospital, you were looking at a six hour round trip. Would you feel as though you had access to that medical care?

On top of that, trying to find a real abortion clinic in North Carolina is tricky. Crisis Pregnancy Centers (CPC) outnumber abortion clinics in our state 8 to 1. CPCs present themselves as medical centers in the hopes of getting people who are looking for abortions in their doors so that they may try to discourage them from getting an abortion. Most do not disclose that they are not medical centers, or that they do not provide abortions. CPCs use tactics, such as telling a pregnant person they are not as far along in their pregnancy as they actually are, making the person think they have more time to make a decision or get money together for an abortion, in an attempt to “run out the clock” on the state’s law on the week limit to which you can get an abortion. CPCs use words and language on their website so that if someone looks up words like “abortion, pregnant, abortion clinic” on an internet search engine, a CPC’s website will pop up, even though they do not offer abortion services or referrals. CPCS misrepresent themselves, and they know it. The Executive Director of my local CPC came to speak at one of my college classes last semester, and he told us, “If you walk into our Center, you’re never going to know we’re a Christian organization, and that’s on purpose.”

Maddie HeadshotI go to school at Appalachian State University in Boone, NC, and the CPC mentioned above is less than a mile from our campus. This CPC has billboards throughout Boone, banners on the sides of the buses that provide transportation for a majority of ASU students, and even “free pregnancy test” coupons in a coupon booklet put in every student’s on-campus PO box. None of these ads disclose that they are not a medical facility, that they do not perform abortions, or that they do not give abortion referrals. ASU Health Services, which I have used for years and consider to be an excellent establishment, provides zero information on abortions on their website, no materials regarding abortion in their lobby, and when I called asking for information regarding abortion referral, they sent me to the CPC.

This is unacceptable. I should be able to seek healthcare information without worrying about my provider’s ulterior motives. I should be able to access all reproductive choice options without planning a road trip and taking significant time off from work and school. Roe v. Wade was a landmark decision, but our fight for reproductive justice is far from over.

If you are concerned about deceptive advertising on campus that misleads students into believing CPCs offer comprehensive reproductive health care please sign NARAL NC’s petition:


The Geography of Abortion Access

by Honora Gandhi

In honor of Roe v. Wade’s anniversary, folks at The Daily Beast compiled an interactive map of abortion access in the United States. It’s frightening, informative, and beautifully done. Using information from the remaining 724 abortion clinics in our country, the map highlights the distance women across the US must travel to visit one, the legal restrictions of the nearest clinic, counseling/wait times, ultrasound provisions, and insurance restrictions.

Hover over different areas on the map to see what laws are in effect that regulate abortion. You can also overlay census data that shows the population of reproductive-age women (15-44) across the country. Even more unsettling are the labeled “Points of Interest” – Wichita, KS, which has been without an abortion provider since the 2009 murder of one, Dr. George Tiller, and is now 300 miles from the closest; the last clinic standing in Mississippi, and the Panhandle-Dakota Divide (the most visible trend on the map). You can also enter a zip code or address to see local restrictions and regulations.

Check it out:

Regions with the fewest abortion providers also have the most abortion restrictions.  40 years after Roe v. Wade, we have plenty to celebrate – but our progress is being steadily eroded by unjust legislation, and, as this map illustrates with painful clarity, much of the country still struggles to access a legally protected right.

Blog for Choice 2013! 40 more years of Roe!

by Erin Arizzi

Today, pro-choice women and men all over the country took part in NARAL Pro Choice America’s 8th annual “Blog For Choice Day.” The goal of the initiative is to have prominent journalists and critics speak out about how they feel regarding choice in America, but it’s also an opportunity for every person to enter her/his voice into this important dialogue.

Here, we’re highlighting two North Carolina bloggers who have participated today. Both accounts offer specific insight into how the nation-wide battle against a woman’s right to choose is playing out in our state.

Lee Storrow writes:

As we celebrate the Roe v. Wade decision today, it’s important that we stay vigilant in protecting women’s right to make personal decisions about their reproductive health. The anti-choice movement will stop at nothing to make abortion legal in name only. These threats on women’s choices don’t just threaten their reproductive health, they threaten their ability to choose their own future, and exist as equal citizens in our state and country. It’s no mistake that many of the same organizations that oppose meaningful access to abortion also oppose the legal recognition of gay and lesbian couples or women’s success in the workforce. Granting these rights threatens the patriarchy, and “traditional” views about how men and women should exist in society. Let’s keep fighting to protect Roe, and ensure every person has the right to choose their own future.

See the rest of his post here.

Cynthia R. Greenlee-Donnell, a doctoral student in history at Duke University (and NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina Board Member), reminds us that North Carolina has a long history of being a progressive state when it comes to reproductive rights for women. As she puts it:

While we may think of North Carolina as a red state or sometimes swing-state purple, it was once unequivocally blue in the matter of abortion care. In 1978, after Congress passed the Hyde Amendment barring use of federal Medicaid monies for low-income women’s abortions, North Carolina created its own state abortion fund.

The idea: Poor women shouldn’t have to face a lifetime emotional and economic commitment to a child because they didn’t have the hundreds of dollars for an abortion. That fund served the state’s women well until the mid-1990s, when onerous new financial requirements made it nigh impossible for women on Medicaid, precisely those with the least resources, to access it. But the death knell for the fund didn’t come until after Republicans won a majority in both chambers of the statehouse in 2010, which amounted to one of those rare political storms of the century.

What a difference 40 years and a single midterm election can make. In one fell swoop, the bicameral Republican majority pushed through an abortion law change, which requires 24-hour waiting periods and mandatory biased counseling before a woman can freely exercise her choice to have an abortion. One element of that law — requiring women submit to an ultrasound, listen to a narration describing the image if she looks away, and be offered the chance to hear a fetal heartbeat — is under an injunction and in a judge’s hands.

Read Greenlee-Donnell’s complete blog post for The Institute for Southern Studies here.

What was the best posting you read today about Roe? Let us know in the comments section, or if you prefer, via facebook or twitter.

Erin Arizzi is a the Communications Intern at NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina. She is also a PhD student and teaching fellow in Communication Studies at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She has a Masters Degree in Rhetoric from UNC-CH, and a BA in English from Villanova University in Pennsylvania. 

Happy Anniversary!

by Honora Gandhi

Today marks the 40th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision to make safe, legal abortion available to women in our country. In Roe v. Wade, it was determined that abortion qualified as a private matter between a woman and her physician.

Despite the fact that with every federal and legislative session, new bills to restrict abortion rights are introduced, the majority (63%) of Americans still hold that abortion is a basic human right. …Hallelujah for that small, consistent majority. Without it, we could be sent back to a time more horrifying than most of us can imagine.

There are a lot of people, many of whom with political power, who claim to want Roe v. Wade reversed. I have to believe none of them knows what that means. It wouldn’t save any babies. It would kill women.

NARAL published a study recently that showed Millennials (people born between 1980 and 2000) are largely unaware of Roe v. Wade, its subject matter or importance. Not knowing what the case was about is inexcusable – it’s a landmark in US history (seriously, get it together). But I can say that as a Millennial, none of us has a clue how horrific, frightening and gruesome things were before Roe v. Wade.

Before Roe, women dying from blood poisoning and other complications of illegal abortion was commonplace. There is a saying, ‘Nothing can stand between a woman and a wanted or unwanted pregnancy.’ If a woman wants to get pregnant, she will; if a woman wants to terminate her pregnancy, she will. If the latter means killing herself in the process, she still will. Estimates of how many women in the US died from illegal abortion before Roe v. Wade (1973) range from 5,000 to 10,000 per year. 70,000 to 100,000 women around the world still die annually from illegal abortion – mostly in countries with restrictive abortion laws. Why a significant portion of the US would like to become one of those countries is beyond me.

Decriminalizing abortion was one of the most significant steps we’ve ever taken toward lightening the consequences of socioeconomic disparity. Abortion has always been and will always be available to wealthy women. Before it was legal here, wealthy Americans had the option of traveling to England for it – which they did, in droves. So while poor women underwent “back alley abortions” and “kitchen abortions,” both of which tended to end in sepsis and death, wealthy women had safe access to a low-risk medical procedure. The same was true when abortion was only legal in some states – women who could afford to make the trip across state lines got care, while women who couldn’t were in trouble.

So, thanks again, Roe – our grip on your victory might be increasingly tenuous, but you paved the way for a world in which gender equality isn’t completely inconceivable; a world in which women can assert control over their own futures without risking their lives and health; a world in which access to basic healthcare extends (however inadequately) across economic lines. Four decades ago, history was made in our favor. Be proud, celebrate, and fight to uphold the 1973 ruling that shaped our lives for the better.