Today is the 20th anniversary of the Webster decision, in which the Supreme Court allowed states to legislate restrictions to women’s access to abortion. Prior to Webster, it was believed that Roe prohibited such laws. While Casey was the later decision wherein the Supreme Court began the practice of evaluating the content of such restrictions—24 hour waiting periods, parental consent laws, mandatory viewing of videos or reading of pamphlets—it was really Webster that started it all.
Now, twenty years later, we live in a country where many states do not make any provision for abortions in the third trimester. We live in a country where old doctors go to work in bullet-proof vests, young doctors are able to decline to learn these surgical procedures, and some medical schools refuse to teach them at all. We have created a situation where couples who learn their very much wanted baby has a terminal illness must not only make a terribly difficult decision to terminate the pregnancy, but must then fly halfway across the country in order to see a doctor who is legally able to help them.
It’s hard to believe we’ve been dealing with this nonsense for twenty years. Twenty years of making it harder and harder for poor women, young women, and women farther along in their pregnancies to get access to medical care. Twenty years of plastic fetuses and blocking of clinics. Twenty years of terrorist bombings and shootings of doctors. Twenty years: two decades.
Let’s not let this go on for another twenty years. Donate to The George Tiller Memorial Fund, to help women facing ‘extreme obstacles’ to abortion, or donate generally to the National Network of Abortion Funds to help women all across the country to pay for abortions. Donate to your local Planned Parenthood, to help provide abortion, contraceptive, and general reproductive health services primarily to young and poor women. Or, donate to the Center for Reproductive Rights to help fund national and international legal actions to protect women’s reproductive rights. Finally, take a minute to help ensure that when health care reform happens, women’s reproductive rights and ability to access health care are protected.
Together we can make abortion what it should be, for our daughters and sisters and granddaughters and friends: a private medical decision between a woman—of any age or income—and her doctor. When needed, and without shame.