Today is the 43rd anniversary of Roe v Wade, the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark decision that said a woman's right to have an abortion is protected by the rights to privacy granted in the U.S. Constitution. To mark the occasion, lots of people will be at Town Hall tonight to celebrate with Lindy West and Planned Parenthood. You should come. It's going to be good.
But let's not forget there's a hell of a lot of work still to be done on reproductive rights—much of it on the defense against the conservative right. This morning, lawmakers and advocates visited a Planned Parenthood clinic in Seattle to draw attention to that work.
Two members of Washington's Congressional delegation—Senator Patty Murray and Representative Suzan DelBene, both Democrats—were there, condemning Republicans for repeatedly attempting to defund Planned Parenthood and restrict access to abortions.
"I believe strongly that a right means nothing without the ability to access that right," Murray said.
Murray and DelBene also highlighted the importance of a case the Supreme Court will hear this year about oppressive restrictions on abortion providers in Texas, which have resulted in fewer open clinics. If the court upholds those restrictions, Republicans will likely attempt to impose similar restrictions nationwide, Murray and DelBene warned.
That possibility, Murray said, represents one of the "biggest threats to women's rights in over a decade."
But one of the most memorable—and distressing—comments of the morning came from Christine Charbonneau, CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands.
"I've been working on this issue for 30 [years]," Charbonneau said, "and I can tell you this is the worst I've ever seen it. We now, as a regular matter, are talking to women about things they might try to do—self-abortion is not uncommon any longer in the United States."
Severe restrictions on abortion access deny women their constitutional right and drive them—especially poor women—toward more dangerous alternatives. While reproductive rights have come a long way since the pre-Roe days, that progress is being eroded by both legislative attacks and physical violence.
When I asked Murray today what she thought it would take, considering this political climate, to overturn the Hyde Amendment, which prevents federal money from funding abortions for low-income women except in limited cases, her answer was: "In my dreams."
"The fact is we don't have the votes to do that," she said. "We have been on the defense."
This must change.