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When Roe v. Wade was decided by the Supreme Court in 1973, I was a little more focused on teen drama than what that decision would mean for my reproductive choices as an adult. Coming of age at a time when women’s childbearing choices were limited wasn’t too terrifying until I realized, as a college student, that I was lucky to have access to birth control that just a few years before might not have been available. Whether I would ever have to consider an abortion was something I didn’t want to think about, but I admit that I was relieved to know that my doctor and I would be the ones in control of any and all reproductive decisions, not some bureaucrats.
As it turned out, Roe didn’t really things settle that issue; it was just the start of a long political disagreement.
This week, on the 39th anniversary of that decision, some voters are wondering what the outcome of the 2012 presidential election will mean for women’s reproductive choice and how that will impact our daughters in the years to come.
President Obama issued a statement marking the Roe anniversary, reiterating his support for a woman’s right to choose, reminding voters that Roe is about more than abortion – it’s about whether or not the government should be able to weigh in on private family matters. Pro-life organizations disagree with that assessment, contending that states should be permitted to pass what have become known as “personhood amendments,” which would prevent virtually all abortions by proclaiming that life begins at the moment of conception.
As for the Republicans still in the presidential race, most of them agree on significant limits or outright bans for all abortions. All of the remaining GOP contenders, with the exception of Mitt Romney, have signed the Personhood USA pledge, which states, in part:
I believe that in order to properly protect the right to life of the vulnerable among us, every human being at every stage of development must be recognized as a person possessing the right to life in federal and state laws without exception and without compromise. I recognize that in cases where a mother’s life is at risk, every effort should be made to save the baby’s life as well; leaving the death of an innocent child as an unintended tragedy rather than an intentional killing.
While Romney says he opposes abortion, he was publicly on the record as supporting a woman’s right to choose up until he ran for president in the 2008 campaign.
A variety of organizations are holding online marches to show their support for the Roe decision this week, including the National Organization for Women, the Silver Ribbon Campaign, and Planned Parenthood of America. Real life protests – both for and against the decision – have been taking place all over America, proving once again that while abortion may not be the issue that many people base their voting decisions on, it is still one of the most polarizing debates we have in our country.
How any one of us views this debate is highly personal, but on this 39th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Roe decision, it is fair to ask how much government interference in personal life decisions we really want and where the next president will stand on that issue. Because if we start rolling back the line of personal privacy decisions like Roe, the cases that decided whether we have access to birth control and whether he have a right to marry across racial lines could be next.
You can read more from iVillage contributor Joanne Bamberger at her blog, PunditMom. Joanne is also the author of Mothers of Intention: How Women and Social Media are Revolutionizing Politics in America, which is on sale now at Amazon.com.