Today marks 43 years since the landmark Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion in the United States. Prior to this decision, American women had to traverse a complicated and often dangerous route if they made the decision to terminate an unwanted pregnancy. They may have had to travel long distances and for a few days to get to a state that had legalized abortion; scrounge up money for both travel expenses and the procedure; take their case to a panel of hospital physicians; and in worst case scenarios, resort to illegal practitioners or self-induced abortions.
As we commemorate the decision that gave women the right to access safe, legal abortion, the reality is that women in North Carolina still face many of the same challenges in 2016. Due to the abortion restrictions passed in the state over the past several years, many women still have to travel long distances to reach an abortion provider (53% of North Carolina women live in a county with no abortion provider) and they still have to scrounge up money for travel expenses to pay for the multiple trips that are now required for some clinics due to the 72- hour waiting period. They also, still, often have to scramble to come up with the money needed for the procedure because North Carolina laws now allow multiple insurance plans to deny abortion coverage. And, unfortunately, the worst-case scenarios also still exist. In Texas, where the Roe battle began, some women are again resorting to illegal or self-induced methods due to the extensive barriers that prevent them from accessing legal abortion care. In addition to having to get over all these hurdles, as of January 1st North Carolina women are now also subject to third party judgment due to the ultrasound requirement, which requires these confidential images to be sent to the Department of Health and Human Services for abortions performed after 16 weeks.
Forty-three years after the Supreme Court gave women the constitutional right to a safe and legal abortion, women are still fighting to be able access the abortion care they need. The Supreme Court is set to hear another potential landmark case on abortion rights on March 2nd. We believe the case against the restrictions imposed in TX is strong, and that the SCOTUS justices will make the right decision. We trust women to make choices about their own bodies, and the majority of the American public is becoming increasingly vocal that this is their position as well. It’s the only way we will be able, in the years ahead, to say not “here we are again”, but “look how far we’ve finally come”.
Chavi Khanna Koneru, Policy Analyst – NARAL Pro-choice NC; and Communications C0-Director – NCWU