On the fortieth anniversary of Roe v. Wade, a Wall Street Journal/NBC News Poll showed that seventy percent of Americans believe the ruling should stand, representing a record high. While there may be some temporary backsliding and some polls which are outliers, I believe that we will see a general trend of growing majorities supporting the liberal position on all social issues. This comes both from a general trend for all Americans to become more tolerate and pro-freedom on social issues, and from higher majorities of the young holding more socially liberal views than others.
I consider abortion rights to be a fundamental matter of individual liberty, allowing a woman to control her own body. As Mary Elizabeth Williams points out at Salon, the fact that life (in some manner) begins at conception is not the relevant issue, but it is politically smart of Republicans to grab hold of this misleading argument in supporting a position which is hard to defend rationally.
While my concern is primarily one of individual liberty, abortion rights are also clearly a feminist issue. Jill Filipovic explained what Row v. Wade means for women at The Guardian:
For women, the ability to control the number and spacing of your children is fundamental. It’s nearly impossible to overstate just how crucial that right is: without it, we simply don’t have the same prospects and abilities to live full, free lives. It’s no coincidence that the dual rights to abortion and birth control ushered in some of the most profound cultural shifts in human history.
While gender equality is far from perfectly realized, women today have more rights and opportunities than ever before. We go to college and most graduate schools at the same rates as men, and are increasingly present in high-paying jobs. We are better able to leave abusive marriages and relationships. We’re healthier, and so are our children – child mortality has greatly decreased, and a low child mortality rate is directly tied to reproductive healthcare and reproductive rights.
Reliable birth control and access to abortion means that we can pursue an education and work to build a stable career before getting married and reproducing – and the marriages that come later in life between two highly-educated people are by far the most stable. Among couples who have children, those who plan the pregnancies are happier than those who don’t.
Between 1970 and 2009, child mortality around the world fell by half, which is largely attributable to women being better-educated and better able to make their own reproductive decisions. In the US, along with Roe came safer and earlier abortions; emergency rooms are no longer lined with women injured by illegal terminations, and abortion is now one of the safest medical procedures a woman can have.
Filipovic also pointed out that “Outlawing abortion doesn’t lead to a lower abortion rate, and some of the countries with the highest abortion rates on the planet are places where it’s illegal.” Instead of reducing abortions, outlawing abortion “means more dangerous procedures and higher maternal mortality rates. Thirteen per cent of maternal deaths around the world result from unsafe illegal abortions.”