In 1973, the United States Supreme Court legalized abortion in this country after hearing arguments in the Roe v. Wade legal case. That longtime precedent is crumbling and may be overruled as soon as this summer. On May 2, Politico released leaked documents saying, “The Supreme Court has voted to strike down the landmark Roe v. Wade decision.”
Justice Samuel Alito, who was picked for the high court by President George W. Bush in 2006, wrote what the Politico report called “a full-throated, unflinching repudiation of the 1973 decision, which guaranteed federal constitutional protections of abortion rights.” According to Politico, in pushing to overrule nearly 50 years of pro-choice law that has upheld reproductive freedom for American women, Alito said, “It is time to heed the Constitution and return the issue of abortion to the people’s elected representatives.”
Sarah Weddington, an attorney who won the 1973 pro-choice decision from the Supreme Court, is dead now, but in her 1992 book, A Question of Choice, she addressed anti-choice “activist judges” like Alito. “It is unthinkable,” she wrote, “to allow complete strangers, whether individually or collectively as state legislators or others in government, to make such personal decisions for someone else.” Weddington is gone now, but her words apply more than ever in a time when reactionary state legislators and governors are waging war against reproductive choice in America.
The right of American women to choose to have an abortion has been under attack from the political right wing since it was affirmed by the Supreme Court five decades ago, and during the four years of his presidency, Donald Trump appointed three justices to the high court who will likely vote against any pro-choice matters that come their way.
On the day after Trump’s inauguration in 2017, hundreds of thousands of Americans, including my wife and me, joined the historic Women’s March on Washington, but there was an earlier and equally large pro-choice demonstration in the nation’s capital that I attended and documented with pen and camera on Apr. 25, 2004. The March for Women’s Lives brought upwards of a million citizens to Washington demanding that abortions remain a legal choice in America.
I have been to large political protests in Washington and other cities for many years, but the Women’s March on Washington in 2004 was one of the largest I have ever seen. The Washington Post ran a front-page photo taken from atop the Washington Monument showing a solid carpet of people stretching all the way from the monument to the Capitol in the far distance. A headline in the newspaper said, “There’s New Energy in the Old Fight.” Such energy is needed again today as midterm elections take place this year and a presidential election looms ahead in 2024.
Chanting “Pro-life, your name’s a lie. You don’t care if women die,” protesters in the March for Women’s Lives carried signs bearing such messages as “Every Mother Willing, Every Child Wanted,” “We Won’t Go Back” and “Pro-Choice, Pro-Child.” Then-Sen. Hillary Clinton was one of many speakers at the 2004 pro-choice rally in Washington, but her speech was upstaged by two actresses, Bonnie Franklin and Lynda “Wonder Woman” Carter. Franklin was roundly cheered when she shouted, “We must prevail. We have no choice but to protect choice.” Carter got thunderous applause from the huge crowd when she said, “I am pro-life, but I am also pro-choice. I am a lover of our inalienable right to reproduce or not.” Rabbi Sue Ann Wasserman aimed her remarks at judges, politicians and religious fundamentalists who would restrict or repeal the freedom of reproductive choice, telling the assembled multitude, “I am pro-God, I am pro-family and I am pro-choice.”
The signs, slogans and sentiments from the pro-choice march on Washington in 2004 are needed again in 2022. Author Jodi Picoult was correct when she wrote, “When you say you can’t do something because your religion forbids it, that’s a good thing. When you say I can’t do something because YOUR religion forbids it, that’s a problem.”
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