41 Years of Roe v. Wade: Where Have We Come From and Where Are We Going?
This week the United States commemorates the 41st anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 Supreme Court decision that determined that the right to choose to have an abortion is constitutionally protected under the Fourteenth Amendment. The court expanded on the right to privacy that they recognized in Griswold v. Connecticut, in which the justices interpreted the first, third, fourth, and ninth amendments to grant a right to privacy in marital relations under the Constitution.
Legalese aside, without the decision in Roe, it is very possible that very few women in the United States could have access to an abortion, depriving them of the agency and self-determination in their health choices and in the ownership of their lives and their future.
The anniversary of the Roe decision lends itself to an opportunity to take inventory of where we stand in terms of full enjoyment of reproductive rights. As Reform Jews who understand that the decision to have an abortion is deeply personal and often guided by faith, we affirm the right of all women to make their own decisions about their health care, their bodies, and their future in concert with whomever they choose to include. For more information about Jewish values and reproductive rights, visit the Religious Action Center.
True to its visionary social justice legacy, Women of Reform Judaism has led the Reform Jewish community in its advocacy for reproductive rights. Starting in 1935, WRJ (then called the National Federation of Temple Sisterhoods) passed a resolution expressing support for the lifting of bans on the dissemination of birth control literature.
Since then, Reform Jewish women have confirmed and reconfirmed their commitment to these issues in the following resolutions and statements:
- Women’s Rights (1977)
- Research on Reproductive Health Care (1990)
- Women’s Health Care (1991)
- Issues in Reproductive Rights and Health (2011)
Official WRJ resolutions and statements are public affirmations of support for these issue and testify to the advocacy that Jewish women have been doing for decades on reproductive rights.
The rights to which the Roe decision gave legal credence are constantly at risk at the local, state, and federal level through troubling, restrictive, and too-often dangerous laws. Let us take the time to look back at the last 41 years with gladness and gratefulness that for many women, Roe introduced a new openness and freedom around reproductive choices. We should also be cognizant that although this case was and continues be a landmark decision, many women find themselves in extremely limited and difficult situations when they try to exercise their reproductive freedoms.