Dispatches from Abortionland

Today’s post, the final is our Roe v. Wade series, is by guest contributor Sarah Cohen, who worked at the National Abortion Federation hotline for several years and currently lives in Philadelphia with her husband and their cat.

Once you move to abortionland, there’s no moving back. Once you start thinking hard about abortion, it touches everything—it’s like a new lens that you see the world through. I can turn any conversation into a conversation about abortion. I see the links to it everywhere—in poverty, the social safety net (or lack thereof), education levels, unemployment, race, urban-rural divides, gender relations, religion, and just about every other dimension of modern life.

I moved to abortionland almost five years ago, when I began working on the National Abortion Federation’s hotline. I’d been pro-choice my whole life, and I’d been interested in abortion politics for a long time, but this was brand new. I did options counseling, I looked up clinics and gave out their phone numbers, I talked about money with all kinds of women. I stayed after my shift ended almost every day, thinking I could take just a few more calls and help just a few more women before going home.

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The Importance of Doe v. Bolton

January 22, 2013 marks the 40th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision. All month, we’ll be running posts examining various aspects of this landmark ruling. If you’d like to contribute, let us know! 

Roe v. Wade wasn’t the only significant abortion decision released by the Supreme Court on January 22, 1973. The Court also ruled on the constitutionality of Georgia’s abortion laws, in the equally important but lesser-known case Doe v. Bolton, which the Court first heard in 1971.

The plaintiff, identified as “Mary Doe,” was nine weeks pregnant when she sued the state’s attorney general, Arthur Bolton, for the right to an abortion. At the time, Georgia allowed for abortion for state residents in cases of rape, severe fetal deformity, or the possibility that the mother could sustain a severe or fatal injury to her health. In its ruling, the Supreme Court found that the existence of the three conditions upon which abortion was allowed violated the Fourteenth Amendment and that the residency requirement violated the Privileges and Immunities Clause.

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