Beyond Abortion: Roe v. Wade and the Right to Privacy

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

Today’s guest post is by Emily Martin, Vice-President and General Counsel, National Women’s Law Center; and Cortelyou Kenney, a Fellow at the Center.

What most people know about Roe v. Wade is that it is the landmark decision establishing a woman’s right to end a pregnancy. What is less well known is that the decision strengthened the legal foundation on which other protections are based as well. In Roe, the Supreme Court solidified the “right to privacy” as part of the liberty protections under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments. This protection of liberty and privacy is responsible for certain fundamental guarantees—including the rights to obtain birth control and to procreate, to marry, to develop family relationships, to rear one’s children, and to create intimate relationships. While the concept of a constitutional “right to privacy” predates Roe, Roe is an important affirmation of and foundation for these rights—rights that could be threatened if it were overturned.

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Women’s Honor and Survival: When a Woman Kills her Rapist in Turkey

This past September, a Turkish woman shot and beheaded the man that had blackmailed and raped her for months. The woman, identified as N.Y., was also pregnant by her rapist; she had “repeatedly stated her to wish to abort the baby,” according to news reports, but her request was denied by a Turkish court. In Turkey, women are permitted to abort a pregnancy that was the result of rape up until the 20th week; since N.Y. was 29 weeks pregnant, the court said she could not legally obtain an abortion. Last month, she gave birth to a girl; N.Y. has said she will not raise a child that was the result of rape, and the girl will be placed in state foster care. (Interestingly, the widow of the man that raped N.Y. had initially offered to raise the baby, but her children objected so much that she withdrew her offer.)

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The 2012 French Presidential Election: Independence and Women’s Rights Threatened by Marine Le Pen

Image courtesy of

2012 is a crucial year for the future of the United States, but also for France. And France has its share of obscurantists, too. The country’s presidential elections are conducted differently from the U.S.: candidates are elected by members of their parties, and then multiple rounds of public voting determine the winner. The first round of voting will be held on April 22, 2012, and among the candidates is Marine Le Pen, the daughter of Jean-Marie Le Pen, the now-retired politician who founded the far-right “Front National” (National Front) party.

“Women have to be generous”

France is among countries that offer financial assistance to encourage pro-natalist policy; as of 201o, it had the second-highest fertility rate of all European Union countries.

In her interview, Le Pen spoke about many issues relevant to women’s lives. About abortion, she said that “if the financial situation requires it [...] it will be considered to not refund abortion, except in cases of rape [...] women have to be generous by thinking about all the elderly and precarious who today, in France, refuse to be treated by lack of means.” By “not refund,” Le Pen is referring to changing the current system, by which individuals are allowed to receive a refund for health fees. This system is based upon solidarity, with individuals contributing to healthcare costs through payroll taxes. Thus, abortion detractors argue that abortion is not a medical issue, just a consequence of a choice and that the rest of the population shouldn’t have to pay for that.

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March Online for Reproductive Rights!

Join the online march for women’s rights! During “Trust Women Week,” January 20-27, a whole host of fantastic organizations, including Medical Students for Choice, Ms., the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, and the National Network of Abortion Funds have come together to support women’s lives and women’s rights. This online, mass mobilization is letting members of Congress, state governors, and selected state legislators know just how important reproductive rights are, and making sure that your voice will be heard. To learn more and add your message, click here!


Anti-Woman Legislation and the Rise of Christian Extremism

Thanks to Kimberly Latta for this guest post. Kimberly is a feminist writer and activist in Pittsburgh. She received her Ph.D. in English at Rutgers University, New Brunswick and her M.A. in Comparative Literature at UC Berkeley. Kimberly regularly blogs at Left Hand of Feminism.

Christian extremists have not quite taken hold of the country, but they pose an emergent, lethal threat to women, men, and children in the United States of America. They do not constitute the majority of Americans, who largely trust women to make their own decisions about their reproductive health.

Nevertheless, a vocal and fiercely religious minority have gained ground in state and federal legislatures and in right-wing media conglomerates such as Fox News and Rupert Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal, which host women-haters and homophobes on a regular basis. The overwhelming majority of Americans believe that contraception is good for society, and most think that in most circumstances abortion should be legal.  The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which opposes contraception, and a variety of evangelical Protestant organizations have helped to elect politicians now in national and state offices.

The legislation that these Christian extremists support would severely harm women, girls, children and men by preventing them from receiving vital STD screenings, routine gynecological care, contraception, and information about safe sex. They also present dangerous precedents for legalizing excessive government intrusion into private life.  They would allow the State to regulate human bodies as it has never done before and force women to remain pregnant, even if the pregnancy would kill them. Consider the most recent legislation that candidates supported by Christian extremists have proposed or passed in Congress:  [Read more...]

Take a Feminist Pilgrimage to Seneca Falls

The Feminists for Choice crew took a feminist pilgrimage to Seneca Falls on Tuesday, and what an adventure we had!  (That’s us in the photo at the Wesleyan Chapel, birthplace of the women’s rights movement.)  Janice, Manda, and I took a trip, along with Manda’s two children, to the Elizabeth Cady Stanton House and the Women’s Rights Visitors’ Center.  The Visitors’ Center has a beautiful exhibit that shows how the women’s rights convention that was held in Seneca Falls in 1848 set a movement in motion that is still rolling forward today.  Quotes from famous suffragists like Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott adorn the walls, and there are bronze statues of many of the women who attended the first convention that addressed women’s rights.  Admission to the Visitors’ Center and Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s House is free, thanks to the National Park Service, which maintains these sites.

The visit to Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s House was very inspiring.  The Stanton home has been owned by several private individuals over the decades, and although the home is in good condition, it was not turned into a museum until 1980.  This home served as the planning grounds for the Seneca Falls Convention, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton continued to plot the revolution from the home until she moved to Manhattan in 1862. [Read more...]

Paying Respect

At the top of our to-do list for Serena’s recent visit to New York City was a trip to Bronx’s Woodlawn Cemetery to visit the grave-site of a woman that is a personal hero to both of us: Elizabeth Cady Stanton. The day was filled to the rim with agenda items, and the visit was truly the foundation for everything we did that day.

Upon (finally) arriving to Woodlawn Cemetery the first person we encountered was a kind security guard who offered to give us a ride to Elizabeth’s plot. This was certainly lucky given the size of this beautiful, yet massive graveyard that is the final resting place for over 300,000 people.

As we approached the Stanton family plot the first thing we noticed was that despite her accomplishments, the front side of the headstone was actually dedicated to her husband Henry and his accomplishments. Given the fact that Elizabeth Cady Stanton is one woman in U.S. history that actually commands mention even in high school history books, it seemed almost absurd that she not be the primary focus. The left side of the marker was given to Elizabeth and her legacy as a Suffrage leader, orator, organizer of the first ever women’s rights conference, and founder of the National Woman Suffrage Association. [Read more...]

Nunsense…Below the Surface of the Sister Margaret McBride’s Excommunication

Image from NPR

So, I generally I write about sex and sexuality education topics, but I’m switching it up this post. As soon as the excommunication of Sister Margaret McBride hit the news several friends sent me links, but only in the last couple of days have I gotten to what I think most disturbs me about the instantaneous decision of a male Bishop to “immediately excommunicate” this nun. [Read more...]

Beyond Ovaries: Is there Room for Men in the Pro-Choice Movement?

The answer is obvious for a gay-prochoice-feminist such as myself. However, it seems like it’s a bit more complicated than that. During last weeks controversial debate in Florida’s house of representatives over a staunch anti-choice ultrasound law, Democratic Representative Janet Long commented to her colleagues to, “Stand down if you don’t have ovaries.” On face, I applaud this comment. I think it’s important to recognize, especially as an arbiter of male-privilege, that women have been marginalized in traditional legal discourse on abortion rights. Not to mention the fact that women are the one’s forced to give birth to an unwanted fetus. However, I find it problematic to assume that men have no responsibility or role in advancing reproductive justice in the United States. Jacob Appel, at The Huffington Post, points to some of the consequences this alienating rhetoric can have for the pro-choice movement.

The underlying premise seems to be that since women are the ones forced to bring unwanted fetuses to term when abortion rights are curtailed, they have a greater stake in the outcome of such debates–and therefore more right to influence policy on the subject. I can sympathize with the frustration that might lead to such an outlook. At the same time, as someone without ovaries who has written and marched for reproductive freedom through my entire professional life, and who has been threatened repeatedly as a result, I fear the ongoing effort to frame the abortion debate primarily in gender terms remains both politically unwise and ethically unsound. Rather than urging men to stand down, abortion-rights advocates should reach out to convince men that they have a deep and equal stake in preserving reproductive choice. [Read more...]

Monday News Roundup

mouse_click_270x270Birth Control the Cheapest Way to Reduce CO2 – Popular Science
FBI Was Warned About Scott Roeder –
Was Malcolm X Gay or Bisexual? – Womanist Musings
“Egg-as-Person” Initiatives Threaten Women’s Rights – RH Reality Check
Religious Leaders Speak Out Against Stupak – Religion and Sexuality
Scott Roeder Wants Dr. Tiller’s Schedule – Roeder Watch