Overturn of Roe decision a troubling aberration

The Chronicle Express

A leaked U.S. Supreme Court draft decision outlining the impending overturn of Roe v. Wade has reignited the debate over whether access to abortions should be legally protected. In the first of two Finger Lakes Justice Partnership columns, we will highlight key points to consider on this critical topic, including how we got to this point and what will happen if this landmark precedent does get overturned.

Abortion was legal and practiced openly in most societies throughout history, including by Puritans in colonial-era America, and was still legal when the United States Constitution was written. The practice may have been considered socially unacceptable, but there was no law against it, just as there were no laws against any other medical procedures.

Abortions remained legal and accessible in most states until the mid-19th century, when, according to Planned Parenthood, “a coalition of male doctors … led a movement to push state governments to outlaw abortion across the board. The male-dominated medical profession wanted to take authority from the female-dominated profession of midwives, including the authority to provide abortion. By 1910, abortion was banned nationwide.” Thus, abortion became the only medical procedure to be regulated by the government, instead of being entrusted to a doctor’s expertise and a patient’s needs. 

This status quo was altered by the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade. In 1973, a young woman, famously known as Jane Roe, found herself pregnant for the third time, after having given up the first two babies for adoption. She sued for the right to have an abortion, stating that being deprived of the right is an infringement on the 14th Amendment. She won the case, but her victory came too late to ensure her own freedom, and she was forced to birth a third child that was put up for adoption.

The court ruled that it is unconstitutional for abortions to be difficult to obtain before around 24 weeks’ gestation, leaving it to the states to set specific guidelines.  What makes Roe v. Wade integral to our society is that it codifies the principle that all American women, like American men, should have the autonomy to choose their futures. It is deeply distressing that this principle is set to be discarded.

We will continue our discussion of abortion rights in our next column, in which we will explore more about whom an abortion ban will affect and how. In the meantime, we invite everyone to join us for our regular monthly demonstrations on the Yates County courthouse lawn. We invite respectful dialogue on this or any other justice issue at our email address, flxjustice21@gmail.com.

Angela Proietti-Nelson and Chey Bradley submitted this essay on behalf of the Finger Lakes Justice Partnership.