“No woman can call herself free who does not control her own body.” – Margaret Sanger
Roe v Wade celebrated its 43rd Anniversary on Friday, January 22nd, 2016. For those of us who recognize the name of this landmark case but don’t know its exact origins, here’s a little refresher.
Norma McCorvey, aka Jane Roe, was a pregnant single woman who challenged the constitutionality of the Texas abortion laws, which stated it was a crime to attempt or obtain an abortion unless doctors said it would save a mother’s life. This Supreme Court case pushed the boundaries of whether ending a pregnancy is up to a woman and her doctor or up to the government.
This case was one of extreme division amongst women, the law, and the people of the United States. To have Sarah Weddington, a 26 year old female lawyer, who up until this case had only worked on wills and divorce cases, take on this case for free – and win, was an incredible feat!
This Supreme Court case is not only important in providing reproductive rights for women across the country, it also reminds us of the power that government plays in the roles of women in society. Whether you accept it or not, America IS a patriarchy which employs a system of inequality that strives to subjugate “the weaker sex”.
Sharon Fodness, professor in the Women’s Studies Department here at Minneapolis Community and Technical College, asks “Why do women have to pay with the whole of their lives?” The ownership of the female body limits the opportunities for women in a patriarchal society. This includes the ability to gain an education, to decide what is right in regards to their own health, to have employment opportunities with equal pay to men, the right to decide the size of their families, the right to privacy, and more.
Rosamond Sturgis, President of MCTC’s longest running student club Feminists Organizing Change mentioned “that Roe v Wade cited the 4th amendment as defense. They argued that a woman’s right to abortion access was protected under a person’s right to privacy. A woman, like every other human being, has the right to make their own decisions about their own body.”
“Not allowing women to have access to full, comprehensive health care means that it is much harder for women to have autonomy,” says Sturgis. “This overwhelmingly disenfranchises poor women, effectively making it impossible for them to escape poverty, and because race and class are tied together in our society, this also deeply impacts women of color.”
The fact is that women don’t own enough of their narrative because it has been co-opted into one that is founded on the fact that women are not part of the economic and political realms. In recent years, the right to an abortion and access to reproductive healthcare of all kinds has increasingly become a privilege. On this 43rd anniversary, I ask that you consider your privilege, and work to view women, our rights and our bodies, as equal to men.