Roe v. Wade: Repercussions on the Movement for Reproductive Rights

Many would be surprised to learn that a reproductive-rights champion like Ruth Bader Ginsburg would criticize the Roe v. Wade decision.

Even an abortion rights champion like Ruth Bader Ginsburg has criticisms of the Roe v. Wade decision.

On January 22, 1973 — 42 years ago today — the Supreme Court decided Roe v. Wade, wherein a Texas woman sought an abortion, but existing legislation in Texas prevented her from doing so. The Supreme Court ruled 7 to 2 that it was unconstitutional for states to interfere in the process of a physician providing a first-trimester abortion. Before the ruling, it was illegal for physicians to perform an abortion in 30 states. In the remaining 20 states, it was illegal for physicians to perform abortion unless it was deemed medically necessary.

Women, their autonomy, and their right to decide their future were not given as reasons why Roe v. Wade was decided the way that it was. Justice Harry Blackmun wrote for the Supreme Court, stating that the case was a right to privacy issue that was protected under the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment. Before his death in 1999, Justice Blackmun stated outright that Roe v. Wade was not about women’s rights. Ronald Rotunda, law professor at Chapman University, recalls a 1994 conversation with Justice Blackmun where he explicitly spelled out the ruling’s intentions: “Roe ‘protected the woman’s right, with the physician, to get an abortion.’” Rotunda made clear that “Blackmun emphasized the italicized phrase with his voice.  He spoke of the case as a doctor’s rights case, not a woman’s right case.”


Some reproductive rights supporters think Roe v. Wade faltered in not explicitly prioritizing women’s rights to control their own bodies.


Each January, reproductive justice advocates celebrate the Roe v. Wade decision because it is absolutely essential that a woman is able to obtain an abortion if that is what she decides — because she, and she alone, should decide her future and fate. However, as interpreted by the Supreme Court, Roe v. Wade was never about women’s rights. Numerous legal scholars in favor of reproductive rights have taken issue with how Roe v. Wade was handled. Their criticisms are largely that: (1) the Supreme Court went beyond its role of judicial power and into that of legislative power by making abortion legal in all 50 states, and (2) the Supreme Court failed to make the decision about a woman’s right to choose her own future. Below is only a brief cross-section of these criticisms. Continue reading

Lost in Translation: What the Doublespeak of Reproductive Rights Opponents Really Means

NARAL Pro-Choice Arizona's Kat Sabine in front of the Capitol in 2012.

NARAL Pro-Choice Arizona’s Kat Sabine in front of the Capitol in 2012.

A “dedication and commitment to protect the health of women” sounds like something from the mission statement of a praiseworthy organization — one that might even get you to grab your wallet for a donation or your running shoes for a marathon. Those nine words, though, came from Gov. Jan Brewer, in a proclamation against Roe v. Wade that she signed for the Center for Arizona Policy.

The Center for Arizona Policy (CAP) is an influential, far-right Christian organization behind more than 100 of Arizona’s state laws. Since its founding in 1995, CAP has taken positions that are antagonistic to the health of Arizonans — adults and children alike. As Rachel Port has written previously for this blog, CAP has opposed anti-bullying measures, comprehensive sexuality education, and the Affordable Care Act.


Abortion opponents may claim to safeguard women’s health, but their policies put women in danger.


People who oppose access to abortion have made rhetoric about the health of women and children a common theme in their messaging, implying that the termination of a pregnancy is a dangerous procedure that threatens patients’ health. It’s been part of their toolbox even though abortion is one of the safest medical procedures a patient can undergo — safer, in fact, than childbirth. It’s been in use in spite of other contradictions as well, like those CAP exhibits in its disregard or adversarial stance toward policies that would promote the health of women and children. Continue reading

Pro-Choice Friday News Rundown

  • teacher and studentsApparently there’s a weird subset of people who think teaching kids medically accurate, age-appropriate information about sexuality, reproduction, and sexual health will unleash some sort of rabid sex demon upon these poor kids and they’ll lose every ounce of their innocence! So to prevent that from happening, the folks out in Gilbert are censoring factual information from text books. (AZ Central)
  • The co-creator of the birth control pill thinks all sex will be for fun by 2050. Is this a good thing or a bad thing? (Jezebel)
  • As many as 8 million women haven’t been screened for cervical cancer (via Pap testing) in the past five years! (ABC News)
  • The best thing about this piece on why unplanned births are a bigger calamity than unmarried parents? This quotation: “Empowering people to have children only when they themselves say they want them, and feel prepared to be parents, would do more than any current social program to reduce poverty and improve the life prospects of children.” (The Atlantic)
  • My home state, Ohio, is leading the charge to enact the most extreme abortion bill in the nation. HB 248 would ban abortion as soon as the fetal heartbeat can be detected (around six weeks gestation) and has a fair chance of passing since Ohio’s House and Senate are controlled by Republicans. (Cleveland.com)
  • Americans have short memories when it comes to remembering what life was like pre-Roe v. Wade. From hospitals having to have “septic abortion wards” dedicated to treating women for complications from unsafe, illegal procedures and botched self-abortion attempts, to thousands of women dying from their injuries, it really was a harrowing, scary time in our history. We hold out hope that those days are behind us forever. (Think Progress)
  • India’s government sponsored a “population control” effort, which pays women to undergo sterilization, botched an obscene amount of the surgical procedures, killing 12 women and injuring dozens more. Positively sickening. (NY Times)
  • Anti-gay, anti-birth control, anti-abortion, anti-common sense, intolerant religious fanatic Cathi Herrod continues to wreak absolute havoc upon the political landscape in Arizona. (Media Matters)
  • The longstanding ban on gay men giving blood donations may soon be lifted. The caveat? The men will have to be celibate from homosexual sex for at least a year. (Slate)
  • Despite my own history as a clinic escort, my blood still boils at the sight of “sidewalk counselors” who hatefully troll women seeking reproductive health care. (Cosmopolitan)

10 Things Every Voter Should Know About Catherine Miranda

Catherine Miranda croppedOn August 26, Catherine Miranda won her primary election in the 27th legislative district. In November, she faces a Republican challenger, but is expected to be handily elected to represent her solidly Democratic district in the state Senate.

A lot of us might assume that a female Democrat will be a fierce advocate for reproductive rights, but that’s not always a safe assumption. It certainly isn’t the case with Catherine Miranda, who not only won’t advocate to make abortion access a reality in Arizona, but will actively fight against it. She has been doing just that since 2011, when she first started representing her district in the House of Representatives. Next year, as a state senator, Catherine Miranda’s votes will carry even more weight.

So, without further ado, here are 10 things that every voter should know about Catherine Miranda.

1 Catherine Miranda, who has been running as a Democrat throughout her career, has endorsed Republican Michele Reagan for secretary of state, shunning Democrat Terry Goddard and his proven record as an advocate for reproductive justice and LGBTQ rights. In the 1980s, as the mayor of Phoenix, Terry Goddard helped keep Planned Parenthood patients safe from disruptive protesters, whereas just this year Michele Reagan voted in favor of HB 2284, which was designed to harass patients at clinics that provide abortions.

2 In an even more baffling move, Catherine Miranda has endorsed Doug Ducey for governor. Ducey is an odd choice, given that he is opposed to marriage equality and is expected to sign a bill similar to SB 1062 into law if it comes across his desk. He opposes abortion unless the mother’s life is at stake, and is advised by the far-right Center for Arizona Policy. Why does Catherine Miranda support Doug Ducey’s candidacy?

3 Speaking of the Center for Arizona Policy, Catherine Miranda signed their “pro-life pledge,” which denounces Roe v. Wade as unconstitutional and demands full “personhood” rights for fetuses at any stage of development. Continue reading

Ignoring the Forecast: Eleven Candidates to Beat the Red District Blues

The following post was written by Marcy, Matt, and Anna.

Past election patterns and current forecasts can give pundits and the public a good idea of what to expect on Election Day, but they guarantee nothing. A new, unique, or charismatic candidate can inspire an unexpected voter turnout and make predictions less reliable — while low-turnout elections, on the other hand, commonly favor the status quo and conservative candidates. That’s why we’re spotlighting candidates whose qualities are outstanding — but whose districts haven’t always favored candidates like them. Extraordinary odds call for extraordinary candidates to overcome them, and we think these are the candidates for the job.

Let’s meet some of our endorsed candidates — all Democrats — who are currently campaigning in districts with Republican advantages.

LDs 16 20 21 22 25

Legislative districts 16, 20, 21, 22, and 25 on a map

Continue reading

Hobby Lobby: Birth Control and the Law

Birth control activists Margaret Sanger and Fania Mindell inside the Brownsville birth control clinic, circa October 1916

Birth control activists Fania Mindell and Margaret Sanger inside the Brownsville birth control clinic, circa October 1916

In 1964, when I was a 16-year-old college freshman, my Bronx pediatrician asked if I was sexually active, and offered to prescribe birth control whenever I started having sex.

In 1964, his doing so was legal in New York because of a 1918 ruling by Judge Frederick E. Crane of the New York Court of Appeals, but not in Massachusetts, where I was in school.

Birth control is only legal in this country because of a concerted campaign of civil disobedience carried out by Margaret Sanger and her followers. Here is a brief look at the legal history of birth control in the United States.


In 1917, a judge opined that women did not have “the right to copulate with a feeling of security that there will be no resulting conception.”


In 1873, the Comstock Act was passed into law, making the dissemination of “obscene” material through the mail illegal. Any attempts in the early part of the 20th century to teach about sexuality and the prevention of pregnancy — including Margaret Sanger’s work as well as Mary Ware Dennett’s The Sex Side of Life, which she wrote for her sons when she could not find any adequate literature to assist in educating them — were prosecuted under the Comstock Act.

Margaret Sanger witnessed her mother’s early death after 11 live births and seven miscarriages. Later, as a nurse on New York’s Lower East Side, she witnessed poor women dying from attempting to abort unwanted or dangerous pregnancies. She decided to challenge the Comstock Act. Continue reading

Hit Me With Your Best Shot: Single-Shot Voting in Arizona on November 4

What is single-shot voting?

The Arizona governor’s race is straight-forward: There is one seat open, and you can only vote for one candidate to fill that seat. Some races have more than one seat open and there are multiple candidates running to fill multiple seats. In the district races for Arizona House of Representative seats, there are two seats to fill and often more than two candidates are running.


In House races in which we only endorse one candidate, you can maximize your vote’s impact with a single-shot vote.


What happens if a voter looks at their options for those races and sees only one candidate who aligns with their values and goals for the state? Easy. You vote for only that candidate. When a voter casts their ballot for only one candidate instead of two, that vote automatically receives a greater percentage of all ballots cast. Your candidate now has a better chance at winning the election. That is single-shot voting.

Each of the following four PPAA-endorsed candidates are the only advocates for reproductive justice and LGBTQ rights running in their districts. You can help these individuals by voting only for them.

IMG_0920 (2)Carmen Casillas is the only Democratic candidate for Arizona House of Representatives in Legislative District 8. The other two options in this race are Frank Pratt and T.J. Shope — both incumbents, Republicans, and proactive in ensuring that an Arizona woman’s reproductive rights remain extremely limited. Casillas’ previous political experience ranges from vice mayor and councilwoman for the city of Globe. She also believes all people should be treated equally and with respect: “it doesn’t matter — color, race, creed religion, sexuality.” Casillas has made it clear that working to increase the equality and respect of Arizona women is a priority: “I’m going to aggressively fight for women to have the right to choose their own health care.” Continue reading