Recalling the world before Roe v Wade

Jan. 16, 2013 @ 06:03 PM

It was 40 years ago that Roe v Wade legalized abortion. It was 30 years ago that Planned Parenthood of Central North Carolina, which provides abortions and a wide range of other medical services, began its operations.

And while the organization and women’s reproductive rights might seem under siege today, speakers said Wednesday, it’s important to remember what the situation was like before.

“After 40 years, a lot of people have forgotten what kind of world we had to live in without abortion,” State Rep. Deborah Ross told more than 200 supporters gathered at the Eno River Unitarian Universalist Fellowship Hall.

“We need to remember what a deplorable effect not having legal abortion wrought on women and their doctors. We need to remember the horrible situation they were in. That is why we are pro-choice.”

Ross was the keynote speaker at Planned Parenthood’s annual Champions of Choice breakfast. Like a number of other speakers, she acknowledged that the organization and the issues it champions are facing difficult circumstances.

The last session of the legislature voted to prohibit Planned Parenthood from receiving state funds. It also passed the Women’s Right to Know Act, which requires several new stipulations which must be met and carried out before a woman can receive an abortion.

“Last year’s legislature was the worst on record for women in N.C. history,” said Paige Johnson, Planned Parenthood’s vice president for external affairs. “And as brutal as the last session was, the next one promises to be even harder.”

Sen. Ellie Kinnaird, who received Planned Parenthood’s Bertha “B” Holt Award for legislative courage and leadership at the breakfast, said she and like-minded representatives “tried to get their [colleagues] to see reason in this. But those people came in with their minds made up.”

But Ross noted nevertheless “how far we have come from those depths” before Roe v Wade became the law of the land.

Now, she said, “things ebb and flow. The [legislative majority] will overplay their hands and we will be back.”

In the meantime, Ross added, “we need to remind people that not all women are the same but all women do need to be respected. We respect women who terminate their pregnancies, but we also respect women who carry their pregnancies to term. And we respect that child, and we want to make sure that child has healthcare, good housing and a chance for success. That’s what being pro-choice is about.”

Mike Woodard, just elected to the state Senate, acknowledged that changing the situation would be an uphill struggle. “But we’re going to let our voices be heard,” he said.