Every year at this time, pro-choice activists celebrate an important anniversary: the 1973 decision by the Supreme Court of the United States in Roe v. Wade. For nearly 50 years, Americans have had a constitutionally-protected right to choose abortion and to make personal decisions about our bodies, lives, and futures.
But celebrating this year feels bittersweet.
In 2019, anti-choice lawmakers launched one of the most vicious attacks on the right to access abortion in Missouri’s history. In one sweeping move, the anti-choice supermajority in the General Assembly passed House Bill 126, which, among other things, bans abortion at nearly all stages of pregnancy, increases parental notification and consent requirements for teenagers to obtain abortions, and threatens to make abortion illegal in Missouri should Roe fall. This law is currently mostly blocked, but parts of the law were allowed to go into effect.
At the same time, the state Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) orchestrated a full-scale attack on Missouri’s only remaining clinic offering abortion care in an effort to take its license away. Although this effort is currently held up in the courts, anti-choice players in the state continue to work in tandem to ensure Missouri becomes the first state with no clinics offering this essential health care.
The reality is this: a right is only a right if you can access it. And in Missouri, obtaining an abortion is near impossible.
A 72-hour mandatory waiting period between consultation and procedure, biased counseling, and a lack of clinics in 96% of counties makes getting an abortion impossible for most—particularly underserved communities including people of color, people of low-income, rural communities, adolescents, and LGBTQ communities.
Following the Supreme Court’s 2016 decision in Whole Women’s Health v. Hellerstedt, finding that TRAP (Targeted Regulation on Abortion Providers) laws create an undue burden to those trying to access abortion, Missouri clinics seemed to be on the rebound; a clinic reopened in Columbia and there was optimism that more would follow. But in 2018, a Missouri district court decided to go against the precedent set by the Supreme Court, immediately halting access to abortion in Columbia as well as any plans to open new clinics.
These restrictions do exactly what they were designed to do: limit access, making the right to abortion a right in name only.
In 2020, the Supreme Court will hear June Medical Services vs. Gee, a case many consider to be nothing more than a rehashing of Whole Women’s Health. With Brett Kavanaugh on the bench, reproductive freedom advocates are gearing up for this to be the first big blow to Roe in years.
This year, it’s more than just making sure we have the right to choose abortion, it’s about making sure that right is accessible to all. Everyone deserves to make the choice that’s best for them, but we can’t do that if we don’t have the full range of options.
It’s clear that attacks on Roe are bolder than ever before — but so are we. Today, on the anniversary of Roe, our community reaffirms the commitment we made to protecting the right to abortion. But we don’t stop there. We have to show up in the state legislature to testify against the 14 anti-choice laws introduced so far this session. We have to donate to and volunteer for candidates that’ll fight for our fundamental freedoms. And we absolutely must show up on November 3rd to elect pro-choice candidates up and down the ticket. Our rights depend on it.