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Record Support as Roe v. Wade Turns 40

GOP assault on women's rights galvanizes movement

- Lauren McCauley, staff writer

As today marks 40 years since the landmark women's rights decision Roe v. Wade that legalized abortion across the country, a new poll finds that for the first time a majority of Americans support the ruling, indicating that the recent GOP assault on reproductive rights has only renewed the importance of the pivotal ruling. 

Jane Roe (left) and her attorney Gloria Allred hold hands as they leave the Supreme Court building in Washington, DC, Wednesday, April 26, 1989. (Photo: J. Scott Applewhite/AP) The NBC/Wall Street Journal poll found that seven out of 10 Americans support the Jan. 22, 1973 decision that declared women have a constitutional right to abortions, the highest number since the poll began tracking it in 1989.

A similar Pew survey found that a record 54 percent of Americans think abortion should be always legal or legal most of the time.

Despite the clear and overwhelming support, anti-abortion advocates have been on the attack. Seizing on the results of the 2010 election when Republicans picked up roughly 675 legislative seats, the anti-choice movement has implemented a furious piecemeal strategy attacking women's rights at the state level.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, a think tank that favors abortion rights, opponents of abortion won passage of a record 92 measures restricting the procedure in 24 states in 2011—more than double the restrictions passed in any other year—and an additional 43 in 19 states last year.

Summarizing the ways in which opponents, through a series of state-wide court decisions, have narrowed the scope and effectiveness of Roe v. Wade, the Associated Press reports:

A majority of states now impose a waiting period for patients wishing to obtain an abortion, and three-quarters require parental involvement before a minor can obtain an abortion, according to the New York-based Guttmacher Institute, which researches reproductive health issues. Almost all allow physicians to refuse to participate in abortions.

The result is that there are fewer clinics and abortion providers now than there were in 1973. The Daily Beast has compiled a map of the 724 remaining abortion clinics in the US.

The battle carries on at this moment. As Mississippi toys with closing their last remaining abortion clinic, Texas Governor Rick Perry is pushing new legislation banning abortions after 20 weeks of gestation.

In fact, the GOP has embraced the anti-choice stance and bedevilment of women's reproductive rights as a new party line. According to an examination by The Guardian of Republican and Democratic party platforms over the past 40 years, the GOP has "padded their pro-life credentials more than ever in 2012."

Through extremist legislation and revealing media gaffes (think: Todd "Legitimate Rape" Akin), GOP lawmakers have demonstrated that they are as removed from the reproductive rights zeitgeist as ever, revitalizing the pro-choice movement.

Despite recent Pew findings that the level of support for Roe v. Wade has remained consistently high in surveys conducted 10 and 20 years ago, the number of respondents who said abortion “is not that important compared to other issues” is on the rise.

“It’s a challenge and an opportunity for women’s health advocates because a lot of women aren’t aware of how those rights can be chipped away until they are nonexistent,” said Anna Scholl, director of ProgressVA. “We are looking to get back on offense because we’ve been really pushed back on our heels.”

Following the slew of anti-choice legislation, protestors broke out from "Virginia to Michigan to Oklahoma to Idaho." And, the Nation reports, "in the 2012 elections, pro-choicers received a much-needed boost in Congress, adding twenty to their ranks in the House and two in the Senate, which now boasts nine women senators backed by the pro-choice powerhouse EMILY’s List."

They continue:

What had begun for Republicans as a punitive and frivolous congressional “investigation” of Planned Parenthood culminated in an electorally calamitous war on women that has tarnished the GOP’s name for a new generation of women voters.

Americans...still believe in the principle of Roe: that abortion is a decision best left to a pregnant woman and her doctor.

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