48 Years After Landmark Ruling, Advocates Push to #ReimagineRoe and Build Abortion Justice

Pro-choice supporters gathered outside of the U.S. Supreme Court before the Senate confirmed President Donald Trump's U.S. Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett on October 26, 2020 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images)

48 Years After Landmark Ruling, Advocates Push to #ReimagineRoe and Build Abortion Justice

"Roe is the floor. We want an end to Hyde. We want people to access abortion care, when they need it, without discrimination, stigma, or harm."

Nearly a half-century after the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed that access to safe, legal abortion is a constitutional right, advocates are now pushing the Biden administration and Congress to urgently and aggressively pursue a bold reproductive justice agenda.

"On the 48th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, it's time to #ReimagineRoe and affirm abortion and reproductive justice for all."
--Rep. Ayanna Pressley

While advocates have fought to protect Roe v. Wade since 1973, 48 years later to the day--with a new pro-choice administration and Democrats in control of both chambers of Congress--calls are building to #ReimagineRoe and treat the high court's landmark ruling as a floor rather than a ceiling for reproductive rights and healthcare.

"Each year we mark the ruling in Roe v. Wade and honor the legal precedent that protected access to abortion care in America," Dr. Jamila Perritt of Physicians for Reproductive Health said Friday. "While this Supreme Court decision was significant, it is clear that legality has never been enough. Medically unnecessary restrictions on abortion care implemented by anti-abortion legislators in countless states across the country have made abortion care almost impossible to access."

"In reality, the legal right to abortion only exists for those with the resources and means to access that care," Perritt noted. "For everyone else, it remains out of reach."

Particularly over the past decade, right-wing state policymakers have worked to limit abortion access with legislation that imposes costly and medically unnecessary requirements on providers and health centers. The past four years have featured not only states' targeted restrictions on abortion providers (TRAP) laws but also attacks on reproductive rights from the anti-choice Trump administration.

The raging coronavirus pandemic has further limited access. According to the pro-choice Guttmacher Institute, "One in three U.S. women have experienced pandemic-related delays or cancellations of sexual and reproductive healthcare, and rates are significantly higher for Black women (38%), Hispanic women (45%), and queer women (46%) than for White women and straight women."

With the September death of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and former President Donald Trump's three appointments to the high court, fears are now heightened that the six right-wing justices could soon reverse Roe--bolstering demands to codify abortion rights. Campaigners are also calling for the reversal of Trump-era policies such as the global and domestic "gag rules," and scrapping the Hyde Amendment, which blocks federal funding for abortion with few exceptions.

"As the balance of our Supreme Court has shifted, stacked with more anti-abortion justices than ever before, as states continue to push abortion care further and further out of reach for their communities, it's evident that we need proactive leadership to ensure access to abortion care is a reality for all, not just a select few," said Perritt.

Given the new president and Congress, she continued, "we have a unique opportunity to be unified in our efforts to ensure that no matter what healthcare someone might need, they can access compassionate, timely, community-centered care."

"The Biden-Harris administration," she added, "must take immediate action to show that abortion is essential healthcare by clearly and explicitly stating their commitment to comprehensive and reproductive healthcare, including abortion, removing medically unnecessary restrictions on abortion care such as the current restrictions on medication abortion, rescinding the Title X gag rule, issuing a clean presidential budget that ends the harmful Hyde Amendment, and ensuring that everyone can access the care they need in their communities."

President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, who took office Wednesday, recognized in a joint statement Friday that "in the past four years, reproductive health, including the right to choose, has been under relentless and extreme attack" and emphasized their deep commitment to "making sure everyone has access to care--including reproductive healthcare--regardless of income, race, zip code, health insurance status, or immigration status."

"The Biden-Harris administration is committed to codifying Roe v. Wade and appointing judges that respect foundational precedents like Roe," the pair said. "We are also committed to ensuring that we work to eliminate maternal and infant health disparities, increase access to contraception, and support families economically so that all parents can raise their families with dignity. This commitment extends to our critical work on health outcomes around the world."

The over 90 organizations behind the Blueprint for Sexual and Reproductive Health, Rights, and Justice recently released a related a "first priorities" list (pdf) of executive and agency actions that Biden and his administration could take in the opening days of his presidency. Groups behind the documents include the ACLU, Guttmacher Institute, NARAL Pro-Choice America, and All* Above All, which also has its own First 100 Days Agenda for Abortion Justice.

In a statement marking Roe's 48th anniversary, NARAL Pro-Choice America president Ilyse Hogue declared that "the Biden-Harris administration embodies a new and welcome era of leadership--one that has committed to taking bold action to safeguard reproductive freedom and connected reproductive rights to the fight for justice and equity. As we work to undo the damage done by Trump and anti-choice politicians, we must carry the guiding principle that Roe is the floor, not the ceiling for the vision we espouse for this country. Fighting to ensure abortion remains legal is critical, but it is only the tip of the iceberg."

That message was echoed by Fatima Goss Graves of the National Women's Law Center, who tweeted Friday: "Roe is the floor. We want an end to Hyde. We want people to access abortion care, when they need it, without discrimination, stigma, or harm."

She added the hashtag #ReimagineRoe, which advocates and lawmakers used to discuss efforts to protect and expand reproductive rights and healthcare.

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