Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

There are only a few days left in our critical Mid-Year Campaign and we truly might not make it without your help.
Please join us. If you rely on independent media, support Common Dreams today. This is crunch time. We need you now.

Join the small group of generous readers who donate, keeping Common Dreams free for millions of people each year. Without your help, we won’t survive.

"Let's not confine ourselves to opposing regressive legislation," writes Totten. "It is time to fight for proactive measures that represent our values." (Photo: ACLU of Oregon)

"Let's not confine ourselves to opposing regressive legislation," writes Totten. "It is time to fight for proactive measures that represent our values." (Photo: ACLU of Oregon)

The Untold Story of the Roe v. Wade Anniversary

What's different about the Roe anniversary this year is the newly proactive abortion rights movement.

Gloria Totten

 by People's Action Blog

Today – January 22 – is the 45th anniversary of the Supreme Court ruling in Roe v. Wade, which recognized abortion as a constitutional right.

This year, as in every other, the media has focused coverage on the annual anti-abortion demonstration in Washington, even though it is not news. Clearly, there’s nothing new or noteworthy about that.

What’s different about the Roe anniversary this year is the newly proactive abortion rights movement.

Today, lawmakers from 25 states and 3 localities join together to announce they will introduce legislation to affirmatively protect women’s fundamental right to abortion. This nationwide demonstration of resolve is just the beginning for 2018. Importantly, it’s part of a larger movement-wide effort to take the offense on abortion rights.

In 2016, there were 81 proactive abortion rights measures introduced in 25 states. Last year, that increased to 133 measures in 33 states and four localities. This year, the Public Leadership Institute is pushing to increase the number of proactive bills and resolutions to 200 in nearly 40 different states.

Part of the reason for this increase is the distribution of the Public Leadership Institute’s Playbook for Abortion Rights—the great majority of the policies introduced are similar to model bills published in that book. And part is the energy generated by the Women’s March and subsequent organizing for women’s rights.

This effort for the proactive is far from a symbolic. Just over the past year:

  • Oregon enacted HB 3391, the Reproductive Health Equity Act, which requires health insurance policies across the state to cover abortion, as well as contraception and other reproductive health services, at no cost to the patient.
  • Illinois enacted HB 40, which provides Medicaid funding for most abortions, as well as insurance coverage of abortion for state employees.
  • Hawaii enacted SB 501, which requires anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers to post and distribute notices about the availability of abortion and reproductive health services in the state. Crisis pregnancy centers are anti-abortion offices disguised to look like medical clinics which offer services such as pregnancy tests and prenatal sonograms, and lie about medical facts, all in an effort to stop women from having abortions.
  • Maryland enacted SB 1081, which provides financial support to abortion clinics if federal funding is cut. And California Treasurer John Chiang created a program similar to Maryland’s, making Community Clinic Lifeline Grants available to facilities that provide abortion services.
  • Delaware enacted SB 1, which guarantees the right to abortion under the Roe v. Wade decision. The law also repeals obsolete anti-abortion statutes.

 Many of the bills announced today are similar to the new Delaware law. They would “codify” Roe, meaning they would write the constitutional right to abortion into state statutes. This is because the Supreme Court is just one justice’s death or retirement away from reversing Roe.

 If that ruling is overturned, individual states would decide whether women have access to legal abortion and, at present, only 17 states protect the fundamental right to abortion in their statutes or constitutions. In this potentially decisive election year, it is crucial to understand that such legislation is not just essential policy, it’s extremely good politics. Polls consistently show that about 70 percent of Americans support Roe.

Our allies in the states say it better than I can: “Protecting abortion rights is essential to women’s freedom, privacy and health.  We’ve had enough of the attacks. Women deserve better,” insists Michigan State Senator Rebekah Warren. “We have fought for 45 years to protect the right to abortion under Roe, and we are ready to fight another 45,” declares NARAL Pro-Choice Missouri’s Executive Director, Alison Dreith.

So let’s all do more than demonstrate. And let’s not confine ourselves to opposing regressive legislation. It is time to fight for proactive measures that represent our values, the kind of policies that make news, put our opponents on the defensive, and excite Americans who care about women’s rights.


This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.
Gloria Totten

Gloria Totten

Gloria Totten is the President of the Public Leadership Institute, a nonprofit, nonpartisan policy and leadership center that hosts the largest network of progressive lawmakers in the nation.

Just a few days left in our crucial Mid-Year Campaign and we might not make it without your help.
Who funds our independent journalism? Readers like you who believe in our mission: To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. No corporate advertisers. No billionaire founder. Our non-partisan, nonprofit media model has only one source of revenue: The people who read and value this work and our mission. That's it.
And the model is simple: If everyone just gives whatever amount they can afford and think is reasonable—$3, $9, $29, or more—we can continue. If not enough do, we go dark.

All the small gifts add up to something otherwise impossible. Please join us today. Donate to Common Dreams. This is crunch time. We need you now.

Jan. 6 Panel Subpoenas Trump White House Counsel Pat Cipollone

Noting his refusal to cooperate beyond an informal April interview, the committee's chair said that "we are left with no choice."

Jessica Corbett ·


Sanders Pushes Back Against AIPAC Super PAC With Endorsements of Tlaib and Levin

"Once again, these extremists are pouring millions of dollars into a congressional race to try to ensure the Democratic Party advances the agenda of powerful corporations and the billionaire class."

Brett Wilkins ·


Missouri Hospital System Resumes Providing Plan B After 'Shameful' Ban

The health network had stopped offering emergency contraception over fears of violating the state's abortion law—a "dangerous" move that critics warned could become a national trend.

Jessica Corbett ·


'An Act of Conquest': Native Americans Condemn SCOTUS Tribal Sovereignty Ruling

"Every few paragraphs of the majority opinion has another line that dismissively and casually cuts apart tribal independence that Native ancestors gave their lives for," observed one Indigenous law professor.

Brett Wilkins ·


'Lunacy': Democrats Risk Running Out of Time to Confirm Federal Judges

"Democrats aren't filling open seats right now in federal district courts because, for unfathomable reasons, they are letting red state senators block nominees," said one critic.

Julia Conley ·

Common Dreams Logo