Last Tuesday, Jan. 22nd was the 40th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion in the United States. In 1965, illegal abortions made up nearly one-fifth of all pregnancy-related deaths. Reproductive rights activists fought to ensure the right to safe and legal abortion, and succeeded with the decision on Roe in 1973. Looking back on the past 40 years, we must remember and ap- preciate how much has changed and protect continued access to safe and legal abortion. Safe and legal abortion means that today less than 0.3 percent of women who end a pregnancy sustain a serious complication.

We should all be thankful for the rights that Roe gave us. But there is still a long road to travel towards reproductive justice. In honor of the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, we must reflect on the road ahead and the battles we must continue to fight. The Hyde Amendment continues to prevent the use of federal funds for abortion, meaning that low-income Americans on Medicaid are often unable to access abortion services. The Helm Amendment prevents the use of U.S. foreign aid to fund abortion services, crippling the ability of health clinics around the world to serve their communities. Politicians across the United States insist on implementing numerous restrictions on abortion services, making them nearly impossible to access in states like Mississippi and South Dakota. Crisis pregnancy centers, including A Better Choice Women’s Center right here in Middletown, continue to give false information and use scare tactics when pregnant people turn to them for help. On top of all of this, a culture of shame persists around abortion. One in three American women will have an abortion before the age of 45, yet we still treat this safe and legal medical procedure as a taboo. We must learn to respect people who choose abortion, as it is a deeply personal and often complex decision. Ultimately, decisions about whether to end a pregnancy, choose adoption, or raise a child must be left to a patient and their family, with the counsel of their health care provider.

To commemorate the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, stop by Usdan at lunch any day this week to share why you are thankful for Roe, and what reproductive justice issues you think still need to be addressed. Help us celebrate and appreciate the rights we have, and plan for what must come next.

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