Political Animal


January 23, 2012 9:30 AM On the anniversary of Roe v. Wade

By Steve Benen

It was 39 years ago yesterday that the Supreme Court issued its Roe v. Wade ruling, and not surprisingly, every Jan. 22 since has been an occasion for both sides to note the anniversary.

In a White House statement, President Obama said, “[W]e must remember that this Supreme Court decision not only protects a woman’s health and reproductive freedom, but also affirms a broader principle: that government should not intrude on private family matters. I remain committed to protecting a woman’s right to choose and this fundamental constitutional right.”

Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney adopted a very different line in his written statement:

“Today marks the 39th anniversary of one of the darkest moments in Supreme Court history, when the court in Roe v. Wade claimed authority over the fundamental question regarding the rights of the unborn. The result is millions of lives since that day have been tragically silenced. Since that day, the pro-life movement has been working tirelessly in an effort to change hearts and minds and protect the weakest and most vulnerable among us.

“Today, we recommit ourselves to reversing that decision, for in the quiet of conscience, people of both political parties know that more than a million abortions a year cannot be squared with the good heart of America.”

Here’s the obligatory evidence of Romney saying the exact opposite when he launched this political career 18 years ago.

On a related note, Sarah Kliff talked with Charmaine Yoest is the president of Americans United for Life, the country’s oldest antiabortion organization, about the movement’s recent successes. Yoest described the progress made by opponents of abortion rights in 2011 as “breathtaking.”

From her perspective, Yoest meant that in a positive sense, and as quantitative matter, she has a point. As Igor Volsky noted earlier in the month, “Lawmakers across the nation pursued a record number of reproductive health and rights-related provisions in 2011, a new report from the Guttmacher Institute finds, enacting 135 measures in 36 states — ‘an increase from the 89 enacted in 2010 and the 77 enacted in 2009.’ Sixty-eight percent of the provisions — 92 in 24 states — restricted access to abortion services.”

Breathtaking, indeed.

The trend will likely continue in 2012, with even more significant threats looming in 2013. Given Romney’s statement yesterday, and a Republican administration’s plans for the federal judiciary, Roe may not have many anniversaries left if the GOP fares well in November.

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.


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  • walt on January 23, 2012 9:37 AM:

    "Pro-life" is meaningless in a party that cheers for the death of an uninsured adult. Or uses eliminationist rhetoric about liberals and non-Christians. Or despises homosexuals to the point that it approves of bullying young gays to death. Let's be clear about the overarching argument on the right: we'll kill, maim, and hound people to death because we have moral values that tell us fetuses are sacred.

  • Danny on January 23, 2012 9:41 AM:

    Is that the most extreme on-the-record position of a candidate for POTUS? Romney is on the record for rolling back Roe v. Wade and he believes that life begins at conception? "Millions of lives have been silenced"? That seems to imply that he thinks abortion is murder...

  • flyonthewall on January 23, 2012 9:41 AM:

    "rights of the unborn"? Where does it say in the Constitution that unborn have rights?

  • c u n d gulag on January 23, 2012 9:52 AM:

    If women, especially YOUNG women, assume that choice is a given, and don't stand up for their rights, then we all will lose on this issue.

    And they won't know what they had, 'til it's gone.

    I'm an almost 54 year-old man, and it concerns me that I care more than some of the younger women I know or run into.

  • DAY on January 23, 2012 10:03 AM:

    Democrats and Republicans have very different ideas about "freedom."

    Kris Kristofferson wrote that, "Freedom is just another word for nothin' left to lose."

  • SYSPROG on January 23, 2012 10:07 AM:

    Oh what to say? That the 'party of small government' strikes again? That they denigrate women and their decisions EVERY SINGLE DAY? This issue has been fought for every day since the Supremes ruled on it. And the sanctimonious peckerheads that a) don't know and b) don't care should be held responsible. And young women? You're right. They don't get it. They think it's a 'right' that won't be taken away. They've grown up with it, their mothers talk about it but they don't believe they live in a country that could be so repressive/regressive as to take basic rights. MY kids know because I constantly scream at the TV but then that's me...

  • fostert on January 23, 2012 10:15 AM:

    Given the current political climate, perhaps we should start noting the anniversary of Griswold v Connecticut.

  • jim filyaw on January 23, 2012 10:20 AM:

    i was in law school when roe was handed down. even though i was in my 'liberal phase', i remember that my first reaction was that it was good policy but damned bad law. i wondered if the court was stretching the right to privacy to the breaking point. little did i know that instead of a liberal victory, the right wing had been handed their most valuable prize. it served to politicize what had been a dormant force in american life, the bible fundies. it made 'liberal' a dirty word for a generation. take away abortion and what do the bible thumpers have left? gun rights? now in my old age i wonder, what if the court had simply said this is a matter for the states to handle? would the right of a woman to choose have been as lightly regarded as miscegenation?

  • Skip on January 23, 2012 10:56 AM:

    [heaves a huge sigh] Once again, a so-called pro-lifer looks at Z without taking into account A through Y. Abortion is the end result of a long line of preventable problems: of lack of sex education (which the religious brought about), lack of accessible birth control options (which Santorum wants), of girls needs centering around getting a boyfriend rather than the healthy development of their own autonomy (which our culture constantly thrusts at us).

    Fixing a few of these issues would drop the abortion rate, I feel, significantly faster than changing Roe V. Wade. Changing Roe V. Wade would move abortions underground, but it wouldn't stop them. The sanctimonious moral high ground on this issue is too transparent when a pro-lifer refuses to discuss or even acknowledge the chain of preventable events that lead up to every single abortion.

  • RepublicanPointOfView on January 23, 2012 11:34 AM:

    The Theocratic Wing of our Republican Base HAS THE MORAL HIGH GROUND on this issue!

    Our republican base is so opposed to abortion that they will prevent anything being done which would lessen the number of abortions in our country!

    It must be a good thing to eliminate Planned Parenthood funding and watch the number of abortions rise.

    It must be a good thing to teach Abstinence in place of Sex Education and watch the number of unplanned pregnancies and abortions rise.

    It must be a good thing to fight against contraception being covered under ObamaCare so that the number of unplanned pregnancies and abortions can rise.

    It sure is good to have the moral high ground!

  • Julie on January 23, 2012 12:10 PM:

    It's great to see all these pro-choicers. We are *not* alone!

    I agree with Skip that a huge problem is that abortion is the end result of many failures - failure to educate, to empower, to prevent.

    Another one of legal abortion's biggest challenges is women's hesitancy to talk about their own abortions, to normalize it. I had one; it sucked; I screwed up; I'm glad I had the choice. I thank all the people who have worked to keep it legal and accessible.

  • MsJoanne on January 23, 2012 12:53 PM:

    This from Mother Jones is a MUST READ!


    Let's relive those joyous days of dead women in filthy "back rooms" lying in puddles of their own blood. Or dead next to the hangers they shoved up their vaginas desperately trying to terminate a pregnancy.

    Rejoice in tge blood of those whorish rape victims. Or those 13 year olds impregnated by a father or other lovely male relative.

    Go read that article. Now!

  • zandru on January 23, 2012 1:30 PM:

    Thanks, Skip, for that excellent analysis!

    I think that if the "pro-choice lobby" actually began listening to how people talk and think in the 21st century, they'd begin to throttle back on their tired, increasingly offensive "choice" rhetoric and start crafting a message based around words like:

    * freedom and autonomy
    * empowerment
    * responsibility
    * family rights

    I swear, the mail I get from Planned Parenthood hasn't changed in 30 years. They're preaching to a continually-diminishing choir.

  • Highguy on January 23, 2012 1:31 PM:

    It says a lot about this country and the human condition when, as a nation, we have spent the last 40 years "debating" the issues of Roe v. Wade. And folks in this country want to know when there's going to peace in the Middle East?

    Everytime Mitt opens his piehole about "darkest chapters in American history" I can't but think about his Mormon church "saving" Holocaust victims by posthumously converting them.

    Stay classy, Mitt.

    Craptcha: crapan ascetic .... Sweet