On this day in 1973, exactly 50 years ago, the United States Supreme Court decided in the case of Roe v Wade to decriminalize abortion and give women the right to make decisions about their own bodies. The vote was 7-2 with only Justices Rehnquist and White voting against it. Until seven months ago, June 24, 2022, we thought we would be celebrating the 50th anniversary of this momentous decision, but instead we are once again fighting to be treated fairly, fighting in many cases for our very lives.
Above is the Supreme Court of 1973. It would be another eight years until the first woman justice, Sandra Day O’Connor, would take her seat on the Court in 1981. In June 2022, when the decision in the case of Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health Organization was handed down, there were three women on the Court, and yet women’s rights were slashed. Six days after the Dobbs decision, a fourth woman, Ketanji Brown Jackson, would take her seat, bringing the number of women on the court to a historic four.
Even prior to Roe v Wade, in most states a woman could have an abortion if the pregnancy threatened her life, but since the decision in the Dobbs case, many states have even taken that right away. The woman is left to die, else forced to travel to a friendlier state where her life is deemed to have some value.
Since the founding of this nation, when it was written in the Declaration of Independence, signed on August 2nd, 1776, that “… all men are created equal,” leaving women out altogether, we have been fighting to be included in that ‘equality’. Women have had to fight for the right to own property, to divorce their husband, to receive equal pay for equal work, and perhaps most importantly, to vote. To this day, the nation has failed to pass the Equal Rights Amendment, that would codify equal rights for all citizens, regardless of gender. The Equal Rights Amendment was first proposed in December 1923, nearly 100 years ago, and still has not managed to pass. Its history is long and convoluted, albeit interesting. If you’re interested, check out this article in History.com.
Now, I could make a damn good argument for why I think the Supreme Court made a huge mistake in their ruling on Dobbs, but you likely already know the argument. Instead, I’d like to pose a question, one that has bothered me ever since I was old enough to ponder such things:
Why are women considered somehow lesser beings than men to begin with?
Is it because of that religious myth that man was created first, and woman was an afterthought created from a rib bone of a man? Is it because we are typically smaller? Is it because our voices aren’t as deep? Is it because we don’t have that all-important extra appendage (I’m trying to keep it family-friendly here so as not to offend)? Seriously, I have never understood why we are still, after all these thousands of years, considered somehow … substandard.
Women have proven themselves in every field – law, medicine, education, politics, science, business – and yet we are deprived of our rights simply because we are women. We still struggle against that ‘glass ceiling’ in the corporate world, though we’ve come a long way. Look at the demographics of the U.S. Congress … the most recently elected House of Representatives has 29% women, and in the Senate, 25% … though women comprise some 50.47% of the population. And this is a 59% increase from a decade ago! You can probably guess which political party has the highest percentage of women … and it isn’t the Republican Party.
Talk is cheap. Saying that women have equal rights, but denying them the right to even make decisions regarding their own health choices, is hypocrisy. A man can walk into a doctor’s office and walk out 15 minutes later with a prescription for Viagra that will enable him to engage in sex all night long if he chooses, but a woman is denied the right to even birth control in many states. A woman who is raped and becomes pregnant cannot get an abortion in many states today, but must be forced to live with the results of a crime for the rest of her life, while the child’s sire sits in a bar bragging about yet another ‘conquest’.
I don’t understand it, will never understand it, but I know it’s wrong. Today, we should be celebrating 50 years of Roe v Wade, 50 years of women’s rights, of respect for women. Instead, we are back to square one … no wait … we are actually at square minus one, because birth control is harder for us to get now, and even in cases where a woman’s life is at risk, abortion is illegal in many states. We were actually better off 50 years ago. All thanks to Justices Alito, Thomas, Kavanaugh, Gorsuch, Barrett, and Chief Justice Roberts. I hope that someday, somehow, it comes back to haunt each and every one of them.