Tomorrow marks the 38th anniversary of Roe v Wade, the landmark Supreme Court decision that held that all women have the right to an abortion, provided that the fetus isn't viable outside the womb.
It wasn't the end of the fight. It was the beginning. Thirty eight years later, we're somewhere in the middle.
Despite that crucial guarantee of a right to sovereignty over one's own body, notification laws, limited access, a lack of facilities, and the failure to enforce laws designed to protect the practitioners of abortion from threats and intimidation have deigned to pull those rights out from under those to whom they were guaranteed.
In many ways, the entirety of the struggle can be illustrated by the life of one doctor. George Tiller didn't set out to become an abortion provider. He graduated from Kansas School of Medicine in 1967. He went on to hold a medical internship with the US Navy, serving his country as a flight surgeon. Upon leaving the Navy, he had intended to become a dermatologist. That same year, tragedy struck his family. His sister died in a plane crash, along with his parents and his brother-in-law. He found himself responsible for both his sister's child and his father's family medical practice, which local women sometimes relied upon for abortions. He changed his mind about closing the facility when he learned of a woman who died of complications resulting from an illegal abortion.
From then on, George Tiller found himself in the cross-hairs of a dedicated, relentless, hateful movement deadset on stopping abortions by any means necessary. For those who believe that violent political rhetoric doesn't lead to violence, I need only say the name Operation Rescue. The rabid picketers, the wanted posters with his picture, the speech by Congressman Robert K Dorman on the floor of the House where he was referred to as "Tiller the Baby Killer"... I defy anyone to say with a straight face that they had nothing to do with the fact that in 1986 his clinic was firebombed. That in 1993 he was shot five times while sitting in his car. Or that last year he was shot through the eye while serving as an usher at his church.
That is the epitome what it means to stand up for a woman's right to choose. To persevere knowing that people want you dead. To contend alike with misguided protesters and those who fall directly within the realm and sphere of domestic terrorism, and never knowing for sure which are which. After the firebombing, Tiller posted a sign outside his clinic that read "hell no, we won't go." as it was being rebuilt. After he was shot the first time, he went right back to work as soon as he could. He was well aware what he was doing. He was laying his life before women in need because nobody else would do the work. In the midst of all manner of heated rhetoric surrounding the abortion debate, his message was simple.
And Tiller wasn't the only one. Only the most notable.
Today, even after progressives were forced to make a sadistic choice between a woman's right to choose and a step towards universal healthcare, and managed to find a third way around it, the House of Representatives has decided to go after abortion rights.
It never ends.
It never. fucking. ends.
And so we can't stop either. Not until there isn't a single woman in America who needs to carry a pregnancy to term if she doesn't want to. Not until there isn't a single pharmacy that refuses to dispense contraception-- to anyone. Not until there isn't a single hospital that will turn away a rape victim seeking EC.
Roe v Wade, as strange as it may seem, wasn't just about women's rights. The abortion debate as a whole isn't just about women's rights, though obviously that's what's most important. Roe v Wade was the first blow struck for an idea whose time still hasn't fully come. The notion that every one of us has the right to sovereignty over our own bodies, no matter what that means. There is a bright line that can be drawn between Roe v Wade and Lawrence v Texas. Who knows? Maybe one day that same principle will put this senseless, regressive, destructive War on Drugs to an end once and for all. One day soon it will grant us the right to marry whomever we wish.
The moral arc of the Universe is long, and it bends towards Justice.
But we have to bend it.