Roevs. Wade Decision: Impact on Women’s Right Movement
Womenin America, just as many other parts of the world, have struggled andfought to enjoy equal rights with men since early history. The WomenRights Movement in America fought against laws that barred women fromvoting and owning properties, among other rights that men enjoyed.These rights touched on one’s privacy and liberty, as was the casein Roe vs. Wade. Roe (not her real name) sought to procure abortionof an unwanted pregnancy. Texas’ statute forbade it, prompting herto pursue appeal at the Federal Supreme Court. In a landmarkdecision, 7 out of 9 judges decided in favourof Roe, setting a precedence that put abortion at the discretion of apregnant woman. Previously, a woman could only have a legal abortionif the pregnancy was life threatening. The decision shaped Americasociety’s landscape and gave fresh impetus to Women RightsMovement, as this paper will illustrate.
The1973 Roe vs. Wade decision provided fresh impetus for agitation ofequality for women by the Women Rights Movement. Despite the successin universal suffrage, the sluggish pace in establishment ofstructures to promote gender equality had disheartened equalitycrusaders. The decision revitalized agitators like Gloria Steinem whobecame incessant and unrelenting. Psychologically, it empowered womento be resolute in making decisions about their bodies and lives.Activists resuscitated their demands for tighter laws to safeguardwomen in ways only comparable to the suffrage movement (Buchanan 13).The pressure bore fruits because affirmative action for women gainedthe prominence it deserved. Sex discrimination in work places, stateand federal amenities, and other institutions became illegal. TheFederal Supreme Court decision was morale boasting to Women RightsMovement.
Secondly,the decision improved health of women. Prior to the decision,pregnant women who wanted to procure abortion but did not meet thestrict legal threshold sought it from the black market, often in poorconditions and under unqualified physicians. This put their health injeopardy, accounting for 16.5% of pregnancy death in 1968 (AbortionPolicies: A Global Review 23).A higher percent developed health complications emanating from unsafeabortion. After the decision, women could procure abortion legallyfrom qualified physicians and approved health centers. This hasreduced death and complications arising from abortion process. Thepercent of women who develop abortion related health complicationshas dropped to less than 0.5 (AbortionPolicies: A Global Review 36).The risk varies depending on pregnancy length but it has drasticallydropped after the Roe vs. Wade decision. Women and families’ healthhave won massively from the decision.
Moreover,the decision put women in control of their reproductive lives. Thishas freed them to compete with men for employment and education at anequal footing. Economists argue that a woman’s pay has a higherchance of going back to the family than a man’s pay (Solinger 45).The decision has therefore indirectly empowered families. Prior toRoe vs. Wade decision, women’s contribution to the economy waslimited because of family responsibilities that emanated fromsociety’s firm grip on their reproductive lives. The decision was aconcrete move towards women’s emancipations from shackles ofsociety-imposed subjugation and control. It reaffirmed America’svalues of liberty, freedom of choice, and pursuit of human potentialto the fullest.
Fourthly,for women and America’s citizens, the decision defined aconstitutional right. The legal substance surrounding the case waswhether an individual’s rights to privacy and liberties overridethe constitutional obligation of the government to protect lives.Further, the question of when live begins dominated the legaldiscourse before the Supreme Court. The court’s opinion was thatright to privacy was not absolute. The government had the right tointervene to save life and protect health. However, abortion was apersonal decision, purely within the discretion of the woman, as longas it was safe. This asserted the right to privacy and liberties.Hull and Peter, lauded the decision, not just for promoting genderequality but also “fundamentally asserting the rights to personalfreedom and privacy” (12). The affirmation of this constitutionalright confirmed America as a progressive nation with an entrenchedculture of respect.
Regrettably,Roe vs. Wade decision elicited backlash from several quarters,notably the religious groups and medical care providers. The CatholicChurch began a plethora of attacks against pro-life movement,threatening the gains towards women’s emancipation. Several statestightened legislations to make it difficult for women to procureabortion (Solinger 46). Medical and insurance service providers havebeen hesitant to cover women. For many low and middle-income women,abortion became an easy option, prompting limit on funding andsubsequent legal precedence demanding parent’s authorization foryoung women.
Inconclusion, Roe vs. Wade decision was a landmark decision thatconfirmed the constitutional right for privacy. It empowered women todecide on their reproductive lives especially on abortion. For WomenRights Movement, this was morale boasting as it revived theircampaigns for full emancipation and equality. For women and families,health improved as women could seek safe abortion without fear oflegal backlash. However, this did not augur well with religiousbodies and some medical care providers, a threat to crucial gains inthe society.
AbortionPolicies: A Global Review.New York: United Nations, 2001. Print.
Buchanan,Paul D. TheAmerican Women`s Rights Movement: A Chronology of Events and ofOpportunities from 1600 to 2008.Boston: Branden Books, 2009. Print.
Hull,N E. H, and Peter C. Hoffer. RoeV. Wade: The Abortion Rights Controversy in American History.Lawrence, Kan: University Press of Kansas, 2010. Print.
Solinger,Rickie. Pregnancyand Power: A Short History of Reproductive Politics in America.New York, NY [u.a.: New York University Press, 2005. Print.