KIA GUARINO, Executive Director, Pro-Choice Washington
Today marks what would have been the 50th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. It’s easy to imagine what kind of celebrations today would have brought, if not for the past two years.
And yet it’s still an important day to pause and reflect on how we got here and where we need to go from here. We cannot continue to make the same mistakes. The passing of Roe followed a period of significant reproductive violence and coercion, especially against Black, Indigenous, trans, and Hispanic communities, which continues to this day.
Just as with the bravery of early activists, these pre-Roe stories cannot be forgotten as we move forward in a post-Roe America.
How did we get here?
When the Supreme Court passed Roe v. Wade in 1973, it held that a person’s right to have an abortion was integral to their right to privacy and therefore should not be dictated by the government. While it undeniably helped increase female socioeconomic and political participation, it was tenuous.
When Roe was passed, a hateful countermovement began in earnest. For decades, anti-abortion groups did their best to effectively end Roe, and change the public narrative around abortion.
Carefully and meticulously, they picked apart the ability for people to get abortion care. They did this through clinic harassment and violence against providers; the establishment of more fake clinics than real clinics; the passage of unnecessary laws that require patients to wait days before receiving care; requiring patients to look at images of their fetus, to be treated in higher level medical facilities, to pay for expensive travel and childcare costs.
The list goes on and on.
how they built power
Over fifty years, anti-abortion groups built grassroots power. They ran misinformation campaigns in their communities, flipped local seats, and flooded state legislatures with coordinated anti-abortion policies. And in the end, it worked. In 2022, the Supreme Court titled in their favor.
Throughout this time, we did not take their threats or corrosive manipulation seriously enough. We allowed the story of abortion to be co-opted by anti-abortion groups, who took ownership of the term “life”. Meanwhile progressive leaders qualified their support of abortion by using terms like “rare”. We focused on national-level change and under-resourced local action.
It is imperative that we learn the lessons of Roe. We have, in essence, seen how important and impactful local elections, community engagement, and unapologetic abortion advocacy can be for driving change.
When we lead with progressive policies, we demonstrate that we are the majority movement. So rather than chase and respond to crises, let’s own our power and control the narrative.
WhERe we are today
Since the end of Roe in June, twenty-four states have severely restricted or totally banned abortion care. This represents millions of people being forced to travel to other states to receive essential health care. And unfortunately not everyone has the means do that.
“Sanctuary States” like Washington have a moral obligation to protect patients and the providers who care for us. We must advocate for reproductive freedom as a human right. Abortion is health care, and health care is a human right.
We know what we need to do
We need to build on the momentum of last year, where voters across the country showed that this is a majority movement. So let’s continue to educate on the importance of abortion as basic health care, any chance we get. And we need to realize that every single person is impacted by the loss of abortion. This is everyone’s movement, not just a few.
Pro-Choice Washington’s legislative agenda responds to urgent barriers to abortion care in our state. This year’s legislative session represents the moment to uphold our responsibility as a Sanctuary State. Not only do we need to protect patients and providers, but we also have a unique opportunity to pass model policies for other states to use.
In the immediate legislative term, we need to pass protective policies like the Keep Our Care Act (KOCA). This bill will protect patients when hospitals merge and allow providers to keep seeing their patients.
KOCA will ensure that future health system mergers improve rather than restrict healthcare, reduce the cost of abortion by ending cost-sharing with insurance companies, give consumers greater power of where and how their private health data is shared, and protect providers and patients from hostile state actions.
it’s up to all of us
Following November’s exciting election turnout, we have a supportive, more representative legislature in Washington. There is momentum and public interest in reproductive rights following the end of Roe. I have seen it first hand.
If we work together, we can close urgent barriers to abortion care in Washington. But it’s up to us to do the work. Protecting and expanding reproductive freedom requires sustained action and direct civic participation.
One day 50 years from now, people will look back on this moment and judge how we responded.
I ask this to you, “What will you say to them?”