The importance of Roe v. Wade

Shauna Heckert is Executive Director, Women’s Health Specialists, Feminist Women’s Health Centers in Chico, Redding, Sacramento and Santa Rosa

At least half of the American population is reeling from the ruthless actions of the American government and the Bush administration. In the United States, this tyranny takes the form of forcing its people to participate in the vicious conquest of other peoples. Many fair-minded and peace-loving people deplore the invasions into other countries but feel paralyzed. We have resigned ourselves to direct our energy to trying to influence U.S. policy to be more benign or more intelligent.

Being forced to collude in the colonization of our own bodies is draining off our power. We must take steps to reassert this power. First, we in the United States must recognize that the real essentials of a satisfying life—health, friends, family, worthwhile work and human rights—are being denied us.

Every day the staff at the Women’s Health Specialists provides reproductive services and empowers women through education and support. Since the early 1970s, we have facilitated women getting together in groups to do consciousness-raising and to demystify their bodies by looking at their own cervixes and vaginas. We believe that through this process we are strengthening ourselves and our commonality as women while undermining those who do not want women to have true liberation.

The Roe v. Wade decision (legalizing abortion in 1973) will be difficult for the Bush administration to completely overturn, but providers are still vulnerable to attack on many levels. Our clinics are investigated by state agencies on bogus complaints by anti-abortion groups, fire bombed and picketed outside the clinic during service hours trying to stop women from obtaining abortions. Our landlords are harassed to evict us, doctors are pressured not to work with us or learn how to do abortions. Legislatively, abortion is more regulated, more scrutinized and more restricted that any other comparable surgical procedure, making abortion harder for women to get. Without providers and leaders in the movement for women’s liberation, our right to abortion will be rendered meaningless.

Support independent abortion providers like Women’s Health Specialists. When we call for help, heed the call. Remember, when one of us is attacked, it is an attack on us all. Community friends, local business owners and activists have escorted, volunteered, stood with us in court, raised funds, driven clients, and successfully helped us resist the threats from state agencies. Thanks to the dedication and action of the community, we are here today. We need your help to preserve the basis of our existence—control over our own bodies.