United we—and Roe v. Wade—stand

Eileen Schnitger is the development director for Women’s Health Specialists. She has been a health activist since 1977 and is co-creator of the women’s health talk show It’s Your Body on Chico community radio station KZFR (90.1 FM).

What is the meaning of the historic Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision, which legalized abortion across the country 35 years ago? While women here in the North State and across the country have benefited from this court decision, the right of women to choose abortion is an uphill battle.

In South Dakota, Georgia, Colorado and Montana, proposed ballot measures could outlaw abortion. If any one of these passes and goes to the Supreme Court, Roe v. Wade could be overturned outright.

The 1973 decision did not change women’s access to abortion locally until two years later. That’s when Dido Hasper and the founders of the Chico Feminist Women’s Health Center made abortion services available by opening a women-run clinic. Modeled on a woman-centered, participatory, self-help approach, the goal has been to offer respect, dignity and self-determination for all who came through the door.

This is the guiding vision of Women’s Health Specialists. We serve 50,000 women and men a year at the eight sites that grew from the first one in Chico in 1975. Birth control, pregnancy testing, sex education, abortion services, adoption, sexually transmitted-infection services, and pap smears are provided with client-centered support. We continue to offer all options to all women and listen to each woman’s needs.

The attacks on women by politicizing health care are held at bay within our four walls.

The Supreme Court decided last year (in Gonzalez v. Carhardt) to criminalize a medical technique used for abortion services, a frontal challenge to women’s dignity and physicians’ judgment. In a political move, justices overturned their own precedent and significantly curbed women’s right to privacy.

Regardless of the Supreme Court’s new direction, we need your help right now. Even with the existing legal structure, there is no freedom of choice without services.

What makes us all stronger? Thanks to the community, we make change together.

Expose anti-woman stigma by sharing your stories with other women. Join us in organizing against the California ballot measure seeking mandatory parental notification. Give time, talent and resources to support rural women’s health care and make women’s lives better right now. Support our Young Women’s Health Institute to promote leadership and self-power for teenage girls.

Only with dignity and freedom of choice can women achieve their true potential.