Thirty-five years ago, the Supreme Court, under the leadership of one Nixon appointee and in a decision written by another, asserted that abortion was protected by the right of privacy and guaranteed under the 14th Amendment. That decision, Roe vs. Wade, has inspired many protests and rallies in the years since, and will so again today.
The precedent set by Roe is more threatened now than ever. The appointments of Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. and Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. have reduced the presumed support for Roe to a small majority on the court. Meanwhile, the four justices in the court's liberal wing are growing old and could conceivably be replaced by the next president (John Paul Stevens will turn 88 in April). Even without a majority on the court, abortion foes have been chipping away at Roe one law at a time, and they have made alarming headway, culminating in a high court decision last April that for the first time since 1973 upheld a ban on a procedure -- controversial "partial-birth" abortions.
A return to the days when states were free to ban abortion would be disastrous and deadly. A recent review of U.S. abortion statistics backs up what pro-choice activists have long asserted: Those most likely to get an abortion tend to be those least able to afford to travel to another state to get one. According to the Guttmacher Institute, the abortion rate among women living below the federal poverty line is almost four times higher than that among more affluent women. Statewide bans would lead to back-alley procedures by desperate women, who would die needlessly because politicians shut down clean and safe clinics.