This year, Roe Day doesn’t quite feel like a celebration. It’s 2022—almost five decades after the Supreme Court ruled that the Constitution protects a pregnant woman’s liberty to choose to have an abortion without excessive government restriction. And yet today in Texas, abortion has been outlawed for the vast majority of those who need one. And in a few short months, the Supreme Court is likely to rule in a case that is a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade and will impact abortion access nationwide.
To mark the occasion and with our eyes on the future, Ms. asked abortion rights supporters in the House of Representatives to share what the anniversary of Roe means this year in particular, how they see their role in the larger fight for abortion rights, how Congress can act as a counterbalance to a Supreme Court prepared to overturn Roe, and what they wish they could tell anti-abortion lawmakers standing in their way.
Many of these women in Congress fill the top ranks of House leadership, and all of them are members of the Democratic Women’s Caucus and leaders in the fight for women’s rights and abortion rights. Each elected official has their own story on the role of abortion access in their personal lives. But a common thread running throughout their reactions is putting pressure on their Senate colleagues to send the Women’s Health Protection Act to President Biden’s desk. And with Roe‘s fate in limbo and women’s constitutional equality still not spelled out in the Constitution, this task takes on a new urgency.
“I refuse to allow six people to tell 80 percent of the population that their interests don’t count, that precedent in the Supreme Court doesn’t count. I refuse to accept that the Supreme Court can turn back the clock to a time when women were not allowed the freedom to choose what to do with their bodies. Those same six people think that people have the right to refuse to be vaccinated or wear masks. I guess consistency doesn’t count under the law.
But I know that the moral arc of the universe is on our side. We will continue to fight for the passage of the Women’s Health Protection Act, so that abortion rights are codified once and for all.”—Democratic Women’s Caucus Co-Chair Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.)
“As mother and grandmother I know the joys and responsibilities of caring for a child as well as the importance of the freedom to being in control of one’s own reproductive destiny. Roe v. Wade was a declaration of independence for the women of this country. It gave pregnant people a constitutional right, within a reasonable framework, to make their own personal decisions about continuing a pregnancy.
“In that regard, the U.S. House passed the Women’s Health Protection Act last year, which would stop states like Florida, Texas and others from banning abortion, enacting ridiculous and medically unnecessary restrictions on abortion providers, and taking the power to make personal medical decisions away from patients. I urge my colleagues in the Senate to do the same.”—Democratic Women’s Caucus Co-Chair Rep. Lois Frankel (D-Fla.)
“Even though the Supreme Court ruled that abortion is a constitutional right 49 years ago, we are witnessing an all-out assault on reproductive freedom today. Let’s be clear about one thing: Abortion bans don’t ban abortions, they just ban safe abortions. These unconstitutional restrictions disproportionately affect Black women and families and worsen our country’s maternal health crisis.
“As the co-chair of the Democratic Women’s Caucus and second vice chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, I remain steadfast in defending reproductive justice for all Americans. Now more than ever, we need to get the Women’s Health Protection Act passed through Congress and signed into law. The 49th anniversary of Roe v. Wade is a reminder of how far we’ve come on reproductive freedom and we cannot afford to go backward.”—Democratic Women’s Caucus Co-Chair Rep. Brenda Lawrence (D-Mich.)
“This is an anxious anniversary for everyone who cares about abortion rights, but it hits especially hard for those of us who can become pregnant. It is truly maddening to continually hear colleagues, especially white men from both parties, tell us that abortion rights and reproductive healthcare are not priority issues. That’s why I was proud to vote for the Women’s Health Protection Act. As a millennial lawmaker, reproductive healthcare is my healthcare. And it’s time we started treating it like the central issue that it is.”—DWC Freshmen Representative Rep. Sara Jacobs (D-Calif.)
“I started my career on the front lines for reproductive freedom in the South. I’ve seen firsthand how harmful laws to eliminate and restrict access to abortion can be.
“Forty-nine years after Roe v. Wade cemented the Constitutional right to abortion, reproductive justice is under attack in courts and state legislatures across the country. Congress has a duty to enshrine abortion freedoms into law, to ensure that everyone can make decisions about their health and families freely.”—DWC Whip Rep. Nikema Williams (D-Ga.)
“49 years ago today, the Supreme Court ruled in Roe v. Wade that the decision to take a pregnancy to term was a woman’s alone to make. It wasn’t a radical holding, but like any issue tied to women’s equality, autonomy and economic power, it has been under attack for decades. No matter the health risks or economic harm a forced pregnancy could inflict on a woman, anti-choice politicians are hell bent on controlling our bodies. And it’s part of a larger attack we’re witnessing on women—especially low-income women and women of color.
“Protecting the right to abortion and the ability to access reproductive care will take all of us acknowledging the systems of oppression that persist in America. Untangling the wicked web of systemic racism and misogyny will require us all to recognize that the fight for reproductive freedom is a fight for equality and justice.”—Assistant Speaker Katherine Clark (D-Mass.)
“Though decades have passed since the Roe vs. Wade ruling, the battle still rages on over women being able to make their own reproductive health choices. On the anniversary of this momentous decision, we must remain vigilant in protecting a woman’s right to choose, particularly in the face of efforts at the state level to limit the ability of women to access the services they need in making the best decisions for their health and families. There is no better time than right now to ensure that women’s health and reproductive rights are respected and protected for future generations.”—Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.)
“If sharing my abortion story helps the next person sitting in that health center waiting room, the next young person trying to bring up the conversation at the dinner table, the next person trying to work up the courage to reach out and ask for help—then I know it was worth it. As St. Louis’s congresswoman, as a pastor, as a nurse, as a single mother and as a survivor, I believe every human being in our country should have the right to healthcare, and I will do everything in my power to protect that right. Because abortion care is healthcare. Reproductive justice is healthcare.
“Right now, Republicans in Missouri are working to ban abortion care, restrict access to family planning services, undermine our healthcare system and enact a S.B. 8 copycat law. It’s incumbent on every Democrat—from the White House and Congress to state houses and city council chambers to do what needs to be done to protect voting rights, pass the Women’s Health Protection Act, and guarantee reproductive and sexual healthcare to everyone. We can’t do any of that without first abolishing the filibuster, so there is absolutely so much more our government and the President could be doing to guarantee these fundamental rights. Too much is at stake not to do everything we can to ensure the health, safety and well-being of every community.”—Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.)
“This year, the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision is more important than ever because, the right to access safe abortion care is once again directly in jeopardy. If the Supreme Court actually ends the protections of Roe and allows states to begin cherry picking women’s rights, the effects will be disastrous, especially for the health and futures of women of color, poor women and LGBTQ people. But we don’t need to leave the fate of our healthcare in the hands of ideologues like Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett. Congress can act right now to guarantee a woman’s access to abortion care. That is why I introduced the Women’s Health Protection Act which will guarantee this right, no matter where you live. This law will put an end to disingenuous laws that purport to protect women, but actually make it harder for them to access healthcare and make decisions about their own bodies. Our healthcare choices should be left to women and our doctors, not Republican legislators who want to control our choices.”—Rep. Judy Chu (D-Calif.)
“Thanks to a concerted effort by special interests and a zealous push by extremist politicians all across the country, we are closer today than we have ever been to losing the critical protections afforded by the Roe v. Wade decision. No matter what happens at the Supreme Court in the months to come, I will not stand idly by as reproductive rights are rolled back and women lose autonomy over their own bodies. As long as I am in Congress, I will continue fighting to protect our hard-earned progress and prevent politicians from turning back the clock on a woman’s right to choose.”—Rep. Angie Craig (D-Minn.)
“We have come a long way in defending women’s rights and reproductive justice, but we can no longer simply say Roe v. Wade is the law of the land—we must take action. Recently, the House of Representatives passed the Women’s Health Protection Act, which codifies Roe v. Wade—and we must push for this in each and every election.”
“We cannot allow our nation or women’s health to go backwards, all women must have access to safe and legal abortions. A woman’s freedom to make her own private health decision should not be up for debate anymore.”—Rep. Madeleine Dean (D-Pa.)
“I wish we were celebrating the anniversary of Roe v. Wade today knowing that this historic decision was respected and reproductive rights were secured across the nation. Sadly, this is not the case, and our decades-long struggle to protect abortion and reproductive healthcare access is not over.
“This year, we are facing numerous challenges to Roe. If overturned, the consequences would disproportionately be borne by low-income communities and communities of color. This anniversary must continue to fuel our fight for reproductive rights and health equity—starting with the Senate sending the House-passed Women’s Health Protection Act to President Biden’s desk.”—Rep. Suzan DelBene (D-Wash.)
“Reproductive freedom must be a reality for everyone. Each person in the United States—no matter who they are, where they live, or how much money they make—should have the freedom to make their own decisions about whether to start or grow a family without interference from politicians.
“This year’s anniversary of Roe v. Wade is particularly important because it comes at a pivotal moment in the fight for reproductive freedom. With United States Supreme Court deliberations on a case that directly challenges our constitutional rights, abortion rights and access are on the line like never before.
“The Supreme Court has shown they cannot be trusted to protect the constitutional right to choose. It is up to Congress to pass the Women’s Health Protection Act to end this assault on reproductive freedom once and for all.
“I will never back down from the fight to protect and expand reproductive freedoms. Make no mistake, this fight is about human dignity. This fight is about freedom.”—Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.)
“When I was a police chief, we brought down violent crime by 40 percent by putting away criminals like rapists, stalkers and domestic abusers. Now, extremist politicians in Texas and my state of Florida are instead trying to empower those same criminals to sue victims if they get an abortion. Let me be clear: No Florida woman needs to justify her healthcare decisions to anyone. It’s our freedom to decide, versus their attempts to control.
“When I chose to start a family, I did not ask my senator, my congressman, nor my governor for permission. Every woman has the right—the freedom—to make their choice for herself, and to do so based on her own personal individual circumstances. The Constitution is a stubborn thing, and we will not stop fighting for the constitutional protections of the 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade.”—Rep. Val Demings (D-Fla.)
“As a woman from Texas, it has always been a source of pride that Texas women challenged the law and fought to protect the health, privacy, dignity and freedom of women and families across this country in the case of Roe v. Wade. And it was a 26-year-old Texas woman named Sarah Weddington who took that case all the way to the Supreme Court—and won.
“This year will be the first that we mark the anniversary of Roe without her. She was part of a generation of trailblazing Texas women—and women across the country—who made it their life’s work to make our world one of equality, opportunity and possibility for women. With so much of that work now under attack from the state house to the courthouse, it is our opportunity and our obligation to carry on their work—and to build on it. And we can take from this generation of Texas women a guide for what we must do now: Challenge the system, speak the truth, raise more hell and win elections.”—Rep. Lizzie Fletcher (D-Texas)
“Roe v. Wade not only guarantees the legal right to abortion, but protects the District of Columbia, in particular. If overturned, a future Republican Congress could ban abortions in D.C. completely. That is why today, on the 49th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, we must not only recognize its significance, but keep pushing to codify it.”—Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.)
“My whole life, women have been fighting to secure basic reproductive rights, and present circumstances have made clear that these are rights we can never take for granted. Roe v. Wade was a long-overdue turning point that granted women self-determination over their own bodies, but the fight persists. This anniversary serves as a reminder that we must continue to defend reproductive freedom because the health and safety of American women and families is at stake if we do not.”—Rep. Chrissy Houlahan (D-Pa.)
“As an adoption attorney for 25 years, I worked with more than 300 birth mothers making the most personal, private decisions of their lives. They consulted their families, loved ones and doctors, but not one looked to the government to make that choice for them.
“Safe access to reproductive and preventive care, including abortion, is essential to the health and well-being of women and families. That’s why I was proud to help introduce the Women’s Health Protection Act of 2021 to take urgent action to protect the reproductive freedoms of all, regardless of the state they live in. The House passed this bill last year—on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, it is essential that the Senate follow suit to protect the freedoms of women across the country.”—Rep. Ann Kuster (D-N.H.)
“As we celebrate nearly half a century of Roe v. Wade and all the work that has been done to protect reproductive rights, we cannot and will not ignore the threats that are endangering women’s constitutional right to choose. Extremists are eager to bury Roe and outlaw abortion in the United States, and that is why the Senate must pass the Women’s Health Protection Act—so that no person is forced into circumstances that they neither wanted, nor prepared for. The choice to start a family has vast health and financial implications, and we cannot ensure women’s personal and economic empowerment unless we protect Roe.
“On the 49th anniversary of Roe, we renew our commitment to ensuring women have the power to make their own decisions about their bodies without political interference.”—Rep. Susie Lee (D-Nev.)
“Reproductive rights across the country are no longer just being chipped away at – they are being bulldozed straight into the ground. I refuse to stand silently by and watch that happen. Last year, the House passed the Women’s Health Protection Act to enshrine a nationwide right to abortion, and I call on the Senate to do the same. Protecting reproductive rights has never been more important in our history than right now. We must fight for reproductive justice by protecting and expanding access to abortion, birth control and all forms of reproductive healthcare and passing the Equal Rights Amendment. We aren’t full citizens—and there is no democracy—if we can’t control our own bodies.”—Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.)
“With harmful abortion bans and restrictions happening in many states, we must fight harder than ever before to protect the constitutional right to abortion care. Time and again, Republicans have put politics and their personal ideology above allowing individuals to make their own decisions about their health and future. The right to a safe, legal abortion has been the law of the land since 1973, but a Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe puts this access across the country in jeopardy. I have been a longtime advocate for reproductive health, and I’ll continue fighting to preserve the constitutional right first recognized in Roe, and protect access to a safe, legal abortion for all people, no matter where their zip code, income, race, or immigration status.”—Rep. Doris Matsui (D-Calif.)
“Like many women in America, my story includes a struggle to get pregnant. My son Jordan was a miracle for me and my growing family. For years, my doctor and I had been forced to make hard choices about my reproductive health, and every woman in our country deserves the same access to safe, effective healthcare. As we prepare to mark the 49th anniversary of Roe, the right to safe care is under threat across our country, and we must continue to protect a woman’s right to choose.”—Rep. Lucy McBath (D-Ga.)
“As we approach almost a half century since the Supreme Court’s 7-2 ruling on Roe v. Wade, abortion rights are under serious threat. It is very possible that our nation could see a woman’s right to choose almost completely abolished. Right now, we must do all we can to make sure this almost five decades old ruling is upheld across the nation. The Senate must pass the Women’s Health Protection Act which would protect a woman’s right to choose an abortion. We have no more time to waste. A women’s right to independence over her own body is at stake.”—Rep. Grace Meng (D-N.Y.)
“Getting an abortion is a healthcare decision that no Supreme Court justice or politician should be able to take away. Shamefully, we have seen partisan justices on the Supreme Court do the bidding of extremist, anti-choice Republicans across the country.
“I remember life before Roe, where women were forced to have ‘back-alley’ abortions because they have no other choice and, too often, lost their lives as a result. We can’t go back. The current attacks on women’s reproductive care reinvigorates my fight for accessible and affordable abortion care. We need the Women’s Health Protection Act to guarantee these rights to every person—no matter where they live.”—Rep. Gwen Moore (D-Wis.)
“Forty-nine years ago, the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision affirmed every woman’s constitutional right to reproductive healthcare. Nearly half a century later, this landmark decision remains under a real, unprecedented threat as 2021 saw more reproductive healthcare restrictions enacted by state lawmakers than at any other time in history. These backward attempts by far-right, male lawmakers to limit reproductive access are not only an outright betrayal of our constitution but a clear indication that they do not trust women to make their health decisions about their own bodies. We cannot let Roe v. Wade’s 49th anniversary become its last. From the halls of Congress to the streets of our communities, I will not stop fighting to protect every woman’s constitutional right to basic reproductive healthcare.”—Rep. Marie Newman (D-Ill.)
“I was 18 years old when the U.S. Supreme Court guaranteed a woman’s right to make her own healthcare decisions in Roe v. Wade. If you’ve only known an America where abortion was safe and legal, it can be hard to comprehend the suffering women endured before Roe. But in this country – the wealthiest nation on earth – women died without access to basic reproductive healthcare. I never thought that in my 66th year, politicians and partisan judges would turn back the clock to that dark time and strip women of their constitutional protections.”—Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-Maine)
“Everything is on the line this year as the Supreme Court considers Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization—a case that could determine the fate of women’s access to abortion care around the country for years to come. As we mark 49 years since Roe v. Wade, we must ask ourselves: how far have we really come? In 49 years, we have seen state legislatures relentlessly assault women’s fundamental right to choose. In 49 years, we have seen conservative politicians question the ability of women and their families to make sound decisions for themselves. We cannot rely solely on the courts to protect our rights. Last year, the House passed the Women’s Health Protection Act, legislation that will safeguard the right to access abortion care free from political interference. The moment to act is now. We must enshrine women’s reproductive freedom into law.”—Rep. Deborah Ross (D-N.C.)
“As someone who grew up in the early 1970s, the launch of Ms. magazine in 1971 (my mother was an early subscriber) will be forever linked in my mind with the efforts to pass and ratify the Equal Rights Amendment and the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973. The wave of feminist activism and successes in that era rightly predicted vast changes in American society, and to a young woman, the future seemed boundless.
“Fast forward 50 years, it’s disheartening to see how many battles are still unfinished or being refought. Roe v. Wade has been settled law for nearly 50 years, the majority of Americans support a woman’s right to choose, and yet conservatives continue to attack abortion rights relentlessly.
“Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death in 2020 removed the last major impediment to an all-out assault by conservative extremists against the freedom of women to control our own reproductive health. Since then, we’ve seen a tidal wave of legislation and court cases designed to overturn Roe roll through the country and up to the Supreme Court of the United States. This well-orchestrated threat has been a long time coming—and people interested in protecting reproductive rights have tried to ring the alarm for years.
“Now, we’re looking at a five-alarm fire, and we know who will bear the weight of this burden the most—those who aren’t white, wealthy, and well-connected. The dangerous policies being advanced across the country will be devastating for Black and brown women, our LGBTQ neighbors, and low-income families.
“It is my honor to be in a position where I can continue defending our reproductive rights so every individual and every family has the freedom to make the reproductive choices they need. Congress must step up to counteract what we are seeing in the states and at the Supreme Court. Last year, the House passed the Women’s Health Protection Act, which would codify many of the protections in Roe v. Wade. The Senate must do the same. The right to safe and legal abortions, and the freedom to make personal health choices, should never be up for debate.—Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon (D-Pa.)
“Despite widespread support from the majority of the American public, women’s health and reproductive freedoms face the greatest existential threats since before the ruling of Roe v. Wade. In New Jersey, we’ve seen first-hand what rolling back women’s rights looks like. In 2010, Governor Chris Christie defunded family planning providers and by 2012, at least 33,000 fewer patients were able to access services such as clinical breast exams, STI testing, and contraception supplies, a 24 percent drop. Reproductive freedoms and accessibility to critical female healthcare services were hard won by women of the generations before me and it’s now on us to continue the fight for women’s autonomy and dignity for the generations of women to come.”—Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D-N.J.)
“As we celebrate the 49th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, we’re reminded that reproductive freedom remains under threat. Last year was one of the worst years for Republican state legislative attacks on women’s health rights since Roe v. Wade was decided. After orchestrated appointments by Sen. McConnell, the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization case before the Supreme Court should concern all of us.
“I voted to pass the Women’s Health Protection Act through the House in September which would codify the constitutional right to an abortion. Reproductive rights are at the heart of gender equality. The people most often blocking access to reproductive rights are cisgender men in positions of power, and the people hurt most by abortion restrictions are those who already face barriers accessing healthcare—particularly Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC), women, and low-wage workers. Reproductive rights shouldn’t be up for debate. Forces are working to make this the last anniversary of Roe; defeating them will require all of us to fight.”—Rep. Dina Titus (D-Nev.)
“For 49 years, the anniversary of Roe v. Wade has been a time to reflect on the courage and determination of advocates who fought to secure women’s reproductive freedom. Every year, though, we’ve also understood that it is a freedom that could be taken away from us at any moment. If we don’t act, that moment may be coming very soon. In the House, my colleagues and I made passing the Women’s Health Protection Act a top priority when it became clear that the Supreme Court was threatening the right to a safe and legal abortion. It’s time for the Senate to do the same and send this legislation to President Biden’s desk.”—Rep. Jennifer Wexton (D-Va.)
“This year’s anniversary of Roe v. Wade lands during a crisis point for reproductive rights as state legislatures challenge the constitutional right to abortion across America. During this critical moment, I want to make it clear that—above all—abortion is a healthcare issue. Every pregnancy is unique and every medical decision should be made with a highly trained professional who believes each patient’s decision should be based on what is best for them, not the political agenda of anyone else. Today and every day, we must do everything we can to ensure everyone has access to comprehensive reproductive healthcare.”—Rep. Susan Wild (D-Pa.)
“Many young people now don’t know a world without Roe v. Wade—I do. We cannot go back to the days of criminalized abortions. If Roe v. Wade is overturned, the consequences will be most sharply felt by those who already face the biggest barriers to accessing care. Abortion bans don’t stop abortions, they just make them harder and riskier to get. This is about life or death. It’s about racial, economic and gender equality. It’s about people having autonomy over decisions they make about their bodies.”—Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.)
“Roe v. Wade is one of the most consequential Supreme Court decisions of the 20th Century. It ensures the right to legal and safe abortion and safeguards everyone’s right to bodily autonomy and reproductive freedom. Almost 50 years later, the threat to our right to choose is in danger as right-wing state legislatures seek to diminish access to abortion, which will exacerbate racial and economic injustices that harm women, families and communities. Abortion coverage bans are discriminatory policies that target people of color and young people, who deserve agency over their own bodies. This year, it is more important than ever to protect the right to choose. I am proud to stand alongside my colleagues of the Democratic Women’s Caucus to continue the fight to uphold the legal right to abortion established under Roe v. Wade, pass critical legislation like the Women’s Health Protection Act to defend and expand access to reproductive health care, and protect the right to abortion for all Americans.”—Rep. Julia Brownley (D-Calif.)
“I remember when the Supreme Court decided, in a seven to two decision, to establish the legal right of American women to have an abortion. That was January 22nd, 1973—49 years ago this Saturday.
“And I remember the horrifying pre-Roe story my friend told me of her back-alley abortion. Yes, Roe v Wade wasn’t the beginning of women having abortions; it promised the end of women dying from abortions.
“Today, the vast majority of all Americans believe that Roe should not be overturned. And Congress has the power to restore that right for all Americans. And for the first time in U.S. history, a body of Congress, the House of Representatives, passed legislation, the Women’s Health Protection Act, that would codify abortion rights. Forty-eight senators have already committed to support that bill—not yet enough, but getting close.
“I see this right for women and girls as the most fundamental of rights, the threshold right. Without bodily autonomy, all other rights are thwarted. It becomes impossible to plan and control one’s life and future without this basic right.
“This is the moment for Americans—women and men—to rise up and say NO! Women will not go back! This is literally a fight for our lives, and that fight requires a full-scale mobilization, organization and determination. We need to take this fight to the ballot box.
“Justice Sonia Sotomayor warned of the ‘stench’ of politics as the Supreme Court listened to arguments over the Mississippi abortion access case coming from the new Trump majority, a majority that does not represent the views of most Americans. But the right-wing Republicans that installed the justices who are taking away abortion rights, may rue the day. They have thrust the abortion issue back into the legislative—and electoral—arena and that could create a massive backlash this November.
“In fact, from local and state elections to the U.S. House and Senate races, this is the issue than could determine the outcome of the 2022 elections. Women and men who support abortion rights can fight to ensure that candidates who oppose this fundamental freedom are denied a victory on election day.
“Finally, we can’t settle for an accommodation strategy in response to state laws like those in Texas and Mississippi. In the end, while it may be necessary, it will never be enough to raise funds for women and girls to travel to other states, or only build more clinics in pro-abortion rights states, or recruit more providers. In the end, nothing short of restoring this fundamental right in all states, for all people is acceptable! We must be fierce and fearless! We can do this!—Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.)