by the Health and Reproductive Rights Team
National Women’s Law Center
Today is the 35th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the landmark Supreme Court decision that secured abortion rights for women in the United States. Here at the National Women’s Law Center, we’ve been reflecting on what choice means to each of us.
When I was only 10 years old, my mother took me and my two sisters to a pro-choice march on the National Mall. As my mother bravely answered my question about the meaning of a coat hanger with a line through it, an image on many of the marchers’ signs, I learned the lengths to which women will go to end their pregnancies when abortion is not legal. Today, I support choice because I never want to return to the desperation that results when women lack control over their own bodies. — Jen
As an African-American woman, I take extreme offense at efforts to mobilize the black community to oppose abortion rights by invoking slavery. The essence of slavery is taking away someone’s power to make decisions about their own bodies, labor and lives. Sounds more like anti-choice thinking to me. Choice is freedom. — Jill
My commitment to the principle that women should make their own decisions about their bodies is longstanding and deep. So I was surprised when, after I adopted a child, some people questioned my commitment. How can you, an adoptive mother, who benefited because a woman chose not to have an abortion, support abortion? they said. My commitment is to the principle that the woman decides. I am so grateful for this birth mother's decision, but it is not for me or anyone else to make that decision for her. — Judy
Though a long-time supporter of the right to safe and legal abortion, I began to define “pro-choice” differently in those terrifying-yet-liberating days when I was coming out to my friends and family. Supporting choice is more than securing reproductive freedom; it is support for the right to determine our own life course, and to make major life decisions about marriage, sex, children, and family without interference and with the respect of others. — Brigette
What if everyone knew their rights and took precautions to improve their health? I grew up bouncing between the Middle East and South Asia where I witnessed innumerable communities unwilling to embrace reproductive and sexual health issues. Cultural taboo silenced topics such as pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections, and contraception. My upbringing in these environments fueled my passion for and belief of reproductive choice. — Dina
Supporting choice means I don’t support sexist double standards or antiquated views of sex that continue to restrict women’s life choices. People are sexually active and have to make decisions about sex and reproduction, and their choices should include options like abortion. I want everyone I know, especially the young women in my life, to be entitled to the same fundamental opportunities and rights, and that’s why I’m pro-choice. — Darsana
Simply put, to me choice means that women have a right to self determination – to control their own destiny. It means that no one else’s value system is more important than my own. — Lisa
Roe v. Wade and I came into existence the same year, although I imagine Roe’s delivery generated much more excitement and controversy than mine. While I like to think I’m just now starting to show signs of aging, Roe is definitely worse for the wear after 35 years. When Roe was just 19, it was crippled by the Supreme Court in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, engendering the restrictive patchwork of state abortion laws that we know today. For Roe’s 34th birthday, the Supreme Court celebrated with Gonzales v. Carhart, a further blow that we’ll see play out in the coming months and years. I’m not sure what the next 35 years will bring for either of us, but I hope that as I continue to age, Roe will be restored to its original vitality. — Gretchen
I’m pro-choice because I am fiercely protective of a woman's right to make personal decisions about her body, her health and her family; because I believe that everyone should have access to comprehensive and medically accurate facts that will allow them to make wise decisions about sexual health; and because I know that thoughtful decisions are for naught if family planning technologies aren’t accessible, affordable and safe. I’m pro-choice because I feel strongly that people should be able to engage with their sexuality — which can be a source of meaningful intimacy, pleasure and self-expression — and have more options than simply crossing their fingers and hoping that they didn't just sacrifice their health or their potential in the process. — Julia
Choice recognizes a woman’s autonomy over one of the most intimate and personal decisions women face today. Life-altering decisions such as whether or not to have a baby or whether or not to undergo one medical procedure over another must be made by women who face the immediate consequences of those decisions, not by state or federal legislatures. — Diana
For me, the right to decide whether or not to have a child is intimately connected to the rights women were granted by the 19th amendment. Both pose the basic question at the core of women’s citizenship: whether or not I get to participate, freely and equally, in the public sphere, and whether the government can impose restrictions that prevent me from participating in the public sphere on account of my sex. Roe v. Wade is a part of and connected to the proud history of the women’s movement, and our fights today are connected to these fights of old — not just the past 35 years, but the past 200. — Steph
Now, we'd like to hear from our readers. What does choice mean to you?