Like most of my peers, I can not remember a time when women were denied access to safe and legal abortion. I don’t take this right for granted and neither do 68 percent of young Americans who believe abortion should be available in their own community. Our grandmothers, our mothers, our communities fought for this right so that I would be able to make my own decisions about my body. As we honor the 41st anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the right to safe and legal abortion has never felt more important to me than it does now.
In 1973, the Supreme Court of the United States decided Roe v. Wade, a landmark ruling stating that a woman’s ability to have a safe abortion is part of her constitutional right to privacy. In essence, no state could outlaw abortion, yet many have tried. There have been more attacks on our reproductive freedoms in the last three years than in the entire previous decade. Politicians across the country have enacted more than 200 restrictions on abortion access since 2010. As a result, more than half of women of reproductive age like us are living in states where access to abortion is being restricted by their state legislatures. Make no mistake: safe and legal abortion is under attack. Even here in New York, a key piece of legislation to level the playing field for women, the Women’s Equality Act, died in the State Senate last year because it would have codified the tenets of Roe v. Wade in state law. It seems our State Senators would rather avoid expanding equal pay laws and sexual harassment protections if it also means strengthening abortion laws.
I adamantly oppose these unprecedented efforts to turn back the clock on women’s health and I’m not alone. In fact, six in 10 young Americans believe abortion should be available in all or most cases. And 80 percent of New York voters want the abortion provision of the Women’s Equality Act to become law.
This fight is not about being “pro-choice” or “pro-life.” Those outdated labels don’t come close to defining who we are or the complexity of this issue. Instead of talking about what divides us, let’s talk about what we can agree on. What the majority of us do agree on is that these are decisions that should be left to a woman and her doctor.
For us, reproductive freedom is not just about abortion. It’s interconnected with the spectrum of social justice issues we care about. It is impossible to discuss access to abortion without addressing poverty, racism, sexism, discrimination against immigrants and the range of issues that impact our ability to truly make the decisions that are best for ourselves, our families and our communities. I began my work with Planned Parenthood when I transferred to Stony Brook University in my sophomore year. I learned more and more about how women’s voices were being suppressed and how they were constantly being denied the right to do what they wished with their own bodies. This is when I determined that I had to stand up, be one of the many advocates for women’s rights and ensure that women are guaranteed the right to be in control of our own bodies – and no one else – especially not politicians.
We follow in the footsteps of our foremothers who fought to legalize abortion before 1973. Now it’s our responsibility to create a new reality for sexual and reproductive freedom. That’s why I lead Vox: Voices for Planned Parenthood here at SBU, just one of the more than 200 campus groups across the country focused on harnessing the power, energy and enthusiasm of young people to fight for reproductive freedom — and for fundamental justice for all. We became a club at Stony Brook in 2011 and have worked to educate the campus community on their sexual health and to empower everyone to make decisions that are right for them.
As we fight against these attacks on women’s health care access across the country, we need your help. We know that in order for this fight to be successful it has to be, not only interconnected with other social justice issues, but intergenerational. Help us make the Planned Parenthood Generation the generation that puts an end to the attacks on safe and legal abortion once and for all.
Nicole Massa, business management and sociology major, is the President of SBU Vox. She can be reached at [email protected]