Jan. 22 marks the 40th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court decision on Roe v. Wade that affirmed a constitutional right to privacy and made abortion a safe and legal medical procedure. It is a decision that continues to generate heated controversy and legislation on federal, state and local levels.
Annette Magnus-Marquart, public affairs coordinator for Planned Parenthood of Southern Nevada, said last week that the decision was a huge victory for women.
"In all areas across the United States, it made it safe and legal so that women were not going to back-alley abortion providers -- and dying," she said.
Abortion is not an easy decision to make, Magnus-Marquart adds. "It is a deeply personal and often complex decision for women, their families, their faith and their doctors," she said.
Since the Supreme Court decision, anti-abortion partisans have tried to overturn the decision through federal legislation with limited success, but states and localities have chipped away at abortion access via a number of legislative and even zoning decisions. One state, Mississippi, would effectively ban abortion by requiring doctors performing the procedure to have admitting privileges with regional hospitals -- which the hospitals have not granted.
According to the national Planned Parenthood organization, in the first quarter of 2012, legislators introduced 944 provisions related to reproductive health and rights -- half of which would further restrict access abortion, while the others are designed to eliminate access to birth control and basic, preventive women’s health care. Magnus-Marquart said Nevada is resisting that tide, in part because 64 percent of Silver State's voters in 1990 codified the federal decision in state law.
"We are only one of a couple of states that have that," she said. Furthermore, efforts to institute a so-called "personhood" amendment, which would not only ban abortion but could affect access to popular forms of birth control, have failed twice here.
"Nevada is a very open-minded state and people respect a woman's right of privacy around these issues," she said.
But Magnus-Marquart warned that too many women, especially those who, like her, were born after the Supreme Court decision, believe that the issue is settled even as "more and more politicans are trying to make choices for women."
One change she said is needed is to move beyond the labels of "pro-choice" and "pro-life" that have defined the controversy for two generations.
"We really need to start thinking of the way we're talking about those issues," Magnus-Marquart said.
She noted that by providing access to contraception and comprehensive sex education, "Planned Parenthood does more to reduce the rate of unintended pregnancy than any other organization around the United States."