by Liz Weston Democratic Left
Today’s ruling on Roe v. Wade came in a week of already-crushing Supreme Court rulings on gun rights, Miranda warnings and school vouchers. This piece, already commissioned by DSA Socialist-Feminists as part of our 40th-anniversary coverage, feels crucial now. If you’re not plugged into your chapter’s pro-abortion action plan, now might be the time. Ed.)
The 1973 Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade and the subsequent legalization of abortion across the United States did not end debates and activity around the question of abortion. Although that decision was partly the result of years of organizing by women’s groups and by medical groups appalled by the rising number of illegal and often back-alley abortions, it did not settle many issues of reproductive rights, such as access to abortion and that of forced sterilization. In fact, those issues became central to the politics of the second half of the 1970s.
Even before Roe, when abortion was illegal almost everywhere in the United States, there was an organized anti-abortion movement--largely led by the Catholic Church, which coined the term “Right to Life.” In the 1972 election, Richard Nixon adopted an anti-abortion position in order to win over Catholic voters. Following Roe, the so-called Right to Life movement became more active, pressuring Congress to pass anti-abortion legislation. Over time, the Right to Life movement expanded to include Protestant evangelicals, who called themselves the Moral Majority, and right-wing politicians, called the New Right. By 1977, Republicans in Congress passed an amendment to health care and family planning funding, banning the use of federal funds for abortion services. The Hyde Amendment, still in force today, prohibited the use of Medicaid funds for abortion as well as the provision of abortion services by federally funded clinics.
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