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A Conversation on Choice 39 Years after Roe v. Wade 

by the Pro-Choice and Reproductive Rights Committee


This year marked the 39th anniversary of Roe v. Wade.  On January 24, 2012, two days after the anniversary date, WLALA’s Pro-Choice and Reproductive Rights Committee held an important and informative program on the latest legislative, regulatory, court and other challenges to women’s reproductive freedom. 

The program featured a stellar panel of speakers: Sue Dunlap, President & CEO of Planned Parenthood Los Angeles and Executive Director of Planned Parenthood Advocacy Project L.A. County; Dr. Julie Cantor, an adjunct professor of law at the UCLA School of Law, a practicing attorney, and a graduate of the Yale University School of Medicine; and Dr. Rachel Steward, an Obstetrician/Gynecologist in Los Angeles, with a specialty in contraception and abortion who works to provide the full spectrum of reproductive health services at the University of Southern California and Family Planning Associates.

Attendees were treated to a wide-ranging and active discussion of the latest challenges to women’s reproductive freedom across the country, efforts to combat those challenges, and how to reach the hearts and minds of others to communicate the importance of protecting women’s reproductive rights.

One focus of the program was on the ways in which a woman’s right to choose is restricted through laws that do not ban abortions outright, but instead regulate, for example, the medical clinics that provide abortions or the ability of a woman to obtain insurance coverage for an abortion or access to important medication.  Another way in which legislators around the country are restricting a woman’s right to choose is by imposing a waiting period or other requirements, such as parental consent or ultrasound requirements, before a woman can legally obtain an abortion from her doctor.  Legislators have also imposed bans on abortions after a certain period of gestation and sought to enact “personhood” initiatives which seek to define a “person” in such a manner as to restrict or outlaw abortion. 

Among other things, panelists shared that in 2011 alone, states passed 83 laws restricting access to abortion and that 32 states allow Medicaid funding for abortion only in cases of rape, incest or endangerment of the woman’s life.  For more information, panelists recommended the Guttmacher Institute’s State Policies in Brief, accessible here.  Panelists also discussed impediments within the medical community to training abortion providers and providing abortion care to patients.  Among other things, the panelists shared that less than 8% of obstetrician/gynecologists within the United States provide abortions and 87% of all counties in the United States have no abortion providers. 

Attendees and the panelists had a frank and active exchange on how to connect to others, especially young women today, on the importance of these issues.  If you are interested in getting involved and learning more, contact WLALA and ask to join WLALA’s Pro-Choice and Reproductive Rights Committee.  The Committee thanks the panelists and attendees for making this an excellent event!