Abortion and reproductive justice activism in the post-Roe era

January 16th, 2013

Categories: abortion restrictions, economic justice, Funds, TakeAction, unfair laws

January's American Journal of Public Health features our own Marlene Gerber Fried, co-founder of the National Network of Abortion Funds, faculty director of Hampshire College's Civil Liberties and Public Policy Program, and current Network board member. Her article, "Reproductive Rights in the Post-Roe Era," chronicles the history of abortion rights activism since the passage of Roe v. Wade four decades ago.

In the years leading up to Roe v. Wade, clandestine abortion funds had sprung up around the country, helping women travel to countries or states where abortion was legal. At great personal risk, feminists, activists, and sympathetic clergy formed referral services and raised money to assist women who needed abortions--and just as today, were only able to reach a fraction of those who needed help. Roe's passage in 1973 signaled a tremendous victory for women's health, rights, and in the language of the time, liberation.

Roe's passage ignited a fiery backlash from anti-abortion forces, and over the past 40 years the response from reproductive rights supporters has evolved: unprepared for the fierce, organized, and sometimes violent response to the legalization of abortion by the far right, the movement of women's rights supporters failed to coalesce when the extreme Hyde Amendment passed in 1976. The mainstream abortion rights movement branded itself as pro-choice in the 1980s, whereas many women of color, young women, immigrant rights organizations and others began forming their own groups to address a broader reproductive rights, health, and justice agenda.

In fact, as we celebrate the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the National Network of Abortion Funds will celebrate our own anniversary: twenty years ago, in 1993, a loose group of 22 individual abortion funds formally established the National Network of Abortion Funds. Today we are a strong network of nearly 100 funds consisting of grassroots activists passionate about securing the promise of Roe v. Wade for all women.

Download Marlene Gerber Fried's article here