36th Anniversary of Roe v. Wade

By Jillian Gilchrest, Executive Director, NARAL Pro-Choice Connecticut

January 22, 2009

As a 26 year old leader in Connecticut’s reproductive choice movement, I am excited to be here today-- to celebrate the 36th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the inauguration of President Barack Obama, and the future of reproductive healthcare in Connecticut and the nation. In his remarks Tuesday night at the Neighborhood ball, President Barack Obama said, "that what we [as Americans] have in common, is more important that what drives us apart.” I believe that to be true and to be the very thing we need to remember when we discuss reproductive healthcare.

I was born after Roe v. Wade, and was fortunate never to have experienced life without the right to access abortion, but in growing up in a post-Roe era, my experiences with reproductive healthcare have been shaped by discord and divisiveness. When I was growing up, abortion clinics were being bombed. When I was in high school, our town fought over sex education only permitting the school nurse to talk to our health class once during our junior year of high school. When I entered college, George W. Bush entered his first term in office and began to systematically erode my right to access basic reproductive healthcare services.

I think what is so motivating and refreshing to so many young people engaged in politics and social justice is Obama’s vision of an America where we don’t disagree for disagreements sake-- an America where we seek to find common ground rather than continue to debate our fundamental differences.

In the case of abortion, there are those who believe it should be legal, those who believe is should be legal sometimes, and those who believe is should never be legal. For many people, those beliefs will never change—so why continue to argue.

What we should and can have are discussions about the underlying reasons why women seek abortions—unintended pregnancy. If we truly want to reduce the number of abortions, enacting more regulations on current abortion statutes isn’t the way to do it. This just serves to fuel a debate about abortion with no end in sight.

As you will hear today, the future of the reproductive choice movement is focused on prevention. Common amongst all of us, those for and those against abortion, is the desire to reduce unintended pregnancies, thereby reducing the need for abortion, and we can do that-- with better access to contraceptives and comprehensive, medically accurate, age appropriate sex education.

For those of us here today celebrating the 36th Anniversary of Roe v. Wade, we believe that abortion should always be a safe and legal reproductive healthcare option, but we also believe that by providing women and men with the medically accurate information they need to make informed decisions and by allowing them access to all reproductive healthcare services, we can reduce unintended pregnancies.

So as we begin this new and exciting time in our country’s history, let’s remember what we have in common and work together to create a positive change for our state and for reproductive healthcare.