Pro-choice supporters celebrated the 40th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court ruling this past Tuesday. The landmark case allowed women to make their own choices regarding reproductive rights, a topic formerly shielded from public debate. The controversial victory has since led to turbulence over the court’s decision as individual states continue to push back on the law, and more and more young people admit to being unfamiliar with the original landmark case.
MSNBC host Melissa Harris-Perry hosted an all-female panel on Saturday as they discussed the struggle to maintain reproductive rights post-Roe v. Wade.
While much of the legal battle surrounds getting lawmakers to recognize the importance of women’s right to choose, it has been recently revealed that the majority of young people do not even recognize the case that the present day debates stem from. According to a Pew Research Center poll, a large percentage of people born after the Roe v. Wade decision do not know the name of the case, and those who do instead incorrectly report what the name reflects.
The staggering poll results did not leave Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards discouraged during an appearance on Melissa Harris-Perry Saturday. She argued that the name of the case mattered less than principles. “They may not know what the word ‘Roe’ means, but they know it when someone says ‘we’re going to now take away rights that you have’.”
Politicians who are trying to restrict or eliminate reproductive rights were baffling to California Democratic Rep. Karen Bass. “The idea that a politician would tell me what to do [medically]…is really scandalous,” she said when she discussed her experience in the medical field. Bass went on to explain how her point of view was developed as she learned about patient care firsthand while working with a health care provider and being in exam rooms.
Richards questioned why this rights issue in particular is faced with such strong political backlash. “We reject government restrictions in every other part of our lives, and yet we have politicians who are literally getting in between the doctor patient relationship in this country.”
Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report offered the idea that heavy moral conflict is the main cause of the divide. She suggested that if the debate ended on one side or the other, we would be lessening attention on the intense moral struggle that this issue presents. Walter believes people want to keep moral sensitivity a prime factor on both sides of the debate.
Regardless of the reasons behind the opposition to the women’s right to choose, inconsistency is present in the resistance. “We know how to prevent unintended pregnancy. This is not brain surgery,” said Richards, suggesting an uncomplicated solution. She believes the main combatants in the rights fight are those who refuse comprehensive alternatives. Richards continued by listing the options, which include providing more sexual education and widely distributing birth control across the United States. Despite giving these suggestions, to Richards the overarching question is still, “who’s really the best person to make a decision about pregnancy at whatever stage, is it a woman or is it a politician?”
Harris-Perry will continue the conversation this weekend about the Roe v. Wade decision, focusing on access limitations, and how some women in the country go to great lengths to create their own options due to a lack of resources. Tune in Saturday at 10am ET.
See more of our conversation below.