800px-Supreme_CourtToday is the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, which made abortion a legal medical procedure in the United States.  Polls indicate that a majority of Americans support keeping abortion legal in all cases.

“The issue of whether or not a woman has a fundamental right to be able to control her body and to be able to make informed decisions about her healthcare is something that is not controversial, but unfortunately it remains maybe more so than ever before,” says RH Reality Check senior legal analyst Jessica Mason Pieklo.

“This is a battle that even though we talk about Roe v Wade and the Federal rights and the view of constitutional right, the battle for reproductive rights is really being brutally waged at the state level. We saw that in 2012 with a record number of  anti-abortion restrictions and we’re going to see even more probably come through the 2013 legislatures at the state level. Gerrymandering has not only created opportunities…in the House of Representatives in DC, but it has created some very conservative districts at the state level. And so that’s where a lot of these battles are being waged. And they’re being waged in states where there’s already a lot of problems with access and where activists have been fighting back this onslaught for decades now, places like South Dakota, places like Texas, places like Arkansas and Alabama and Mississippi and Florida and the list really, unfortunately, stretches on and on and on.” says Pieklo.

Jessica and Trust Women Silver Ribbon campaign leader Dr. Sophia Yen will be our guests on our MOMochat podcast this week. They talk about where we’ve been, where we’re going and where we stand in the ongoing War on Women, including the 112th Congress’ stunning decision to let lapse the Violence Against Women Act: Listen live Wednesday at [12:00] PM Eastern/[11:00] AM Central/[9:00] AM Pacific at BlogTalkRadio or on Stitcher.

“Now isn’t just the argument over legal abortion, it’s now whether or not family services should be available, and that leads into whether paid family leave is important. And sick care and equal pay and this all of a sudden becomes the economic reality that for women making this choice it always is,” Pieklo says.

The case of Savita Halappanavar, the woman who died of blood poisoning after being denied an abortion in Ireland is a cautionary tale. “Catholic institutions are buying up medical facilities and as part of that, denying access to care,” Pieklo points out.. “In Arizona, there’s a story of a nun who was excommunicated because she ordered at there hospital an abortion to save a woman’s life. And she was excommunicated from the church as a result of that. Who knows had she not made that decision what would have happened to that woman… We don’t need to have women die unless we believe that women don’t have value beyond being vessels for birth. Because if that’s the case, then the morality of women dying unnecessarily doesn’t matter; it’s not a moral conversation at that point because there’s no worth. So one of the reasons why I think it’s so important to push that conversation is because I think it gets to some of the real ingrained cultural views about women’s worth that is driving the current legislative push to restrict abortion access.”

What To Do While Your Rights are Under Threat

Pieklo points out that the most important thing is to keep fighting. “We can’t relent,” she says. “It’s exhausting, but we have to stay the course.” That means affirmatively pushing back against anti-abortion legislators and others.

“2012 could have been much worse,” says Pieklo. “A President Romney and Vice President Ryan would have meant something like the original redefinition of rape bill [becoming law].”

We should let our legislators know what WE would like to see in a legislative agenda. “We need to look at the Hyde Amendment as a target for repeal,” says Pieklo. “Women on Medicaid who need these services have to pay out of pocket and there is no real reason, we can undo it. Now is a good time for it because we need to do it,” she says.

Most important is making clear to all that access to reproductive healthcare is one of our fundamental rights. We need to push back along those incremental attacks, “whether it is in the form of insurance company bans or unnecessary regulations, this is where the power of our voice – and not be afraid to have this conversation all the time. We have to destigmatize it, to take away some of the power,” Pieklo says.

“The Pro-Choice community has the truth of women’s experience, has the moral high ground in this debate. We need to stop running from it,” she says.