NOTE: This is a guest post from Sharon L. Camp, Ph.D., President & CEO of the Guttmacher Institute.
Today marks the 40th anniversary of the landmark Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision, which legalized abortion nationwide. Roe has had a dramatic impact on the health and well-being of American women — abortion is now safer and occurs earlier in pregnancy than ever before.
Yet four decades later, abortion remains a highly contentious political issue. Indeed, the debate has become more fractious than at any point in my nearly 40 years working in the reproductive health field.
According to the Guttmacher Institute’s tracking, the 43 state-level abortion restrictions that were enacted last year were the second-most ever, exceeded only by the 92 restrictive measures enacted in 2011. More than half of all U.S. women of reproductive age (15-44) now live in a state that is hostile to abortion rights, whereas fewer than one-third did a decade ago.
Unfortunately, the national conversation about abortion is often clouded by myths and misinformation. This includes not only age-old stereotypes about women who have abortions, but also false claims that abortion causes breast cancer and mental illness. In many states, laws now require that women seeking abortions receive “counseling” on these purported health risks despite their having no basis in science. Proponents of these laws invoke “informed consent,” seemingly untroubled by the irony that they are undermining that very principle.
To ensure that the debate is guided by facts, the Guttmacher Institute has created a series of infographics that distill a wealth of data into five snapshots about abortion in the United States today. The graphics touch on important issues like the increasing concentration of abortion among poor women, and include some of our best “myth-busting” findings. For example, six in 10 women having abortions already have a child and 73 percent are religiously affiliated.
I encourage you to use these graphics and share them with your friends, family and colleagues — and to let us know your thoughts on our Facebook page.
There are no women of reproductive age in the United States today who knew the world before Roe v. Wade. These women have never known a nation in which abortion was illegal and unsafe. Yet keeping abortion legal and safe — and accessible to all women — is and must always remain an urgent national priority.
Infographics courtesy of the Guttmacher Institute.