Roe v. Wade legalized abortion 41 years ago, and access to abortion is a right that a lot of people living in the United States now take for granted. The reality is a lot more grim: the
pro-life anti-choice movement has been hard at work chipping away at abortion access. They often rely on intimidation tactics, misinformation campaigns, and — especially during the 1990s — sometimes violence. In recent years, TRAP laws (Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers) have proven successful at chipping away at abortion access on a state-by-state level. At a cultural level, the picture is just as grim. 1 in 3 women will have an abortion by the time they turn 45, but abortion remains a taboo subject. It’s a common medical procedure that few are willing to talk about for various reasons.
Sarah Erdrich discusses all of this and more in Generation Roe. It’s a great primer on the current state of abortion access in the United States because of the way it outlines what the pro-choice movement is up against. She interviews abortion providers, clinic escorts, pro-choice activists, and the patients themselves to give a fuller view of some of the effects that TRAP laws and the constant barrage of intimidation tactics have created. It’s a terrifying picture, with the barriers climbing higher the further along a person is into their pregnancy. See, for instance, the hardships one woman had to endure in the wake of Dr. George Tiller’s murder; she needed a late-term abortion because of severe birth defects:
The hospital where Dana was treated had always referred their late-term terminations to [Dr. Tiller’s] clinic, and Dana’s was the first case the staff had had after his death. After some research, she was sent to a doctor over 1,600 miles from her home. …
“I had to travel out of state; I had to pay personally $17,560 out of my own pocket, and to add that to the already horrific time and horrific stress of the situation, it’s just cruel and unusual punishment,” Dana says.
That hefty price tag isn’t unusual, either. As more clinics are closed down by TRAP laws, and as crisis pregnancy centers continue to lie to people about things like the stages of their pregnancy (tricking people into believing they are too far along to get an abortion), people who need abortions — especially those living in rural areas where access is already an issue — will continue to be forced to travel farther and pay more for their procedures.
Generation Roe also considers the bigger picture of abortion stigma and the ways that mainstream culture contributes to it; there’s a great chapter on pop culture and representations of abortion. Furthermore, she also talks about the pro-choice movement itself (including the “old school” vs. the “new school” of activism) and discusses what needs to be done to counteract the extreme measures the anti-choice side relies on.
If you live in a state that keeps introducing TRAP laws (hello, Texas) and/or you keep up with abortion legislation, some of this probably sounds familiar to you. Regardless, Generation Roe is a great pro-choice resource that’s bound to give you some new things to consider.
Generation Roe: Inside the Future of the Pro-Choice Movement was published in March 2013 by Seven Stories Press.