Forty Years After Roe v. Wade, Women Still Caught in 'Political Fight,' New York Times Columnist Writes

January 10, 2013 — In the 40 years since the Supreme Court issued its ruling in Roe v. Wade, "women seeking abortions have been put through a lot of unnecessary trauma" by laws that force them to travel far distances to obtain the procedure and comply with requirements like mandatory ultrasounds and waiting periods, New York Times columnist Gail Collins writes.

Women are "caught in the middle of a political fight over a deeply personal issue that leaves most Americans feeling uneasy," she writes. While a recent Time article focused on the failures of the abortion-rights movement, and some polls suggest that support is declining, Collins notes that polling on the issue largely depends on how the questions are worded.

"Americans are permanently uncomfortable with the abortion issue, and they respond most positively to questions that suggest it isn't up to them to decide anything," she writes. A recent survey by Planned Parenthood found that 83% of likely voters said they believe women should make their own decisions about pregnancies, including 64% of "pro-life" respondents. Many young people who support women's rights also tend to dislike labels such as "pro-choice" or the term "feminism," Collins adds.

"One way or another, the abortion rights cause needs all the help it can get," she writes, citing "crazy new rules" in Mississippi, Virginia and elsewhere "that make it impossible for [abortion clinics] to operate."

However, Collins also notes that voters in Mississippi and South Dakota have rejected state ballot measures that attempted to outlaw abortion. "No matter how conservative the state, sooner or later you will hit the point where the people object to politicians messing with a woman's private business," Collins writes, concluding, "Every time the anti-abortion movement pushes too far, it reminds people that its cause, no matter how filled with moral fervor, is basically about imposing one particular theology on the rest of the country" (Collins, New York Times, 1/9).