Roe v. Wade at 40

Tuesday marked the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the landmark United States Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion in this country.

That ruling has sparked decades worth of debates, disagreements, protests and counter-protests, and even, in extreme cases, violence and murder in the name of defending life.

Today, thousands will descend upon Washington. D.C., as part of the annual March for Life anti-abortion rally to register their distaste for the law. A counter-protest, one that supports the ruling, will also be held.

As for the law itself, courtroom battles and legislative maneuvers have chipped away at the right for women to obtain safe and legal abortions. In some states, there is only one provider of this medical procedure. Other places, restrictions have been enacted. All of these changes have made it much harder for a woman to obtain an abortion.

From what the public has witnessed over the years, one would think that little has changed since the ruling in 1973.

But while the abortion issues continues to stir very visible emotions on both sides of the issue, away from public protests and legislative sessions, thinking on the issue has been shifting.

According to a recent Pew public opinion poll, a solid majority of Americans, some 63 percent, think that this Supreme Court decision should stand. In an even stronger statement, a Wall Street Journal/NBC poll found that seven of 10 respondents oppose overturning Roe, and 24 percent of the country wants the law overturned.

While these Americans may not be out on the streets protesting, we think that they are willing to make their thinking known at the ballot box. In a number of states this past November, voters rejected candidates whose anti-abortion views caused a stir. This included the U.S. Senate races in Missouri and Indiana.

We think that many Americans realize that the decision to have an abortion is seldom made lightly — and that it is an individual choice based upon a number of factors, including religious, philosophical considerations. They agree with the court decision that found that abortion is a private concern.

They also recognize that getting rid of Roe v. Wade wouldn’t bring an end to abortions, but return the nation to a time when they were illegal and dangerous.

That’s something more and more Americans don’t want to see happen.

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