Friday, January 22, 2010

RHRealityCheck: What Does Choice Mean to You?

For Immediate Release
Friday, January 22, 2009

The RH Reality Check Community Commemorates the 37th Anniversary of Roe v. Wade

Thirty-seven years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court case, Roe v. Wade, ruled that a woman may choose to terminate a pregnancy under specific conditions set forth by the court. In many countries, abortion is still criminalized, clandestine, unsafe, and potentially deadly. Even in the United States, where abortion is still nominally legal, the freedom to choose abortion is seriously limited by lack of access to providers, cost and other restrictions.

Access to safe abortion is a necessary but not sufficient condition for realizing reproductive health and rights. A woman's right to bodily autonomy also depends on access to sexuality education, freedom from violence, the right to choices in childbirth, the ability to afford preventive and curative care for sexual and reproductive health needs, and other conditions.

In honor of Roe v. Wade Day, RH Reality Check asked established and emerging leaders in the field to answer the question: "What Does Choice Mean to You?"

Essays in the series come from Gloria Feldt, former President of Planned Parenthood Federation of America who talks about her perspectives on choice from a career spanning over 30 years and now as a grandmother; Bianca Velez, a young professional with the Pro-Choice Public Education Project (PEP), who talks about choice as a meaningless concept in the absence of reproductive justice, and Aimee Thorne-Thomsen, founder of PEP, who talks about the first time she realized the importance of choice in her personal life; Bianca Laureano, who recalls the death of Rosie Jimenez, the first woman to die under the Hyde Amendment; Eileen Ehudin Beard, of the American College of Nurse-Midwives tells the story of Joy Szabo, whose local hospital threatened her with a lawsuit if she didn't consent to have a cesarean section simply because she wanted the freedom to choose a VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean); and Steff Hedenkamp who talks about choice in childbirth, among others.

Silvia Henriquez, Executive Director for the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, shares the story of her father, a physician from El Salvador who saw women with botched abortions come through the emergency rooms in his home country, only to see many of them die. Henriquez writes, "The term "choice" was not used to describe [what] led women to the emergency room in El Salvador 37 years ago. And in 2010…"choice" does not encompass the reproductive health decisions that low-income Latinas are making every day."

What does choice mean to women around the world in 2010? These leaders and others answer today on RH Reality Check.

For more information: Jodi Jacobson,, +1 (301) 257-7897