Roe v. Wade debate as heated today as ever
BY SHANNON MUCHMORE World Staff Writer
Tuesday, January 22, 2013
1/22/13 at 7:02 AM
Forty years after the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision that affirmed the right to an abortion, opposition to the decision remains high in some places, including Oklahoma.
The Tulsa March for Life, which will be held in downtown Tulsa on Tuesday evening - on the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision - has previously drawn crowds of 2,000 to 3,000 people. This year, Alveda King, niece of Martin Luther King Jr., will speak.
Timothy Putnam, director of the march, said he hopes attitudes continue to shift against abortion rights.
"It's an ongoing issue," he said. "It's been going on for 40 years, and we know it's not going to be solved tomorrow."
Organizations such as Planned Parenthood, meanwhile, work to provide reproductive health services for women and men throughout the country, despite fierce opposition.
Planned Parenthood does not provide abortions in Oklahoma, but it provides referrals for them.
Also supporting the right to abortion is the Oklahoma Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, which annually buys newspaper ads signed and paid for by area residents and organizations.
"We're definitely celebrating this anniversary and the dramatic impact on health and well-being it's had," said Dr. Jill Meadows, medical director of Planned Parenthood of the Heartland.
The Tulsa Birth Control League, which later affiliated with Planned Parenthood, set up its first Tulsa clinic in March 1937. The clinic was staffed by volunteers, and fundraising was done door-to-door.
Opposition was strong then, just as it is now.
In nearby Texas, Planned Parenthood has recently been banned from participating in that state's women's health-care program.
In Tulsa, Planned Parenthood is closing its Westside Health Center on Feb. 1, saying it can't afford to keep the doors open because the Oklahoma State Department of Health terminated its Women, Infants and Children nutrition program contract at the end of 2012. Planned Parenthood maintains that the decision to end its WIC contract was political, although the state maintains that it was because of the program's high cost per participant.
In the Oklahoma Legislature, another so-called "personhood" bill that would declare that individual rights and constitutional protections begin at conception has already been filed for the upcoming session.
"We're just sad. It's frustrating," Meadows said. "Laws such as that could outlaw not only abortion but infertility and certain types of contraceptives potentially."
It is nearly identical to a measure that failed to pass the Oklahoma House of Representatives last year. In April, the state Supreme Court threw out an initiative petition that would have called for a vote on "personhood."
Oklahoma Rep. Mike Reynolds, R-Oklahoma City, who introduced this session's personhood bill, said it was "detestable" that the state Supreme Court threw out something before it became law.
"I ran for office on the idea that life begins at conception," Reynolds said.
In recent years, some people have been fighting harder against abortion, but the debate hasn't changed much, otherwise.
In Oklahoma, a woman must receive counseling designed to discourage her from having an abortion and then wait at least 24 hours before having the procedure, according to the Gutt-macher Institute, a New York and Washington, D.C.-based agency that seeks "to advance sexual and reproductive health through research, policy analysis and public education," according to its website.
The debate over abortion rights continues to be played out in statehouses and courtrooms, as well.
In March, an Oklahoma County district judge tossed out a state law that would have required women seeking an abortion to have an ultrasound within an hour of the procedure and have the results explained to her. Oklahoma's attorney general appealed that ruling in June.
A 2011 law that put restrictions on drugs that prevent the implantation of an embryo in the uterus was also overturned in court last year. Both laws were challenged by Reproductive Services in Tulsa, which performs abortions.
Putnam said it has become a cultural assumption that the Roe v. Wade decision will remain upheld, but efforts can still be made to combat that possibility, he noted.
"We believe that abortion is a moral issue," he said.
Meadows also feels strongly about the issue, and she said she find her work with Planned Parenthood empowering and meaningful.
The agency serves millions of people in the United States, including some who are in areas where there are no other family-planning services.
The Roe decision remains important, but continued action to enforce the rights it affords is needed, she said.
"It's a constitutional right, but, unfortunately, it's not one that's protected," she said.
March for Life
Speaker: Alveda King
When: 7 p.m. Tuesday
Where: From Eighth Street and Boulder Avenue to Sixth and Main streets.
Shannon Muchmore 918-581-8378
Several men carry a banner at the lead of an anti-abortion march outside Holy Family Cathedral in downtown Tulsa on Jan. 22, 2011. This year's March for Life will be held Tuesday evening. MICHAEL WYKE / Tulsa World file