Skip to contents
Opinion Columns

Carman: Roe may be doomed, but the fight for women’s rights is about to get a shot of adrenaline

To say we have been manipulated is a grotesque understatement.

Now that we’re faced with the likelihood that Roe v. Wade will be overturned, politics will never be the same – and a lot of that may be for the better. 

To understand, consider how we got here.

Until the 1980s, abortion politics weren’t a big deal, even for the Catholic Church. In fact, for a long, long time, to be a pro-life Catholic meant you were passionately opposed to the death penalty. Anybody who went to Catholic school in the 1960s can confirm that.

Diane Carman

Protestant clergy members went even further. They created the Clergy Consultation Service on Abortion in 1967 to counsel women and recruit doctors who would defy the law and provide safe abortions to women who wanted them. Then, it opened the first legal abortion clinic in New York City and created an underground railroad for women from all over the country who sought safe abortion services.

Abortion wasn’t much of an issue for Republicans in those days either. 

Ronald Reagan, Nelson Rockefeller,  Richard Nixon, Barry Goldwater, Gerald Ford and George H.W. Bush all were pro-choice for blatantly obvious reasons. A Gallup Poll in 1972 found 68% of Republicans said abortion was a private matter between a woman and her physician. 

Justice Harry Blackmun, who was a Nixon appointee with solid conservative cred, wrote the majority opinion on Roe in 1973, which was supported by seven justices on the conservative court.

TODAY’S UNDERWRITER

So, what happened?

Phyllis Schlafly, the woman who spent her cynically brilliant career undermining career women, created the anti-feminist, anti-gay rights, anti-equal rights, anti-choice movement and embedded it in the Republican Party to replace the anti-Communist fervor that had energized the party for 30 years and was seriously running out of gas.

For all those who say the anti-choice political movement is based on some kind of holy moral high ground, I say don’t be ridiculous. It was a political organizing strategy. Read the history. 

It has never been about morality. It’s about making something as complicated and important as life-and-death health policy utterly simpleminded and transactional. It’s about exploiting gullible people for purely political ends. 

It’s fundamentally and flamboyantly anti-women.

But before we let the much-anticipated decision by the Trump court majority send us screaming into the night, let’s look closely at what the next frontier in women’s reproductive rights could hold.

It could lead us closer to Hillary Clinton’s long-ago goal of making abortion universally “safe, legal and rare.”

Much of what could be the future for reproductive rights is already here and has been demonstrated to save lives, save taxpayers’ money and reduce abortion rates in Colorado. It also would further empower women, to the horror of the pussy-grabbing Trump crowd.

One of the most impressive programs is the Colorado Family Planning Initiative, funded several years ago by a private foundation to test the theory that access to safe and effective contraception could reduce the need for abortions and improve public policy.

The program provided training for health care providers, support for family planning clinics and access to contraception, including long-acting reversible contraceptives that are out of reach financially to many women.

Over the demonstration period, the program cut teen births and abortions in half, reduced public assistance costs by $70 million, reduced births to women without high school diplomas by 38%, decreased births in rapid succession and increased the average age of first birth by 1.2 years. 

It was an unequivocal success and, despite objections from Republican legislators who were loath to give up their cunningly anti-women political weapon, eventually cooler heads prevailed and it won funding from the state.

Another clear measure of the success of pro-choice policies in Colorado is their impact on the infant mortality rate.

In states where reproductive health care is most restricted, infant mortality rates are significantly higher than those of Colorado. The rates are 8.3 in Mississippi, 7.6 in Louisiana and 7.5 in Arkansas, for example, and 4.7 in Colorado. 

But while Colorado offers a few moderate reproductive health care policies of which we should be very proud, a post-Roe America will require aggressive action.

Since we know that abortion has been around as long as pregnancy has and will always be with us regardless of the fate of Roe (c’mon, instructions for it are even described in the Bible), more and more states will have to step up to ensure women’s rights are respected and that women won’t be left to die in unsafe procedures.

More women will seek online sources for mifepristone and misoprostol to terminate pregnancies. It isn’t as comforting as getting services in a clinical setting, but the drugs are readily available and a whole lot better than the methods prescribed in the Bible. 

We can expect a vast suite of services for women to emerge to fill the gap if medical professionals are no longer allowed to provide full reproductive health care. 

Picture a modern underground railroad – with digital outreach.

And we can count on highly motivated activists to mobilize the 70% of Americans who support abortion rights to get states to pass legislation to guarantee access to full reproductive health care, and make contraception affordable and much more widely available.

It will take a while, I’m sure, and women’s lives surely will be sacrificed in the meantime, but it will happen.

Count on it.


Diane Carman is a Denver communications consultant.



The Colorado Sun has no paywall, meaning readers do not have to pay to access stories. We believe vital information needs to be seen by the people impacted, whether it’s a public health crisis, investigative reporting or keeping lawmakers accountable.

This reporting depends on support from readers like you. For just $5/month, you can invest in an informed community.