Debbie Wasserman Schultz

Roe v. Wade 39th Anniversary Rally Jan 22, 2012

Debbie Wasserman Schultz
January 22, 2012— Fort Lauderdale, Florida
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This has been an incredible day. A day that has shown us that no matter how young, old, or in between we are, our rights are at stake and we are not going back. Are we? We are not going back. Today we celebrate an incredible milestone, 39 years since the Supreme Court of the United States guaranteed the women of this country our right to privacy. The right to keep decisions about our bodies between us and our doctors. Even though some are still trying to strip us of that right, we are here today to say that we will stand and fight.

Let me tell you, we are very fortunate because we have an incredible ally in President Barack Obama. On Friday he announced that he would not bow to pressure from anti-choice religious organizations asking for an exemption from the requirements of the Affordable Care Act to provide birth control without a copay. Now, women working at religiously-affiliated organizations like hospitals and universities will be able to access no-cost contraceptives. This is a true victory for women and all Americans.

Having a fearless president who will stand up for women is crucial because we can’t settle. We can’t afford to settle. We can’t settle because inequalities in our healthcare system mean that poor women still have higher rates of unplanned pregnancies and abortions which is why the no-cost contraceptives and well-women visits that President Obama included as part of the Affordable Care Act are so important. We can’t settle because our access to clinics that help these women is constantly being threatened by right-wing ideologues who claim to be protecting life yet vote to slash funding for food stamps, HeadStart, and college loans. We can’t settle because we know that we need to do everything we can to make sure leave our daughters and our granddaughters a world in which they have the same rights and freedoms that we do.

Our opponents seeking to overturn Roe claim to be protecting life, but it is no secret that making abortion illegal won’t end the problem of unplanned pregnancies in this country. In fact, legal abortion keeps women more safe. In 1955 almost 20 percent of all maternal deaths were due to illegal abortion. That is only what was reported. In looking ahead for 2012, I invite our opponents to consider this, instead of working against us by voting to defund Title X family planning programs for women who need them most, work with us to make abortion safe, legal, and rare. That’s what we stand for, for abortions to be safe, legal, and rare.

I was six years old when Roe v. Wade was handed down and never in my life have I felt that my rights were threatened like I do now. Last year alone 69 laws containing 92 anti-abortion provisions were enacted in 24 states. Florida was, unfortunately, responsible for several of those. In fact, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but NARAL’s 2012 report will show that our state’s stand on choice has officially been downgraded from an already poor D to an abysmal F, but we can bring that grade back up in 2013 right after the 2012 elections. I am confident that we can.

But the problem isn’t only at the state level. Last year the Republican majority in the US House took up a slew of bills that tried to do everything from defunding Planned Parenthood to redefining rape. They actually tried to say that it wasn’t really rape if the woman was unconscious, drugged, or otherwise mentally unable to fully consent to sex. It was only rape if it was forcible rape. This is what we’re up against. This is why we need to speak out and keep the pressure on. We need you to stand up and say that despite what we’re up against we are not going back. Say it with me, we are not going back. We are not going back. We are not going back.

It is great timing that the Roe versus Wade anniversary falls in January because it gives us plenty of time and occasion to gather together to celebrate and get fired up for the rest of this year all the way until election day on November 6th when we elect more pro-choice elected officials who are going to stay out of our bedrooms and out of our personal lives and make sure that women have the right to make our own reproductive choices, make our own healthcare decisions and not have the intrusion of the government on what we are able to do with our own bodies.

Let me tell you, we are going to need your energy, and your help, and your fire this year because it is up to us to use this anniversary as a celebration of our right to privacy for years to come. It is up to us to continue to hold those Florida legislators accountable like Eleanor and Elaine have been doing and remind them that their so-called concern for human life and dignity cannot end at birth.

2011 showed us that we can’t rest even for a moment so take that energy and that passion that we feel here today and let it carry you through all year long because remember we are not just fighting for our rights, we inherited this fight from the women before us and we keep it going because we know how important it is that our daughters, granddaughters, and young women and girls across this country will never know the horror of back alley abortions, the agony of being pregnant and not knowing where to turn, and the injustice of having their constitutional rights violated.

I know that we can take this fight all the way to Election Day, all the way to the day when we will continue to make sure that Roe v. Wade remains the law of the land and that we turn back all of the opposition that continues to throw obstacles in our way. We need to lock arms and work hard and stay focused and recruit others and remind the next generation that their rights are in jeopardy if they don’t stand up and speak up.