Traverse City Record-Eagle

Archive: Wednesday

January 23, 2013

Forum: 40th anniversary of Roe vs. Wade

It was 40 years ago this month that the U.S. Supreme Court legalized abortion in the historic Roe v. Wade decision. This landmark ruling affirmed that the constitutionally protected right to privacy includes every woman's ability to make her own personal medical decisions without the interference of politicians.

Much of the talk about Roe this month will be focused on abortion; in the same old black-and-white language we have used over the last 40 years to express our support or dissent with the highest court's decision.

But underneath all of the abortion buzz, there is a real conversation taking place at Planned Parenthood. Statewide in 2011, Planned Parenthood performed more than 27,000 exams to prevent and treat pre-cancerous conditions of the cervix. We performed more than 26,000 breast exams, more than 2,000 prenatal visits and 104 vasectomies. Across Michigan we provided nearly 100,000 tests for sexually transmitted infections. In all, we helped 90,000 Michigan women, men and teens get the reproductive health care they needed.

Each of these 90,000 patients chose to come to Planned Parenthood because they understood we provide professional, nonjudgmental, and confidential care and information. They came to have conversations like these: I'm concerned about this lump "¦ We are new partners and want to get tested together "¦ My birth control method isn't working well for me "¦ We're finally pregnant — what do we do now to help make sure our baby is healthy?

Because Planned Parenthood's care is rooted in listening to our patients, it's no surprise to us that the way people identify with the abortion issue has shifted over the years. No longer do labels like "pro-choice" and "pro-life" reflect the way people think about abortion.

The fact is, generations of Americans — across party lines — understand that it's just not that simple. Abortion is deeply personal, often complex, and not something that can be put squarely in a "pro" or "anti" box. Indeed, the number of Americans who support access to safe and legal abortion is consistently higher than those who identify as "pro-choice." And many Americans self-identify as both "pro-choice" and "pro-life," or neither.

What unites people — and what doesn't need a label — is the shared belief that politicians should not interfere in a woman's personal decision about her pregnancy. An underlying principle to such a complex decision is that none of us can understand a woman's specific situation. We don't walk in her shoes.

While politicians leave you out of the complex conversations — and forget that they do not walk in your shoes — Planned Parenthood is unwavering in the understanding that deeply personal decisions about a pregnancy must be left to a woman, her family, and her faith, with counsel of her health care provider.

As the debate rages on, we continue to promote health, prevent disease and do more to reduce unintended pregnancies — and in turn, abortion — than any other organization. We continue to provide high-quality, affordable, compassionate health care for you and those you love "¦ no matter what.

About the author: Katherine Humphrey is President/CEO of Planned Parenthood of West and Northern Michigan (PPWNM), which operates eight health centers in Michigan including in Traverse City and Petoskey. She is a Certified Social Worker with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology and a Master of Science degree in Rehabilitation Counseling.

About the forum: The forum is a periodic column of opinion written by Record-Eagle readers in their areas of interest or expertise. Submissions of 500 words or less may be made by emailing Please include biographical information and a photo.

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