After 40 years, 'Roe v. Wade' remains controversial
Tuesday marks the 40th anniversary of the Supreme Court's landmark Roe v. Wade decision that protects a woman's right to an abortion.
Janet Golden, a history professor at Rutgers University–Camden, said the Roe v. Wade decision has improved women's health and saved lives.
"That said, I think it's a good way to open up the conversation about how we need to do more in this country to combat maternal mortality," she said.
Maternal mortality statistics track death rates related to pregnancy and childbirth. Among developed countries, America ranks 50th in the world. Golden said that means 49 countries are better at keeping new mothers alive.
"Unlike most of the developed world, we don't have universal access to prenatal care," she said. "We have many women who, because they are undocumented, show up in the emergency room in labor. They aren't getting the prenatal services they need."
Experts with the Pennsylvania Pro Life Federation are also using the Roe v. Wade anniversary to call attention women's health.
The overall number of abortions in Pennsylvania reported in 2011 (36,280) was the lowest annual number since 1999. Still, anti-abortion advocates are asking Pennsylvania officials to investigate a 2011 increase in health complications linked to abortion.
"As these statistics show, abortion not only destroys a preborn child's life but also puts its mother's health at risk," said Micaiah Bilger, education coordinator at the Pennsylvania Pro-Life Federation.
Golden reviewed the data, too.
"It seems the complications were overwhelmingly in women with pre-existing medical conditions, which certainly suggest a need to enhance medical training for those performing abortions in women with existing complications," she said.
The National Right to Life Committee estimates that there have been nearly 55 million abortions in the United States since 1973.
"That's really a sad number," said Bilger, 27. "I'm from the millennial generation. One-third of all the pregnancies the year I was born ended in abortion. As a young person, I see it as a real social injustice."