January 22, 2023 is the 50th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision, which made abortion a federally protected right in the United States. We lost this protection in June with the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision, but we did not lose the fight for abortion access. Preterm is still open and providing abortions to the legal limit in Ohio, and we join our colleagues around the country in providing care in the most hostile environment since Roe.
What keeps me going in these challenging times is the legacy of Preterm’s founders. Preterm opened its doors on March 15, 1974. Women could not even get credit cards in their own names until October of that same year, when Congress passed the Equal Credit Opportunity Act. I am struck by how brave and determined the women who founded Preterm were to open an abortion clinic in such an environment. And not just any clinic, but a clinic that was not-for-profit and boldly feminist, founded on the insights and lived experiences of women.
The rallying cry of the abortion movement of the period was “free abortion on demand without apology.” This explicitly connected women’s economic oppression to their ability to control their bodies. Our founders understood the importance of keeping abortion affordable and created a model of subsidized care to ensure that everyone who needed an abortion could get one. To this day, Preterm subsidizes care for 95 percent of our patients to keep abortion accessible.
Since our founding, Preterm and the reproductive rights movement have grown and learned. The movement for reproductive freedom now is more expansive than the right to abortion. Black feminist activists and other activists of color have highlighted the importance of the right to comprehensive, culturally-competent healthcare and the right to bear and raise children in safe communities. Transactivists have advanced gender-inclusive pregnancy and abortion care.
Roe articulated these fundamental truths: that pregnancy is a choice, that it is work, and that it is not destiny. But it never ensured the liberation of “abortion on demand without apology.” Our fight now is to win more than this. We must win reproductive freedom and autonomy for all people.
On the 50th anniversary of Roe, and in Preterm’s 49th year, I am moved by the bravery and determination of our staff and colleagues who are fighting for reproductive freedom today. Though the Dobbs decision was a terrible blow for people seeking abortion and abortion providers like Preterm, it also brought together coalitions that support expansive reproductive rights. It made us understand that, in the words of Fannie Lou Hamer, “Nobody is free until everybody is free.”
Interim Executive Director