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Reproductive rights advocates marching in 1972.
On this 41st anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the struggle for reproductive rights ought to be a fading memory. Instead, as we can see from today's March for Life, abortion remains at the top of the list of contentious social issues in which frequent skirmishes occur. These can, as Republican senatorial candidates Richard Mourdock in Indiana and Todd Akin in Missouri discovered, end in electoral disasters for those who voice their opposition to abortion in too extremist a manner.

But, as we have seen during those four decades and especially the past three years, the assault on women's reproductive rights by state legislatures, a key element of the war on women, has gained victory after victory, making obtaining an abortion ever more difficult and expensive for women across the nation. While some of the more extreme measures have been blocked by the courts, at least temporarily, foes have made clear that they will never stop trying to curb safe and legal abortions no matter what it costs women and their families.

Last year, after nearly three years of stepped-up attacks, the Alliance for Justice produced a film, Roe at Risk. Here's an excerpt:

The campaign to terminate women's right to make their own decision regarding pregnancy has over the years included fire-bombings of clinics, assassinations of abortion providers, verbal and physical harassment of clinics and clinic clients, creation of phony crisis pregnancy centers and a steady increase in laws that force women to travel longer distances, pay more money, listen to lying lectures, and undergo humiliating procedures and medically unnecessary delays to obtain abortions that the Supreme Court ruled nearly two generations ago are legally theirs.

New laws have also been passed to hamstring clinics and doctors with unreasonable restrictions on everything from the size of closets to admitting privileges at local hospitals.

There is a move on this year as part of the Republicans 2014 mid-term elections game-plan to stop all tax funding of abortions, an effort that has been going on at some level ever since the Hyde Amendment was first passed in 1976 and renewed annually ever since to keep women from using their Medicaid coverage to pay for the procedure. This is, of course, a heightening of the class war that has always been a powerful aspect of the undermining of reproductive rights. The affluent have other options.

But the attacks on abortion cross class lines. The Republican legislation to cut tax funding also would require an IRS audit for rape victims who take medical deductions for abortions undergone for conceptions resulting from rape. Clearly, there are no boundaries too far for the twisted ideology that supports the war on women.

Read more analysis below the fold.

The attacks of the past few years reveal what reproductive rights advocates on the front lines have known all along: It's not just abortion that the forced-birthers want to get rid of. Birth control is under fire too, although there is at least some attempt to disguise that objective since most thinking people recognize that opposing both it and abortion requires substantial cognitive dissonance.

Republicans have made it clear that the embarrassments over extremist comments that most agree with but are smart enough not to speak aloud will not make them retreat on their attacks on reproductive rights this year. Whether they are true believers or just opportunists after the fundamentalist forced-birther vote, they intend to keep up the assault.

These efforts have not been without some encouraging pushback as we saw in Virginia over the medical rape of required transvaginal ultrasounds for women seeking abortions. But it would be whistling in the dark to say that the incessant fight over a matter that ought to be settled hasn't led to moments of despair and exhaustion for reproductive rights activists.

Despite that we soldier on. Because without the full panoply of reproductive rights, including open access to abortion, for the poor as well as the well-to-do, there can be no equality.

President Obama said today: "[W]e recommit ourselves to the decision’s guiding principle: that every woman should be able to make her own choices about her body and her health.  We reaffirm our steadfast commitment to protecting a woman’s access to safe, affordable health care and her constitutional right to privacy, including the right to reproductive freedom."

Translating that into policy, and keeping new policies from trampling those rights, requires not only more energized "street politics" but also an energizing of the Democratic base, as Markos points out, to defeat as many forced-birthers as possible, in Congress and the state legislatures. This does not mean becoming one-issue voters because most forced-birthers take the wrong stance on most issues that matter to the majority of Democrats. Never, ever should we, however, view reproductive rights as some distracting side issue. Our foes know better.

Originally posted to Meteor Blades on Wed Jan 22, 2014 at 11:02 AM PST.

Also republished by Pro Choice and Daily Kos.

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