Roe v. Wade 40 Years Later is A Faint Memory for Many Millennials
On the 40th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade ruling, just 44 percent of young Americans are aware that the case was about abortion rights, according to a new report by the Pew Research Center.
Among respondents under age 30, 16 percent thought the case was about school desegregation, and 41 thought it dealt with an issue other than abortion. In contrast, around 66 percent of people over age 30 were familiar with the case, which in reality legalized abortion in the United States in 1973.
While researchers did not ask respondents whether they agreed with the ruling, another recent poll suggests that a majority of college students identify as pro-choice. However, the same researchers found that 78 percent of young people do not see abortion as a pressing issue and are “not worried” about abortion rights.
This perceived widespread disaffection—particularly in an age range born more than a decade after the landmark case—is especially relevant in the face of the record-setting 135 items of anti-choice legislation passed across the United States over the last two years. Some current students, who have never lived in an era of criminalized abortion, may take for granted the struggle for reproductive rights older generations endured.
Another theory why Millennials might not seem worried about reproductive rights is because they don't see it as a divisive issue—one where you must define your self as being for or against. Young GOPers for instance are more socially progressive than older generations, often maturing in a world where lines on issues like gay rights or reproductive rights are blurred.
Without action, Millennials' overall socially progressive orientation won't help secure reproductive rights for future generations alone. Though the legality of abortion is not under imminent threat, the insurgence of anti-choice legislation that is chipping away at the reproductive freedoms granted 40 years ago by Roe v. Wade decision should serve as a wake up call for young people (who would be mostly impacted if the ruling was ever overturned). Alabama’s "personhood" amendment, as well as the multiple states working to eliminate Planned Parenthood funding for instance, show a persistent anti-choice sentiment within state legislatures.
In a political era when the youth vote matters, as witnessed in the most recent national and local election season, educating Millennials on the issue and of the significance of the ruling will be the best way to continue the decades-long fight for reproductive rights.
Anya Callahan is a reporter for Campus Progress. Follow her on Twitter @LezAnya.