Christine Stuart photo
Jillian Gilchrest (Christine Stuart photo)

A handful of the women gathered at the Capitol Thursday to celebrate the 36th anniversary of Roe v. Wade were born years after the landmark reproductive rights case.

“I was born after Roe v. Wade, and was fortunate never to have experienced life without the right to access abortion, but in growing up in a post-Roe era, my experiences with reproductive health care have been shaped by discord and divisiveness,” Jillian Gilchrest, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Connecticut, said. “When I was growing up abortion clinics were being bombed. When I was in high school, our town fought over sex education only permitting the school nurse to talk to our health class once during our junior year of high school.”

Instead of arguing over whether abortion should be legal, “what we should and can have are discussion about the underlying reasons why women seek abortions—unintended pregnancies,” Gilchrest said.

Jessica Hunter, a Yale University student, said by the time she was born Roe was already celebrating its 15th anniversary. However, it was only four years ago that Congress passed the Deficit Reduction Act, which inadvertently altered how much colleges and universities, paid for birth control. As a result of its passage in 2005 the price of birth control soared from $10 to $45 per month.

“Birth control is basis health care and as such should be affordable and accessible to everyone,” Hunter said.

There is currently federal legislation pending to correct the law.

Judy Tabar, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Connecticut, said she hopes pro-choice advocates will be able to look back on 2009 as the year “we saw the end to federal dollars wasted on ineffective abstinence-until-marriage programs,” and “as the year when the global gag rule was ended once and for all.”

One of the first executive orders signed by former President George W. Bush was the global gag order, which prohibits US money from funding international family planning organizations that promote abortion or provide information about abortion services.

State Comptroller Nancy Wyman said she wishes she could say she wasn’t around for Roe. She urged the young women to “remember how we got here.” Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz said Connecticut is lucky that abortion is codified in Connecticut’s statutes, but every year legislators must beat back legislation that tries to erode it.