Protest art in St. Johns. It’s not hitting my feelings exactly (it doesn’t jibe with the UU first principle), but it does capture the zeitgeist.
The draft opinion of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization dropped right when I was smack in the middle of the longest period of my life. For 15 straight days I bled, a marker of my waning theoretical fertility.
I’d love to say that the decision took me by surprise, but it was more like my approaching menopause. I knew the end of Roe v. Wade was out there, but I didn’t know when it would happen. In my mind, the last wall fell when Ruth Bader Ginsberg died, but the chipping away has gone on for years. It was happening when I was in high school and Roe hadn’t yet turned 20.
I wept when Ginsberg died. When the official decision came down, I’d already done my mourning.
My fertility remains a theoretical thing because I’ve never been pregnant. I’ve never wanted to be, I’ve worked very hard not to be, and I’ve been lucky enough to have the means to suppress that egg from starting it’s monthly journey and lucky enough to live in a time when I was allowed to do that. I’ve also been lucky enough that my various forms of birth control (there have been many) have worked and I’ve never had to go through the steps to get an abortion. Steps that have been relatively easy in all the states I’ve lived in, at least at the time I lived in them.
Gen X follows the coming of legalized abortion. The youngest ones were prepubescent when Roe came down. We’ve hit menopause or are wrapping up our ability to conceive just as six people on the Supreme Court decided we aren’t the people who get to decide what to do with that fertility.
Because I’d never wanted children, the ability to have an abortion was paramount. I educated myself about birth control (Thanks, Our Bodies, Ourselves and Sassy Magazine!) got on regular birth control once I became sexually active, and was rigid about contraception. Still, I always made sure I had at least $600 in my checking account, and always knew where the nearest clinic was.
People have abortions for a variety of reasons. Some are selfish, some are logical, some are an act of mercy, some are well through through, some are not thought through at all. A lot of people have opinions about that particular medical procedure. But does that mean they get to say? It does not.
In high school, I wore a brass cuff engraved with Becky Bell’s name and her birth and death dates. When people would ask me what was the meaning of the bracelet, I would explain that Bell had died in 1988 from complications due to an illegal’s abortion she sought because of parental consent laws. I lived in the (very) slightly liberal city of Boise in a very conservative state, so a lot of time that information would be met with silence or a quick change of subject. But a lot of women, hearing about a young woman died from an illegal abortion, would tell me about how scary it was before abortion was legal and the friends they lost, or the stories of their friends who were grossly affected by illegal abortions. But I think I was the only one hearing those stories. To hear everyday women speak about abortion was never a thing. As with so many things, we don’t listen to women’s stories. We don’t even ask them what their stories are.
And that, for me, is what this comes down to. There are two pillars of my fundamental belief in a person’s right to choose abortion. The first: abortion is a medical procedure that should be decided on by the patient with input from the doctor treating the patient. The second: women and other pregnant people have always sought abortions, no matter what the law says. When they can’t access them legally, they find a way.
There shouldn’t have to be a way to be found. Just as every person in the United States should have access to healthcare, so should part of that healthcare include deciding for yourself, if a pregnancy should continue.
I’d like to think that this is the issue that causes an uproar across the nation and a blue tide in November. But I don’t think it will be. We will need to have another generation see what it’s like when a bunch of people get to make choices for other people and see the fallout before we can find a new path.