Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Celebrating and Lamenting Roe (and Abortion) at 40

I was 18 when Roe v. Wade was decided.  I thought, as I walked that day to class, that abortion would now be legal and local and that the controversy would ebb away.  I could never have imagined that 40 years later, as a post-menopausal woman, I’d still be working to assure that abortion would be accessible to all, regardless of age, income, or geography.

I think my 18 year old self would have been appalled.  That 18 year old had already helped a friend get to New York City for an abortion because it wasn’t legal in Connecticut.  That 18 year old had already had a friend who had been sent to an “aunt” for a school year to have a baby and give it up for adoption.  That 18 year old had already had a high school classmate who had dropped out of school to have a baby.  That 18 year old already knew that her grandmother had had an illegal abortion.

I cheered that Supreme Court decision – and all those who had worked to make it happen.
On this 40th anniversary, I cheer that Roe has held, but despair that we still have to fight.  I loved the President’s line about Selma, Seneca Falls, and Stonewall, linking the civil rights and equality of all.  I wish he had something about women’s reproductive rights.  (As an aside to this blog, I also wish he had remembered the B ad the T in LGBT, as they were invisible yesterday, but that’s another blog this week!)

I applaud all those along the way who have stood for reproductive justice.  Let us hold in our hearts those who have gone before us in working to protect the rights of women.  Let us stand with those in every part of the globe who are working still to protect women’s access to services and to assure that no woman dies giving birth to the next generation.   On this 40th anniversary of the Roe decision, we remember in sorrow women around the world who have died because of dangerous or illegal abortions, and the providers who have been murdered providing women with these services. 

Let us applaud those clergy who have worked so hard to help people understand that there are religious foundations for affirming abortion as a morally justifiable decision and that women are moral agents who have the right and responsibility to make their own decisions about their reproductive health and futures.  We believe that the sanctity of human life is best upheld when we assure that it is not created carelessly.  It is precisely because life and parenthood are so precious that no woman, regardless of income or geography, should be coerced to bring a pregnancy to term.  We pledge our compassion and support for all who face these difficult decisions. 

Join with us.  Work with us on reproductive and sexual justice.  May there come a day when every child is planned and wanted; every pregnancy safe and supported by medical services; every abortion legal and safe and without unnecessary laws and restrictions; every woman able to make her own moral decisions about her fertility and family size. 

Celebrate Roe today.  Get back to work tomorrow. 


Unknown said...

Nice post, Debra

Anonymous said...

Roe v. Wade made abortion legal shortly before my sixth birthday. At that age, "sex" meant little more than the justification for different public restrooms! I knew that only women could become pregnant, but had absolutely no idea how. However, even at six, the idea that women were forced to bring unwanted pregnancies to term would have seemed illogical and unethical, even absurd. Abortion is a necessary evil. . .emphasis on "necessary."

Born decades after passage of the 19th amendment, I have never known what it is like to be deprived of the right to vote. Having the misfortune to enter adolescence almost in tandem with the Reagan era, I have always been grateful for Roe V. Wade, but have never, ever taken it for granted. At 15, I realized it was very possible that people would still be fighting about abortion when I was going through menopause. 30 years later, menopause is on the distant but visible horizon, and I fear I may be proven right.

Fortunately, I have never needed to deploy Roe v. Wade as a reserve parachute. As an adolescent, I practiced abstinence. When I eventually became sexually active, I used what was the most reliable temporary birth-control method available at the time. When I turned 36, I scheduled a tubal ligation with a female surgeon, knowing I was finally at an age where it wouldn't be refused: aware that not just abortion but also access to reliable birth control was beginning to come under attack, I was very weary of worrying. I regret having to undergo the risks of general anesthesia for political reasons, but absolutely do not regret having the tubal ligation. In the decade since, it has saved me much anxiety.

With some shame, I admit that I am no longer as committed to Roe v. Wade as I once was. Although some of this is mild selfishness (I put in my time when I was younger and able to reproduce; let young women who may take Roe v. Wade for granted run the next relay leg), part of it also political maturity. By my early 30s, I understood how the Democratic party abuses women with the abortion issue just as much as the Republican party: "if you don't vote for us, you'll lose Roe v. Wade!" Roe v. Wade is important, but what if I decide it's not as important as opposing corporatism or wars of aggression?

We shouldn't have to choose.

Lindsey said...

Love your post. I went to a celebration of Roe v. Wade last Tuesday hosted by the local Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice. It is so nourishing to have this work be uplifted as a moral good, as a way of serving others-and by those who might lay claim to a 'higher' authority! Let's hope that in 40 years we will have made more progress toward better access and better compassion!