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June 26, 2022

Where Were You when You Heard that Roe v. Wade was Overturned?

Last night, women went to bed with some semblance of rights to body autonomy and woke up with them stripped away.

This morning, I was horrified but not surprised to hear that the Conservative Justices on the Supreme Court voted 5-4 to overturn Roe v. Wade. I initially felt the same kind of numbness that I experienced when I have heard the news that someone I knew had died. It was followed by cursing and rage. I won’t be silent. I will use my communication skills to stand up for the right to choose. Potentially child-bearing people’s bodies are not owned by a theocracy.

If people chest pound, bible-thump, and pearl clutch about the topic of abortion in the name of religion, I would direct them to these references.

Samuel A. Alito, Jr., Clarence Thomas, John G. Roberts, Jr., Stephen G. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, Brett M. Kavanaugh, Elena Kagan, Neil M. Gorsuch, and Amy Coney Barrett convened, and five of them made a decision that will affect the immediate and future lives of millions of potential child-bearing people in the United States.

Some of those people’s pants should be bursting into flames right about now. At their confirmation hearings, they indicated that Roe v. Wade was “settled law.” Clearly, they lied. Simple as that. With the stroke of a pen, they obliterated hard-won freedom for women to make decisions concerning their own bodies and their own health care. One thing I would like to know is how they can look each other in the eye and work together as colleagues after such a devastating decision. The three Liberal justices wrote a chilling dissent in response.

According to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, “It’s a slap in the face to women about using their own judgment to make their own decisions about their reproductive freedom.”

This ruling puts the decision in the hands of the states. Eighteen states have laws on the books that ban abortion outright or place limits on the conditions of abortion. My state of Pennsylvania remains a place of freedom for those who seek this necessary form of health care. As long as candidate Josh Shapiro wins the Governor’s seat, it will continue to be so.

As a 63-year-old woman, I am not of childbearing age, so you might say that it will not directly affect me. I am the grandmother of children whom this will affect. I have friends who are of childbearing age. My prayer is that none of them will be faced with a situation where their rights become a question.

I am pro-choice, not pro-abortion, although I know, love, and support several in my life who have had to make that difficult decision.

It was not one that they made lightly. Many who say that they are pro-life are merely pro-birth and are not in favor of sex education, contraception, and taking care of the needs of every child once they are outside the womb.

I will share a story of someone who gave me permission with the guarantee of anonymity. She was 22 years old, a new college graduate. She had been in an on again/off again relationship, and during their final time together, contraception failed. Her periods had been consistent throughout her life, and when it was late, she became concerned.

After taking a pregnancy test, her suspicions were confirmed. When she told her former partner that she was indeed pregnant, he told her that he would support her decision whatever it was. She prayed about it. She considered her options, they continued to discuss it for a few days, and ultimately, she found herself making an appointment at a local women’s clinic.

He paid for half of the procedure, and along with friends, he saw her through the aftermath. There was physical pain and emotional pain. When I asked her, she said she would make that same decision if she had to do it again. She was not cavalier about it. She is grateful that Roe v. Wade existed so that she would not be compelled to birth a person she was neither equipped to raise nor give up for adoption.

I don’t think anyone in a position to consider an abortion has forgotten that there is a potential baby in their body. I use the word “potential” because without the carrier, the fetus can’t exist. I know many pregnant women who won’t announce it to their families, let alone the wider world until they are far enough along, just in case they have a miscarriage.

In 1992, I had an ectopic pregnancy. At the time, I didn’t know I was pregnant. After severe cramps and hemorrhaging, I got myself to the ER, and once I had an ultrasound, the doctor came to me and informed me that the fertilized egg had lodged in a fallopian tube, and as it grew, that part of my body ruptured and I required emergency—life-saving surgery.

The closest I can come to describing the pain is the kidney stones I have passed over the years. If there was a ban on abortions at that time, I would have had to justify the intervention, further adding to my trauma and putting my life at risk. I still bear the physical scars, as my lower abdominal muscle was cut, so no matter how fit the rest of my body looks, my belly holds the reminder of the six-week-old fetus that had made an abrupt exit.

This morning, I was listening to Story Corps on WHYY, which is my local NPR station. It was a perfectly timed, previously recorded interview with Rabbi David Young and Cantor Natalie Young as they shared the heart-rending story of reluctantly needing to have an abortion when, following an ultrasound a month prior to delivery, they were told that their son, Elijah, would not be able to survive outside the womb. They went to see Dr. George Tiller who specialized in late-stage abortions. He was compassionate at a time when they were terrified and made a horrific situation bearable. Three years later, Dr. Tiller was murdered at his church by Scott Roeder who claimed to speak for the unborn. So much for pro-life.

There are some organizations and individuals who are forming the equivalent of an Underground Railroad to help those in need get to states where abortion care is still available and safe.

I feel hopelessness and determination. I heard an interview on MSNBC with Rebecca Traister who wrote this article called The Necessity of Hope. She sounded the alarm but offered this by way of a salve, “So today is surely a day to weep and mourn and rage and be very, very afraid, and to understand that many of us will not live to see today’s calamity reversed. And in so acknowledging, we go forward with the will of those who came before, and those who have never stopped putting one foot in front of another, to some finer tomorrow, distant but always possible.”

One powerful way to protect the rights of living, breathing people who can potentially give birth is to galvanize, organize, and vote for pro-choice candidates all up and down the ballot. President Biden had this to say about this heartrending event and devastating day, “This fall Roe is on the ballot. Personal freedoms are on the ballot. The right to privacy, liberty, equality, they’re all on the ballot.”

People were taking it to the streets all over the country to make their voices heard, and some were taking it to cyberspace to declare, We Will Not Be Controlled. Thank you, Abigail Bengson, for expressing what so many are feeling.

Someone I spoke to tonight said that this pivotal event would be like 9/11 and 1/6, and people will remember where they were when they heard. I was in my car. Where were you?

“The decision whether or not to bear a child is central to a woman’s life, to her well-being and dignity. It is a decision she must make for herself. When the government controls that decision for her, she is being treated as less than a full adult human responsible for her own choices.” ~ Ruth Bader Ginsburg

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