**TRIGGER WARNING: This post contains material of a graphic and controversial nature**
I am angry, upset, and speechless. This past week, a historical error was made in the United States supreme court. It took me time before I could even prepare to write this. I had to let the information sit with me, and mull it over for a while. This is the first time in a long time that I needed to formulate my thoughts before I could even begin to put them down on “paper”.
Let me start by discussing Roe vs. Wade, and why it is important. In 1973 the United States supreme court voted against the banning of abortions in Texas, which in turn made abortions legal across the country. It maintained that it was a woman’s constitutional right to her body and decisions surrounding it. Up until that point, women could seek abortions for medical reasons, or travel out of the country if they had the financial means to do so. Those who were impoverished or did not have access to proper medical care sought out illegal clinics or, unfortunately, took matters into their own hands. The decision in 1973 allowed women to access abortions safely when necessary. It is also critical to add that constitutional law overrides state law, so states that wanted to ban or limit abortions no longer had the power to do so.
After the ruling, women were able to make choices about their bodies based on their circumstances. This segued into birth control, health care, body and sexual autonomy. It would appear it was only about one issue, but in fact, so much more came of it. Crime rates, incidents of illegal abortions, and risk of death were all lowered. Employment and healthcare opportunities increased. By normalizing a woman’s right to choose, confidence increased. And yet, this week we were shuttled back 50 years when the court overturned the decision. Before we go any further, an important distinction needs to be made. Being pro-choice is not the same as being pro- or anti-abortion. Pro-choice means you are open to the right to choose. It doesn’t mean you have to agree with her choice. Pro-choice means that you believe that legislation and government should not dictate a woman’s body. And yet, here we are… stripping women of their right to choose what they want to do with their own bodies.
Being pregnant and choosing not to be is not limited to women in committed relationships (although even then it is within a woman’s right to choose). Being pregnant as a result of rape, ectopic pregnancies, or pregnancies with fetal abnormalities are all reasons why women may choose to end the pregnancy. This doesn’t even mention medical or economic conditions which may come into play. I am not sure what upsets me more – the fact that this decision has been overturned or the number of times I have read comments on social media that if you don’t want to be pregnant, you should “just close your legs”. The shame that is placed on women for even being in the position to need to make a choice is its own version of cruel and unusual punishment.
I WISH I was making this up because my faith in humanity drops down a point each time I read a comment like that. It is such a close-minded, myopic, uneducated point of view, which is almost always held by those who have never been put in the position to make that choice.
All that is to say that there is a sense that when a woman chooses abortion it is a flippant decision, which is not necessarily the case. I want to qualify this by saying that I have never personally been in this position but I know others who have. Many women wrestle with the decision and do not come to it lightly. It is one that is made over the course of many days of debates and even more days of questioning after the fact. Women who choose to participate in abortions live with that decision every day – it is one they don’t forget.
The overturning of this decision is about the right to choose, yes. But it is also about power, autonomy, voicelessness, the lack of rights for women, and the even smaller rights for those who are marginalized and impoverished. Yet again, those who have access to money and means will go to another state or another country to safely access abortions. Those who cannot, will be back to illegal clinics and underground means.
For a country that is already grappling with the right to bear arms, and the rampant gun violence that is plaguing communities, it is a sad fact that women seem to have fewer rights than guns. Guns are protected – if you want them you can have them. Women, not as much.
As a mother to a girl, I am sad. Even as I sit here and write this, I think about my own daughter. I am aware that I am writing this in Canada, and I technically don’t have to fear repercussions should she or I ever be forced to make a decision like this. I am grateful that the Canadian government has come out and stated that women’s rights are sacred and will never be up for debate. I am grateful that our country is one that has pledged not to politicize a woman’s reproductive system. But I would be remiss if I didn’t say I am still scared. I read a quote last week that said that “when the United States sneezes, Canada catches a cold”. While I don’t think the same law will come into effect here, our neighbours to the south do influence us. What does it say about the United States that 9 people have been able to make a decision affecting millions? Their morals, beliefs and laws are all, at some point, intertwined with ours. What does it say about us as humanity if the country that is considered one of the most progressive in the worst has sent women back to the dark ages? American children will have fewer rights than their mothers did. This will very sadly have global implications with other countries feeling more empowered to limit women’s reproductive rights.
Interestingly enough, my daughter approached me as I was writing this and asked what I was writing about. I told her I didn’t want her to read it, and that I needed time to explain it to her. And I sit here wondering how I can even begin to verbalize this to her. Not because it is about sex and pregnancy but because it is the opposite of everything I have taught her about her body. I have always been very clear that it is her body, and she has every right to make decisions around it… and yet some people think that shouldn’t be the case. How do I explain to her that if she ever got pregnant and chose not to keep it that she could exercise her right to choose, but so many women have just had that right taken away? And on top of it all how do I begin t explain that there is nothing we can do to change it? Yes, we can donate to organizations, sign petitions and make our voices heard, but at the end of the day, the decision is not ours to make. This is a heavy pill to swallow.
So I sit here, mad and angry. And the truth is, you should be angry, too. It doesn’t matter if you are a woman, a man, a Canadian, an American, someone who is out of child-bearing age, someone who doesn’t want children…. everyone should care. You should care about your mothers, sisters, and friends who are heartbroken by this silencing of their voices. You should care about the fact that women are feeling alone and abandoned. I am heartbroken that this is even a topic of discussion. I am devastated that there are so many women in a FIRST WORLD country that no longer have the autonomy to choose what to do with their bodies. I am enraged that the shame associated with rape and incest is magnified by the legality of the potential additional decision of terminating a resulting pregnancy. I feel helpless about the current state of humanity. Currently in search of an unknown silver lining…
This is life. Love, Mom.