“You can't really protect women or men from their choices, so let them
have their own lives and trust the process. Given the history of
society's efforts to control women's sexuality and reproduction, this
remained a revolutionary idea. No wonder it disturbed and frightened
some people so deeply.”
Annie’s shoulders shook as she sobbed. I patted her shoulder, whispering, “What’s wrong? What’s wrong? “
It was a beautiful day. Annie and I were walking to our dorm after class, chatting away, when the subject of abortion came up. It was 1959; abortion was illegal, shameful, and rarely mentioned. Annie said she thought women should be able to get help if needed, and to my everlasting shame, I replied that abortion was murder. She collapsed on a bench and tearfully told her story.
She grew up in a small town. She was a 15-year-old cheerleader- a pretty, straight-A student. One night after a football game, the 45-year-old coach gave her a ride home; he stopped on the way to rape her. He told her not to tell, that no one would believe her. He was the coach of a championship team, the town hero, and the town loved football. A few months later, Annie realized she was pregnant and turned to her parents for help. They called her a liar and a slut and kicked her out of the house. “You’re no daughter of ours,” they shouted. “How dare you be pregnant! Don't you go blaming the coach and disgrace this family.”
Using her small college savings, she got to the nearest city where she had a kitchen table abortion with knitting needles. She became critically ill with an infection and survived but would never be able to bear children. Supporting herself, she finished high school and won a full University scholarship.
Shocked and ashamed, I saw my ignorance. Instead of being supportive, I was like Annie's parents: self-righteous, judgmental, and quick to blame her, the victim. In the pre-Roe v. Wade years, thousands of women and girls died annually from botched abortions; I didn't know. No one ever talked about it.
Today, we return to those dark times with an almost total ban on abortions in Texas and restrictions in many states. With its newly expanded conservative majority, the Supreme Court will hear Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization this term. This case is the Supreme Court's opportunity to overturn Roe v. Wade. Will judges hear the stories of young girls and women forced to bear babies against their will and denied essential health care? Will they minimize the suffering of women who are in desperate need of help? Will they determine that pregnancy is a woman’s burden, regardless of the circumstances?
We can’t be silent while women are sacrificed on the altar of judges and legislators who think they know better than the people involved and who are willing to send vigilantes after anyone who offers them aid or comfort. We need to elect representatives who will vote for pre-natal care, post-partum care, benefits for the children who are born, and family leave.
Having the right to choose doesn’t mean the choice is easy. Nearly 1 in 4 women will have had an abortion by age 45. Each had to decide under profoundly personal and challenging circumstances. Not everyone can afford birth control. There will always be people who become pregnant by way of force or coercion. There will always be those who have stories of trauma and vulnerability too complicated to relate. The sanctimonious, judgmental thinking of those who think the government should be involved in these intimate, personal decisions hasn't changed; what was wrong in 1959 is still wrong.
We, as Democrats, need to work to right the wrong.
We support candidates who support a woman's right to choose, regardless of her ability to pay. We support family planning, adoption incentives, and essential health care services, and our party platform states, "Abortion should be legal, safe, and rare. "
Now is the time to stand up for these values and for all who face heartbreaking choices.
Let’s march on October 2nd.