Anniversary of Roe V. Wade

7 years ago
If you end up behind me on the twisting roads of my small New England town you'll probably see the heads of several children (mostly) happily bopping around the backseat of my Volkswagen van, some of them mine, some of them friends. You'll see me trying, in vain, to keep order. You'll also probably notice the  Keep Abortion Legal sticker on the back of my van. More than one person has commented on the incongruity of the two images: the van nearly constantly full of children and the pro-choice bumpersticker.

I don't see it.

I'm not anti-children. I just want women to have children only when they want to have children. I kind of trust women to be in charge of their own bodies. Is there something weird about that? Being a mother only made me feel more strongly about that. Now I really know what it takes to make a baby. I know what it takes out of you physically. I know what you have to give emotionally. It's nothing to enter into lightly. Or by force.

A friend's father said to her after giving birth, "Still pro-choice?"

She answered, "Even more so." Looking down at the wonder of life in her arms and all the responsibility that this new little being entailed, remembering everything she'd gone through to bring that baby into the world she couldn't imagine being forced to do so. Could you?

My great aunt was married with 3 children when she had to have an illegal abortion. Her husband was a no-good lout who was already cheating on her every chance he got. She had never gone to college nor had she worked a paying job. She loved him and depended on him completely...always thinking he would change. It was what she was raised to do. Her mental health was already precarious and she knew she wouldn't survive another pregnancy. She never knew when she was going to be left with 3 children on her own.  The illegal abortion was just one more humiliating brutality for her to survivie in an already grim existence. She committed suicide while waiting another night for a husband who never came home.

When I went for a pregnancy test in high school, I walked alone to a clinic after school. I snuck there before play rehearsal. It was a nondescript place behind the school, not far from the hospital. I'd found it in the phone book. It advertised as a place that would give girls free, anonymous pregnancy tests. I told no one I was going. I didn't have really close friends who I knew were having sex. I didn't have anyone to tell. I felt completely alone. The boy? Please.

The woman in the cardigan seemed nice enough when I walked in although the place looked more like an office than a clinic and when she took my blood her hands shook. I ended up reassuring her that she did ok. But then she gave me all these pamphlets about adoption and fetal development and said, "You know you might have a baby in you, right?" I was in too much shock to do anything but stare at her. Was she kidding me? Would she still give me my test results if I disagreed with her? I had to come back to this creepy place in 3 days to find out if I was pregnant or not. I didn't want to make her mad at me. I felt like I was completely at her mercy. Had I written down my phone number? What if she called my parents?

As a parting gift, she gave me a hollow pink plastic fetus. She told me that this was what my baby looked like inside me. This thing was about 6 inches long and had the features of about a 6 month old infant. My period was only 3 days late! Luckily, even at the age of 17, I had the sense to know this woman was nuts. I threw the plastic baby in the bushes on my way out and made it back to school in time to rehearse the second act. Of course, my biggest act was pretending to be a normal teenager when really I felt like my life was about to be over. Thankfully, my period bloomed the bright red flag of independence the next day and I never had to go back to that awful place or see the cardigan lady again.

But I've never forgotten her and I call my senators and congresspeople every chance I get. I do it for my great aunt and for teenage girls who are alone and scared. For every time the condom breaks, the diaphragm slips, the times you missed one pill. For the times you said yes when you really wanted to say no. For the times you said no and he didn't listen. For the months you couldn't afford your birth control and he didn't care. For the times you thought it was safe and it wasn't. For the times you were just plain dumb. For the times he said c'mon baby baby just this once and you listened. For the times you forgot. For the times it turned out menopause wasn't really here quite yet. For the times no one taught you you could get pregnant the first time. For all these reasons and more, I call and write and email and donate and talk. And I won't stop.

Today is the 37th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the landmark Supreme Court decision that made abortion legal in this country. Roe v. Wade is not enough. The religious right continues to intensify their attacks on women's legal right to abortion. They target the most vulnerable among us. The poor and the young. If you are wealthy and middle-aged, it is possible to access abortion in this country. If you are poor, live in the middle of nowhere or are a teen, good luck. If you listen carefully, you'll hear the right is really more interested in controlling women and their sexuality than anything else. If it was about more than that, the religious right would spend more time and energy focused on the needs of children who have actually been born...finding families for the children who languish in foster care and homes for the children who are homeless.

Look for me. You'll find me in my van, usually packed with kids. Kids I had when I was ready to have them. Kids who are cherished and adored. Kids I'm raising with my husband to feel respected, to have a sense of dignity and to respect other's rights. No child should get any less. And neither should their mother.

Always a... Willful Woman @ Visitors always welcome! Bring your stories to share!

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