The 45th Anniversary of Roe V. Wade + My Abortion Story
Today marks 45 years since The United States Supreme Court ruled in favor of the historic Roe v. Wade case, granting legal abortions to women throughout all 50 states. Before that time our bodies and the freedom to choose what we do with them did not belong to us. That freedom belonged to husbands (both tangible realizations of them present in our lives and the fluid possibility of them existing sometime in the distant future), to fathers, to church leaders, to doctors, to strangers. 45 years ago a landmark court case made dangerous and life-threatening abortions obsolete (kind of) and ruled in favor of our constitutional right to agency of our own bodies.
I'm deeply aware of the polarizing effect of a post like this one. I know that I'll likely offend some of you with my words today. I know some of you will be tempted to make a stand for your own beliefs, which I welcome so long as your words are kind and respectful. If there's one thing I've been learning slowly over the last couple of years it's this: my responsibility, as someone with a small platform on which to share stories and speak truths, is to be honest. To be raw and unfiltered and to share the stories of my experience as a woman from my own perspective in the hopes that by doing so, you are less isolated in your truths. It is my job, as a human with compassion and passion for the rights of all people, to stand up for what I believe in. I truly believe that normalizing all that goes into being a woman is the way that we change the culture of shame that surrounds conversations about reproductive freedom and the stigma that follows us as we figure out the best way to live as women.
In January of 2010 I was nineteen years old. I was (and still am) in a safe, loving, supportive relationship but I was young and not ready to be a mother. When I became pregnant, despite my diligence and the luxury of having access to affordable, legal birth control (a luxury that not all women have), I knew that I was not in a place where I was equipped to bring a happy, healthy, adequately cared-for human being into the world. For days, but not too long, I turned inward and sat with my options. I consulted my family, who was supportive and reaffirmed that no matter my choice, I would be loved and understood. I included my partner who was/is amazingly caring and equally supportive. We weighed all of the options and, knowing at my core what the right decision for our family was, moved forward with the choice to terminate an early stage pregnancy. I count myself as lucky to have had access to a safe, clean Planned Parenthood clinic and honestly, the experience was rather routine. I was given medication (one pill to be taken at the clinic, in the care of a medical professional and one to take at home). I spent the evening lying on the floor in pain. I bled for weeks afterwards. Despite the pain and the process, I knew (and still know) that I made the right decision.
To say that my abortion was routine is not to take it lightly. It was simply unremarkable in all the ways that it is like so many experiences of women both before and after me. It is a part of my life not THE part of my life that defines me. It was routine healthcare in the journey to care for my own reproductive health. However, I realized then, as I do now, the gravity of a decision like that. I developed depression (not to be confused with regret) and stayed in bed for months. I got a tattoo to mark the date of the procedure because I wanted to remember, always, that on that day I made a decision about the course of my life and my future family that was mine and no one else's. I wanted to mark that I alone have the agency to decide things for MY body. A reminder to myself in times of confusion. As I climbed out of that hole of depression one thing became glaringly evident: I was (and continue to be) so unbelievably grateful that I have the freedom to decide for myself and the luxury of access to make it happen.
Right now, all over the country, legislators and State governments are creating roadblocks and hurdles (1,193 abortion restrictions in the 45 years since Roe V. Wade) for women of all kinds that make it harder, if not impossible, for them to access safe abortions and family planning tools. This reproductive oppression comes in the forms of abortion bans (like the 20 week abortion ban currently in place in Alabama, a state I lived in for three years just prior to our move to this island), hoops to jump through and stigma. Oh, the stigma. It's especially difficult to navigate when there's an illusion of free choice and access but the odds are stacked against us. This has to stop.
I know, in my heart and to my core, that my life would be 100 times different had I made a different decision in 2010. I am a mother now, a vocation that I love, to a six year old daughter that I was ready for and am thankful for every single day. I am a good mother. I know, without the abortion I decided to pursue all those years ago, that I would have a different child and a different life. That life, the one that I love and celebrate and actively chose, is mine and was my decision to make.
It's always been my feeling that women should be able to talk freely about these kinds of experiences. That we should, especially with each other, share our stories and discuss our choices and celebrate and fight for our rights openly and vocally. There's such a thick cloud of shame surrounding so much of what it means to be a woman: struggling to get pregnant, terminating pregnancies, making health decisions about our bodies for ourselves but I think you'll find, the further you delve into the stories of women in your life, that these experiences are not uncommon. I hope that with my small contribution to the conversation, I'm contributing to the move toward freedom for women to be open and expressive without shame. This is a conversation my daughter deserves to have access to, that your daughter does, that your sister and mother and friends and self do. It is my hope that one day we live and function in a world where the political issue of simply existing in our bodies no longer exists.
If you feel inclined, here are a few articles to read and videos to watch today: