This post was written for NARAL's sixth annual Blog for Choice Day.
Whenever this time of year rolls around, I’m reminded of an argument I had a while back with a former college roommate about Roe vs. Wade.
After I explained to her why the state of reproductive health care is still such an important issue--even thirty-some years after Roe vs. Wade--she looked at me and said, “Chill out, Amelia. Abortion isn’t going anywhere.”
“You’re right,” I replied, surprising her. “Which is why it should remain a safe and legal procedure for women who need it.”
At the time, I was a nineteen-year-old freshman at Saginaw Valley State University--a small school in the middle of a cornfield. (Now in my fourth year of school, I’ve since transferred to Wayne State University in Detroit.)
I was frustrated as hell. Tired of conversations like the one I’d had with my roommate, I wanted more than anything to know that I wasn’t alone in worrying about the state of Roe vs. Wade. The 2008 presidential election was just a few short months away.
So I picked up a copy of Gloria Feldt’s book _The War on Choice: The Right-Wing Attack on Women’s Rights and How to Fight Back_. All I had expected to get out of reading it was a much-needed affirmation of what I already believed in. But I got much more than I’d bargained for.
Feldt offered so many examples (some without even realizing it) of how women’s reproductive rights are jeopardized. Her book was published in 2004, one year after then-president George W. Bush signed the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act. Hopeful, Feldt had hypothesized that the US Supreme Court would fail to uphold the ban. Reading her words four years after they were published, I knew that she was wrong. For on April 18, 2007, the Supreme Court had indeed upheld it.
_The War on Choice_ made me angrier than I’d already been when I first picked it up off the shelf. It also made me feel 100% justified in being so vocal (arguments with my roommate be damned), and inspired me to keep fighting.
And there’s still so much to fight for. Recently, NARAL graded each state on its support of a woman’s right to choose. My home state of Michigan received an F. Classy. Illinois, meanwhile, received a B-. I have friends in both states who have had abortions, and know that the friend in Illinois had to deal with a lot less anti-choice bullshit than did my friend here in Michigan.
If we’re ever going to succeed in eliminating all of the bullshit, it’s especially important to put faces of real women on the issue. And because of the recent shift in Congress, we’ve got no time to lose. Props to the three women who recently shared their abortion stories on MTV’s episode of 16 and Pregnant, “No Easy Decision.”
Reproductive freedom has long been on my radar, but is now more than ever. An anti-choice governor was recently elected in my state, and the new Speaker of the House is anti-choice as well. And people like them are wasting no time checking things off their to-do list. (Repeal of health care, anyone?)
But the election this past November wasn’t a total loss. What about that huge pro-choice victory in Colorado? Such victories can (and must!) happen elsewhere. (And isn’t Colorado the birthplace of the Purity Ball? Come on, people. Anything is possible!)
Michigan may have gotten an F from NARAL, but that doesn’t mean everyone in Michigan is anti-choice. I’m sure as hell not. There are brilliant, dedicated feminists everywhere--including schools like SVSU. (Hi, Dr. Rich!) If you’re stuck in a cornfield somewhere (like I once was), speak up! Our silence gives fuel to the anti-choice movement.
Roe vs. Wade is in greater danger than most realize. I wasn’t “wasting my energy” on worrying about it during the 2008 presidential election. And I’m not wasting it now, though I really ought to be spending that energy on actually doing something about it.
Women who, like me (and ahem, my former roommate), were born in the US after 1973, have never lived in a time/place where abortion was illegal. And I hope we never will. But that’s really up to us. Just because we were lucky enough to have been born with the right to a safe and legal abortion, that right may not always be there for us. (If you’re not convinced, do some research on abortion laws on individual states. Michigan’s not the only one that got an F from NARAL.)
While I plan to drink myself stupid in celebration of Roe vs. Wade on its 38th anniversary tomorrow, I recognize that I have a responsibility: not only to those whose efforts made the passage of Roe vs. Wade possible 38 years ago, but to to my peers and to future generations of women who, I hope, will always have the freedom to choose what to do with their own bodies.