Our 39th Birthday
ACN Board member Dallas Schubert writes on the meaning of the 39th anniversary of Roe v Wade, especially, addressing people like her who have never known a time when abortion was not a right of women.
by Dallas Schubert, ACN Board Member
On January 22, 1973 the Supreme Court handed down the Roe v Wade decision, effectively guaranteeing a woman’s legal right to an abortion in the Unites States. I was born three days later on January 25. I have never lived in a time when I did not have the legal right to choose whether or not to continue or terminate a pregnancy. This month Roe and I both turn 39. Never in my 39 years has my right to abortion been more at risk than it is today.
For years, states across the country have been chipping away at women’s rights, putting more and higher barriers between women and the abortions they seek. These laws haven’t directly challenged Roe, but have focused instead on limiting access, disproportionately effecting low-income and young women. Today, anti-choice groups and politicians are taking more direct shots at Roe, introducing “heartbeat” and “personhood” legislation. These laws, if passed, are guaranteed to be challenged, likely all the way to the Supreme Court. Depending on the makeup of the court, Roe could be at risk.
As I came of age, under the protection of Roe and good parents, I never questioned my moral agency or the responsibility I had to make my own decisions about whether and when to have children. It was unfathomable that, in my United States, I would ever have a legal barrier to making the major decisions that would effect the direction of my life. Today I have three daughters of my own. I worry that, despite my personal efforts, they will grow up aware that their government and many around them do not recognize their moral agency, do not fully recognize them as responsible human beings. Worse, I worry that if faced one day with the need for an abortion they will have to put their lives at risk to obtain an illegal one.
Since the beginning of time women have found ways to control their fertility. Some methods have been more dangerous or effective than others. Sometimes it has been in back alleys or stranger’s kitchens, sometimes in state-of-the-art medical facilities. Legal or illegal, accessible or inaccessible, the one thing that has not changed is a woman’s drive to decide whether or not to bear a child. Laws and churches haven’t and won’t stop her. When abortion is illegal women die, and a woman who cannot control her fertility is not free.
1 in 3 women in the Unites States will have an abortion in her lifetime. These are our mothers, friends, sisters and daughters. They are good women. Most are mothers already at the time of their abortion, and are concerned for the wellbeing of the families they already have. For some it is a straightforward decision, for others it is more difficult. In no case is there anyone- politician, pastor or protestor on the street- who is more capable or qualified to make the decision than the woman herself.
This 39th anniversary of Roe v Wade, I have a vision for a different kind of world. In this world a woman has the right to decide whether or not to become a parent and to parent with dignity. She has access to contraception, abortion, and pre-natal care. She, and her children, have the right to live in a community free from environmental hazards and violence. They have a right to medical care and education. I envision a world where every woman is trusted and empowered as a moral, responsible human being and architect of her life. Here she is celebrated, not shamed, when she makes tough decisions and takes control of her life’s direction. In this world life is valued: the life of the woman, the life of her children, and the quality of life that can or cannot be offered to a potential child.
This 39th anniversary I have a challenge to all of you, especially those, who like me have never lived in a time without Roe and, perhaps, take it for granted. Don’t let it get taken away from you, your sisters, your daughters, or my daughters. Let your elected officials know that you support women and their choices. Tell them you won’t stand for the stigmatization of abortion and the de-humanization of women. Support your local abortion clinic. If you are a person of faith, raise your voice against the religious right. Challenge assumptions of the “kind of woman” who has an abortion. Talk to those in your life about your support for abortion, and their choices, and if you’ve had an abortion, talk about it. If there are women in your life who have had an abortion and are shouldering the shame and stigma society places on them, help lift it from their shoulders. Treat one another with understanding, compassion and respect.
Finally, on this 39th anniversary I am thankful, because there are places where my vision for the world already exists. It is at abortion providers like Preterm in Cleveland and others like it across the country. There, every day, women are greeted with compassion and respect. Every day they are empowered to make their own decisions about their reproductive lives, whether they choose to have an abortion, are referred for pre-natal care or adoption. There, every day, they are given the highest quality care, in a green facility, regardless of their ability to pay. It is a better place than the world outside its doors. I am thankful that the remarkable people who work at Preterm choose to come to work each day, walking past the protesters on the street, to stand for women and ensure that they remain safe and free.