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I had an abortion in 1976 when I was 20 years old and a sophomore at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., It was less than three years after the passage of Roe v. Wade.
The young nurse at the university clinic talked with me cheerfully about the option of having a baby. She sat me down and painted an upbeat picture of me carrying a baby in a pack on my back along with me to classes. In her imaginary vision, I could manage it easily and happily. But I didn’t think I could and neither did my boyfriend, who was in the third year of completing a PhD and looking forward to a summer internship at a major hospital.
His response to our accidental pregnancy was: “Someday this will make us very happy, but not now." I agreed. That’s how we thought about ourselves and our lives — we had everything ahead of us and a sense of control, including choosing when to be parents.
We drove to the abortion clinic in his old convertible sports car with the top pushed down and he sat in the waiting room while kind nurses stood at my side, holding my hand, and a doctor performed the abortion.
Then came a second abortion two years later, and that one sent me spiralling emotionally. I had just moved to Nashville and getting an abortion there was not, trust me, an uplifting experience. Why were the doctors and nurses not making eye contact with me? Why did no one hold my hand during the procedure? Was I just imagining it or did they think I was going to hell for making this choice?
I’ll never know, but it was an awful experience. Still, in light of what women face now, it was nothing to complain about.
There were times I regretted those abortions. But when I had my two sons, I stopped thinking about the pregnancies I had terminated.
Years later I married my second husband and added two more children to my family; my life evolved alongside babies, toddlers and young people. I had even worked with a baby strapped to my back, not so different from that cheerful picture the nurse once painted. My children are at the core of everything good about my life. Thanks to Roe v. Wade, I had choices when having kids at the centre of my life wasn’t a great idea. When I began my journey as a parent, I was ready.
In fact, I owe my happiness today to the freedom and choices I had the right to make. Thanks to Roe v. Wade, I was able to continue my education, graduate and go on to an interesting job. As of today, the choice is no longer available for too many and I feel so angry. The impact on many American women will be profound as they tackle university. Some teenagers will never make it to their high school graduations.
“Today’s ruling will have widespread implications, including within the higher education community,” Kathleen McCartney, president of Smith College, a women’s college in Massachusetts, wrote in a letter to the university community. “While the right to choose will remain legal in Massachusetts and much of New England, restrictions in other states will limit some students’ access to reproductive health services, thereby negatively affecting education access and graduation rates for pregnant students and potentially their partners. Further, the health — and mental health — of some students may suffer as a direct result of this ruling.”
The economic consequences will be felt across socioeconomic groups and communities.
“Research in the years since Roe v. Wade became law has shown that access to abortion increased the probability that young women finished college by nearly 20 percentage points and entered a professional occupation by nearly 40 percentage points; it also found that teen motherhood was reduced by 34 per cent and teen marriage by 20 per cent,” McCartney noted.
Blunter words came from actor Halle Berry on Twitter: “I’m outraged! What the Supreme Court has done is BULLSHIT. Something has to be done! Guns have more rights than women.”
And Yvette Nicole Brown said:
Voting out the Republicans and voting in progressives is the only possible way out of this nightmare. Americans should punish Republicans severely in the midterms. Congress should follow up by smacking SCOTUS down and lifting America up with federal legislation to make choice a woman’s right again.
The Constitution of the United States says that “all men are … endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness...” It won’t be long before the Clarence Thomases of the world start reading that literally and tell us that “the founders” did not mean for unalienable rights to extend to women. I can hardly believe we’re even talking about this.
But, as Shonda Rhimes wrote earlier today: “This is actually happening.”
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