Before the election, my biggest hypothetical fear was President Donald Trump's ability to appoint Supreme Court Justices. With Justice Kennedy announcing his retirement on Wednesday, this fear will probably be realized twice over. It wasn't that I couldn't imagine a million horrible things Trump could do; it's that the Supreme Court will outlast any one administration (ideally). Its rulings on federal laws could influence society for decades to come. Marriage equality, labor laws, and, of course, abortion rights. To highlight the significance of Roe v. Wade, I asked moms to talk about what their life would be like without it, because the full impact of Roe being overturned cannot be fathomed without hearing from the people it could affect.
I've never had an abortion, and while I've been pro-choice for as long as I can remember, my relationship with the idea of abortion has changed over time. While I initially saw the termination of a pregnancy as a sort of necessary shame (and, at times, an immoral, selfish decision), age, experience, and, especially, becoming a mother, has changed my thinking. I no longer see anything shameful or universally sad about abortion access. I certainly don't see it as selfish. I see it as component of complete pregnancy care. Sometimes it's sad, sometimes it's hard, sometimes it's easy, sometimes it's a relief, and sometimes it's somehow all of those things at once. There is no one abortion story, because they are as varied as the people who have them, and a lot of people have them. In fact, one in four women will have an abortion in her lifetime... and most of them will be mothers. According the the Guttmacher Institute, in 2014, 59 percent of abortions were obtained by patients who had had at least one birth. More still will go on to have children after an abortion. In other words, the dichotomy of mothers versus "the kind of women" who would get an abortion does not exist.
Since 1973, the often embattled Roe has protected the right to choose. Millennial Americans have largely grown up with the knowledge that, if they ever became unintentionally pregnant, or if they could not support a child, or if their life was in danger as a result of pregnancy, or if their child would only live a life of pain, they had options. But while Trump at once espoused pro-choice views, he has since promised to nominate "pro-life" justices specifically to overturn Roe v Wade.
In the event of the abolition of Roe (which is not exactly ensured at this point, but certainly more likely than it was before Wednesday), I've already begun to formulate plans to safeguard the right to choose however I can: urging states to draft laws that protect abortion rights as well as getting old laws off the books that would effectively outlaw abortion; working with networks of people willing to volunteer time, money, child care services, etc. to help those in states with restrictive abortion laws to travel somewhere else to obtain this medical service; and constantly reminding myself of just how essential this law is by talking to folks who know firsthand.
"I was pregnant a few years ago. It was a deliberate pregnancy and we were overjoyed. At 14 weeks I had an ultrasound, and it was discovered that the fetus was not developing in a healthy way. Due to a severe case of something called amniotic band syndrome, the fetus’s brain was developing outside of its skull. I was devastated, and so were my husband and family. The doctors scheduled a D&E to end the pregnancy a couple of days later. The experience was one of the hardest things I’ve ever been through. Those two days between the ultrasound and the surgery were so difficult and painful. I was still carrying the fetus that I knew was sick and would be gone forever soon. It was a nightmare. I couldn’t stop crying for those two days. The procedure was very emotional and terribly sad, but once it was over we were able to start healing. My body was able to recover from the pregnancy. I took a year to focus on my health and to give myself time to grieve. And we were incredibly lucky to be able to conceive again — that pregnancy was healthy and now we have a gorgeous little boy.
So how would all have been his gone differently without Roe v Wade? Although the doctors never used the word “abortion”, that is a what I went through, and it was very much on my mind throughout the entire experience. I wondered then, and still do now, if there are people who would judge me, who would say that I should have carried the baby until I had a natural miscarriage or stillborn. Happily, the doctors didn’t even present that as an option to me, but I know some religious groups would require such a choice. I don’t know if the procedure would have been allowed pre-Roe v Wade — I certainly hope it would have — but what if, on top of my grief and devastation about my pregnancy, I had to also worry about what the government would ALLOW me to do? The idea is horrifying! Imagine that you have an incredibly sick fetus dying inside you and on top of everything else you have to worry about whether the government and/or some religion that you don’t believe in will let you end the pregnancy. The thought of having to wait even one more day, for my procedure — say, until it could be “approved” by the government — is absolutely unconscionable."
[Writer's note: Courtney specifically asked me to use her first and last name. She is a friend and amazing.]
"I am someone who had to go through extensive infertility treatments to become a parent. Because of a chromosomal inversion, we had to test embryos before they were transferred to make sure they were viable. If we embark on the slippery slope of banning abortions, this is something that could be endangered based on what the legal definition of ‘personhood’ becomes."
"I am a trans person who has long had a complicated relationship with my reproductive system. I will not end up pregnant as a result of my own behavior, but the risk that I could end up pregnant as a result of rape has always haunted me, regardless of how statistically likely it is. Getting pregnant would be a matter of life and death for me. I could not handle it. As a parent who witnessed my wife’s pregnancies and births and has seen my children develop and grow, I do not take this lightly. But it would be a question of survival for me. I am fortunate to live in a place where my ability to access the medical care I would need is not at risk, but there are trans people all across the country for whom that is not the case. The fact that I have the relationship with my body that I do has helped me to understand what bodily autonomy is all about, and the thought that people —trans or not — could lose it based on politics is infuriating."
"In eighth grade history class, I chose Roe v Wade as my end of year project. It was the first time I delved into women’s rights and ignited my passion for the women’s right to choose. Without Roe v Wade and the insight it gave me as a 13 year old girl, who knows how long it would have been before i learned the inequality that existed and that history can change if you have the passion to make a difference."
"I've had two abortions and I know either pregnancy carried much longer would have killed me. The first would have tied me to an abusive partner for the rest of my life, and he would have killed me, if I even made it to the delivery room. The second pregnancy would have physically killed me to continue, and even knowing that it was a difficult decision."
"When I decided to leave my ex-husband, he had sex with me against my will. I got pregnant. I chose to terminate that pregnancy to carry on with leaving the relationship. I couldn't imagine being able to leave with three kids or while pregnant. That was not the only time I went through it, but that mattered the most. The other time was a more difficult one that is harder to discuss as it actually involved a lack of choice for me."
"I had an abortion several years ago after experiencing two complicated pregnancies, one of which resulted in preterm birth and the death of my daughter after just 8 hours. I have complex post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a result, on top of general anxiety I've always lived with. While I take precautions to avoid pregnancy, the knowledge that Roe v Wade currently exists reminds me that, should an accident occur, I still have options. I do not want to become pregnant anytime in the near future (and potentially never again), but if I did, I know I would choose to terminate because I don't know that I could handle another pregnancy mentally and emotionally at the moment, I don't know that I could afford to raise another child right now (or if I was forced to, and I know that my entire family would have to do without many of the niceties we currently enjoy, like my son's ability to attend preschool and my ability to work from home. I don't know that that pregnancy would even result in a baby at the end, as I have a hormonal issue that may be at least one of the culprits to my previous loss.
If Roe disappeared, I know that I would have a much higher chance of having to obtain a back alley abortion should I become pregnant, which would put me and my family at risk in a number of ways. I also think about other instances, such as in the case of rape (where I know I would 100 percent want to terminate). If I were not allowed to do so, there is a chance I couldn't handle it mentally/emotionally (I experience prenatal depression and without the proper help, it could easily become a serious danger to my life).
Additionally, I don't want to live in a country where we don't allow people to make their own reproductive choices. My family is from a country that currently bans abortion even when the life and health of the pregnant person is at risk, even in cases of rape and incest, and even when the fetus will likely not even make it full term or, if it does, will have a terribly difficult and likely extremely short life after birth. I live here in part because I have the right and freedom to choose, because I have seen how negatively and strongly lack of choice affects persons who become pregnant. Additionally, if my son were ever to impregnate someone in the future and that person wanted to terminate, I would want them to have the choice as well and I would want to be able to support my son and his partner in such an instance."
" I’m 44 years old — the chances that I would get pregnant and need to worry about an abortion or not are very slim. However, if I did get pregnant, I need abortion on the table. I take hormones to prevent my breast cancer from coming back that I would not be able to take if I was forced into a pregnancy. I have a 6-year-old that needs his mommy so I believe 100 percent this needs to be a woman’s choice."
"If it weren't for my abortion I wouldn't be the mother I am today. I was ready to have my babies, who were loved and wanted and welcomed into this world by an entire tribe of people who adored them before they were even born. But I had them I was ready. Between my abortion at 16 and having my kids at 32, I grew so much in every way a person can grow. I wouldn't have been a good mother at 16, but I'm a good mother today."