Thoughts on Roe

Photo by Jason Leung on Unsplash

I was born in 1973, almost exactly nine months after the Roe v. Wade decision. My parents were young and married. I remember my childhood as a a comfortable, safe life, but wealthy by no real stretch. We went to public (American definition) schools, drove to all our vacations, which were almost always to visit family who lived elsewhere. One year when my dad received a holiday bonus at work we all took a trip to San Francisco for Christmas break (on a plane!) and it was such an unknown format to us that my brothers and I all stressed out and wanted to just hang in the musty hotel room.

I was born in 1973, almost exactly nine months after the Roe v. Wade decision. The schools I attended were safe, as were the neighborhoods I lived in, aside from the occasional creepy male neighbor whom we all knew by word of mouth to avoid. We played in the houses of friends and jumped on neighboring trampolines. There were no gun or talk of guns aside from Michigan hunting culture. I had a safe path to education and a university degree. I understand that much of this opportunity was down to privilege. My growing up experience in the U.S. would have been very different had I been a Black or brown child.

I was born in 1973, almost exactly nine months after the Roe v. Wade decision. In 1991, when I was seventeen, I left home for college, which offered a major party scene on at a state school. Fortunately that period in retrospect seems pretty status quo and didn’t last long. Both gender politics and structural racism were brutal realities in the south. The un-diversified state economy based on big energy and ignorant arrivistes was tough to stomach as I learned more, read more, and realized more. Ambition and escapism met and married in my soul and I got myself selected as the chair of the university Speakers Bureau, choosing speakers to come to campus and allocating budget funds when requested by registered student groups: Douglas Coupland, Ice-T, Gary Hart, Carl Bernstein, Sarah Weddington.

The Speakers Bureau sponsored Sarah Weddington, whom I did not know of before I met her (oh youth! oh the receding horizon of ignorance!). She argued and won Roe when she was 26 in front of the Supreme Court. She came for an on-campus talk and we took her out for dinner. She signed her book. I bought a copy and she signed that with an encouraging dedication. She met my mother, who came for the talk, and told her that she should be proud of her daughter. Sarah had a lot of Texas no-nonsense in her, like Molly Ivins or my friend Betty. People who’ve seen a rough side of life and come out on the other side knowing that people need help, not judgement. Sarah was great. I felt like I’d met a real-life role model, face to face.

I was born in 1973, almost exactly nine months after the Roe v. Wade decision. The U.S. was different then. I came into a safer culture that offered choice, and education, and maybe understood a little better that decks can be stacked against people in ways that we can’t understand, and that those people deserve mercy and support, not judgment. I am privileged that my life has been my experience. I also accept that other people may find themselves in circumstances I cannot even fathom and who deserve my support for them to get meaningful help – meaning the help they want and need, not the help that derives from an ignorant or misplaced sense of charity.

I was born in 1973, almost exactly nine months after the Roe v. Wade decision. When I was 34 I was married and decided to stop taking the pill. I had one early miscarriage. Then my appendix ruptured. Then, a few months after I returned to work from that medical crisis, I became pregnant again, but this time it was ectopic. My husband and I very much wanted a child. We did not want to have miscarriages or ectopic pregnancies, but we did. Well after six weeks, I went to the hospital on a Sunday in May, which happened to be Mother’s Day. We were married without children. The “personhood bill” was then being much discussed and debated in that silly state legislature. Technically I was still pregnant, but it was a big problem. Ectopic pregnancies are nothing to fool with. They can go sideways and fast. After much consultation with our Israeli doctor and my always-on-call Aunt Ginny, an obgyn who will always take a call anytime of day or night from a female relative, we decided to proactively terminate. It was trapped. It could not live, and if left to continue, it would probably kill me. We trudged back into the doctor’s office and told him I wanted the methotrexate shot. I cried when I got it and then I went home and cried for weeks. I was lucky. I lived in a place of privilege. I had good health care. I am here today to tell you this story.

Fortunately I wasn’t on any kind of looney-tune public prayer list and no one tried to talk to me about the precious life I was carrying in my Fallopian tube. But in the family planning aisle of the drugstore closest to our house, zealots frequently placed anti-abortion pamphlets next to the pregnancy tests. Whenever I saw them I removed them and threw them away in the trash outside the drugstore, furious.

We went on to have two healthy pregnancies in that state, both our children born in the same hospital where I’d had to end the ectopic pregnancy in May 2010. As a pregnant person and a parent to infants, I appreciate more then ever the unknown twists and turns that a pregnancy can take, and the toll it can take on the pregnant person. Obviously I think life is precious, but it’s not my place to insert my opinion into the medical decisions of any other person.

I’ve lived outside of the US for years now, and it is becoming a culture I struggle to recognize. It grieves me that people in power cannot imagine the shitty hands that so many people are dealt in life, nor can they summon the empathy to genuinely support unimaginable suffering. It is amazing to me that predominantly Catholic Latin American countries (Argentina, Mexico) are now expanding women’s rights as the U.S. recedes further into a dystopian plot that even ten years ago we did not think was a foregone conclusion. How did Latin American people do it? Mobilize, protest, get on TV, radio, every social media channel out there, and change the conversation. Don’t let the story they tell be the only story, because it’s not a true one. People in power are owning this debate and setting the terms, and the suffering that will result from their shortsighted ignorance is beyond imagination.

4 Replies to “Thoughts on Roe”

  1. A powerful and honest story. You are so brave to share it. Like you, the country my native land is becoming is almost unrecognizable to me.

    Like

  2. Quite a powerful piece! I had no idea what you had been through before your 2 precious children.
    It is a sad commentary on where our country stands. We must rise from these ashes.

    Like

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