When it comes to Roe, I always circle back to access.
My mom was in high school when she got pregnant with me in 1976. She contemplated abortion but there were many hurdles, just three years after the Roe decision, in her small, rural Midwest town. (I wrote about it in a post a few years ago.) Now, I wish that my conception story was nicer and under better circumstances, but the fact is, when my mother contemplated abortion the stigma from her community and her Catholic church weighed heavy on her and she obviously decided against it. I’m sure some would look on that story with a sigh of relief. I am glad I was born, don’t misunderstand! But, I grew up in very difficult circumstances, including poverty, living in unsafe conditions, domestic violence, and more. Perhaps if my mother had been older or had more resources before becoming a parent, things would have been different for me and (later on) for my siblings.
Now I’m a mom myself to a daughter, who will at some point in her life face this issue, whether out of necessity for herself or someone she knows or simply by virtue of being a female in a world that constantly debates her value and autonomy. Of course, my hope for her is that she can be the master of her own reproductive fate. I hope she will have access to affordable health care in all its forms. I hope she will have access to comprehensive sex education (not likely to be a problem in my household) and contraceptives when the time comes. I hope she will have the confidence and self-awareness to make positive decisions about sex and never succumb to peer pressure or be shamed by what society deems “good” and “bad” behavior for girls and women. And, I hope that if she decides to have children that it is, indeed, her choice. I hope she is mentally, psychologically, and financially ready for it (as much as you can be). I hope she looks on parenting as a privilege and as life-affirming as I do. But, if she decides that she doesn’t want children or gets pregnant before she is ready to have children or, God forbid, if she is the victim of sexual assault, I want her to have every choice available to her, without stigma, without legal impediment, and without fear.
Every parent — at least the good ones — wants their child(ren) to have a better life than they had. I want my daughter to have more opportunities than me. I want her to be more successful than me. Get paid more than me. Face less stigma, sexism, and misogyny than me. And I really want my daughter to live in a society that does not brand her a whore simply because she was born with female genitalia.
Maybe it’s because I have come a long way from the poverty of my childhood or maybe it’s because I don’t think rights should have a caste system, but I feel a duty to pay it forward when it comes to reproductive rights. I have benefited from access to health care services from Planned Parenthood in my youth to an expensive c-section covered by my insurance. I have benefited from access to contraceptives and comprehensive sex education throughout my life and was, in fact, able to plan my pregnancy with my husband. All along the way, I have found my access.
But when it comes to health care and reproductive rights, all women are not treated equally. Poor women and women of color disproportionately have more unintended pregnancies and more abortions. They have less access to contraception and sex education. And just as I want a better future for my daughter, I want a better present for all the women whose fates are controlled by legislation and social stigmas that demonize their “choice” and reduce their access to nearly nonexistent.
I do not want to live in a world where all women are not equal to each other or to men. And I will continue to work for that equality every day. It is for my daughter and all the daughters out there.