This is a letter to everyone who fought for the legalization of abortion - who supported the pro-choice movement before it legally existed. First, thank you. Thank you to the chaplains who directed young women to safe, discreet medical care. Thank you, doctors, for treating those female patients. Thank you for being sympathetic to those women who felt trapped by their circumstances.
Thank you to the individuals who brought Roe Vs Wade to the Supreme Court. Thank you to the Justices who voted for its passing. Even if you did not personally support abortion, you acknowledged that this decision was part of something greater than yourself. You acknowledged that criminalizing abortion meant controlling women’s bodies, denying them of their constitutional right to privacy under the Fourteenth Amendment. Thank you to the defendant’s lawyers, Sarah Weddington and Linda Coffee, for representing Jane Roe and the pro-choice movement. Thank you for framing the argument in the context of physical autonomy, emphasizing a woman’s constitutional right to decide what is best for her life and her body.
Roe Vs Wade was a symbolic milestone in the fight for gender equality. But more importantly, Roe Vs Wade saved lives. In 1972, just one year before the trial, 130,000 women sought out treatment, or otherwise took matters into their own hands. Most of these individuals were women of color. Most of them came from low-income households, and could not afford to bring a child into this world. Many of them could not even afford to pay a medical professional to terminate the pregnancy safely.
To the thousands of women who died during an illegal abortion, we’re sorry that you had to suffer. We’re sorry that you had to take desperate measures because Roe Vs Wade hadn’t passed sooner.
To the women who, in 2019, still cannot access the medical care that they are legally entitled to, we are sorry that Roe Vs Wade wasn’t enough. We are sorry that the war on abortion continues to this day, and that in states like Texas, Missouri, or Alabama, it seems that we are fighting a losing battle.
Last month, Alabama passed a bill that called for the most restrictive abortion policy in the country. Under this law, performing an abortion at any stage of pregnancy would be considered a felony offense - with a maximum 99-year sentence for doctors. Across America, other states are attempting to pass similar laws as part of a larger plan to finally overthrow Roe Vs Wade. The war on abortion did not end with that 1973 Supreme Court decision, and it did not start up again with the passing of Alabama’s "Human Life Protection Act." The truth is, over 300 anti-abortion laws have been approved since 2010. The truth is, states like Kentucky, West Virginia, and Mississippi, only have one abortion clinic, and Missouri may become the first state to close down their remaining facility once and for all.
This is a letter for anyone who believes that each individual woman should be able to decide when - or if - she’ll have children. If you support Roe Vs Wade, we need you to step up. The Alabama bill isn’t scheduled to take effect until November of this year, and it has already met resistance on the state and federal level. If you can, find a #StopTheBans protest in your area, or donate to the American Civil Liberties Union and Planned Parenthood, to support their pending lawsuit against the Alabama law. The second thing we can all do is educate ourselves. Study up! Conservative pro-life groups weaponize emotional language, and perpetuate medically inaccurate information that demonizes abortion. This is their most effective tool. Learn the facts. Share those facts with anyone who might be willing to listen.
46 years after Roe Vs Wade, we are still fighting for a woman’s right to have autonomy over decisions about her health and her body. Maybe, in another 50 years, our descendants will live in a discrimination-free utopia, where (among other things) women can access the medical help they were promised in 1973. Perhaps that will happen someday - but only if we press on today.
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