A Post About Choice In Honor of Roe v Wade
It’s January 22. January 22, 2013. Know what that means?
Today is the fortieth anniversary of Roe v Wade.
That’s 40 years of a woman’s right to choose upheld. Forty years of women being granted control over their bodies. Forty years of women being able to take control of their lives and their futures. Roe v Wade was a landmark court decision, and it has helped shape the discourse around women’s reproductive rights for the last generation.
This post is part of a blog carnival called Blog for Choice. This year’s theme is “Tell Your Story”, and that’s what I hope to do with this post. Tell a story.
The real question is, where do I begin? I have, fortunately, never been in the position of needing an abortion. I don’t have any stories to tell about abortion as it has impacted me, personally. So it took me a little while to figure out what I wanted to write here.
The truth is, however, that choice is at the heart of freedom, and our ability to make choices is the quintessential manifestation of our use of agency. Choice is everything. And when politicians try to restrict people’s choices, they are necessarily infringing on individuals’ abilities to control their own destinies, to exercise their own agency.
My mother was twenty-two when she married my father. She hadn’t been out of college for long, and she was just starting out in her career. She has been a teacher basically since then-~-twenty-eight, twenty-nine years. Something crazy like that.
The thing is, I’m not twenty-eight-~-I’m just twenty. My parents made the decision to WAIT before bringing me into this world. They made a conscious choice to put off starting a family until they were ready to actually raise me (and later, my sister). My mom wanted to make sure she had tenure and therefore had job security before having a baby. They chose to move out of Queens, out to Long Island proper, so that my sister and I could grow up in a safe, suburban neighborhood, and attend decent schools.
And their choices determined a lot of things about our lives. I may have worked my butt off to get where I am today, but I also recognize that my mother’s decisions made a huge impact in determining my starting point. Because she waited to have me, we were relatively financially stable. She and my dad were mature enough to actually raise two kids. She could afford decent child care when I was really young. I went to a reasonable high school, and on to college, as did my sister (who went on to an even BETTER college). I don’t know for sure what would have happened if not for this set of choices, but I do know that this outcome might not have been possible if my mom had had me when she was 22 or 23.
My parents made choices that gave them, and me, the best possible chance. And today, I’m lucky enough to be able to make decisions that give me my best chance. I chose to go to college instead of looking to settle down. I chose to go abroad to give myself the best opportunity to make informed choices about my career. And I opted to go on birth control, which means that I (hopefully) won’t be placed in a situation where I have to take on the responsibilities of parenthood or even just pregnancy before I’m ready.
I’m lucky-~-I have insurance that covers my doctors’ visits and prescriptions, including birth control, as well as things like STI tests. And I hopefully will never be in the difficult position of having to decide what to do about a pregnancy that I don’t want. But not everyone is able to make the kinds of choices that my mother and I have been able to make, and not everyone feels able to make these choices (which is just as important).
As this country lashes out against women who use birth control and Congress argues about de-funding organizations like Planned Parenthood, which provide unbiased sexual education and access to contraceptives and STI testing, the ability of women less fortunate than I am to make responsible decisions, protect themselves, and determine their futures becomes limited. And as members of our government move to limit or even eliminate the ability of women to access abortions, women lose the ability to access their agency and to make meaningful choices about both their bodies and their lives.
As someone who has been sexually assaulted, who has had someone try to forcibly deny her the right to make choices about what she will or will not do, I fully recognize how important it is for people-~- for women-~- to be able to make choices about their own bodies. For survivors of rape and incest to be able to reclaim control over what happens to them. For women put in the incredibly difficult position of choosing whether to end a pregnancy or to bring a life into this world that they cannot care for, and cannot support in the way they would want. For women to choose for themselves what happens to them, and to be able to wait until they are ready before accepting the responsibilities of motherhood. If they ever decide they are ready.
Because these are choices that no one should be able to make for us.
My mom and I don’t agree on everything, but abortion is an issue we have always stood united on. Women are rational adults who should be able to make decisions about their bodies and their lives, and Roe v Wade was an important step in upholding women’s abilities to control their own destinies. I’m proud to be pro-choice, to be a part of a movement that stands for a woman’s right to choose for herself what is right.
Happy Anniversary, Roe v Wade. We know that the fight is far from over, but we have a lot of fight left in us, and we’re not going anywhere.