Sunday, January 22, 2023, marked the 50th anniversary of the supreme court’s monumental ruling in Roe v. Wade. Although this should have been a moment for celebration, instead it was a day where people all over protested and marched to make it known that our bodies are ours, and only we can make the choices about them. We mourned the loss of Roe and the rights it gave us, we needed to fight on and advocate for full abortion access for all in the U.S. Planned Parenthood Action Fund, via Ms. Magazine, said, “While this Roe Anniversary marks a reminder of what we’ve lost, this is also a reminder that, as reproductive justice partners have long said, Roe was always the floor—not the ceiling—and now we must reimagine what is possible for our communities. A vision for the future that centers those historically left behind will create a more equitable health care landscape for all.”[i]
Health care is important for all individuals, but when others get to make those decisions for you a major issue arises. Roe v. Wade was seen as a colossal decision that allowed many of us to grow complacent and never realized the bad that could or worse, can happen.
“It is easy to speak of Roe’s impact in material terms – the way it enabled women’s long march into paid work and into better paid work, how it was a precondition for their soaring achievements in education and the professions, their ascents into positions of power and influence. So little of the vast and varied lives of twentieth-century American women could have been achieved in the absence of abortion or birth control – these women, their minds and careers, are gifts the nation could never have received if they’d been made to be pregnant against their wills, or made to care for unplanned, unlonged-for babies.
But it is less easy to discuss the sense of dignity that Roe gave to American women, the way that the freedom to control when and whether they would have children endowed American women, for the first time, with something like the gravitas of adults. Roe opened a door for women into dignity, into self-determination, into the still wild and incendiary idea that they, like men, might be endowed with the prerogatives of citizenship, and entitled to chart the course of their own lives.”[ii]
Roe was such an important decision for women and women-identifying individuals. It gave us power and control over our bodies giving us the ability to decide if children were right for us and if they were when we wanted to have them. The overturn of Roe was always in the back of my mind, especially since Trump was able to appoint supreme court justices. My partner and I knew we didn’t want to have children; it was something that just didn’t seem like the right choice for us. Before Dobbs, I always had the comfort of knowing that abortion was an option for me as it was federally protected. Since Dobbs, Texas had taken that right away from me and I no longer have that security.
It was in early 2021 I decided to have a tubal ligation. Health concerns helped fueled my decision but the potential of abortion becoming illegal certainly played a major role in my ultimate choice. I most certainly recognize my privilege in being able to get this procedure done. I had health insurance and an OBGYN that was willing to do the surgery on a person at my “young” age. In a lot of cases, doctors don’t want to do this surgery on anybody younger than 40-45. This already took away choice before abortion was made illegal. Again, with that our body was never truly ours. Further, health insurance is a luxury that many don’t have. Without insurance, this type of procedure is far too expensive. In the end, my procedure was covered 100% by my insurance at the time making the burden of any payment go away. Insurance should also be a right all people have but as we have seen many do not believe this.
The very right to be healthy is not something that should be exclusive. Women and women-identifying individuals have long been the targets of those in power. Our bodies are politicized in a disgusting way. With the Dobbs decision we are are being pushed back into the time when healthcare was anti-woman and abortions were unsafe.
If we take a step back and look at the issue of women’s rights in general, we see that the issue is turning into something scary. It appears women’s rights are becoming the canary in the coal mine as the marker of democratic decline. “The United States was designated a backsliding democracy in late 2021 when it appeared on a prominent European think tank’s annual global ranking.”[iii] It has been said that democracy is in trouble in this country, and we should look no further than how we are treating women and women-identifying individuals. However, we must remember that there are far more groups that have had their rights taken away in our country, but here I am focusing on the females.
In looking at specific factors, maternal rights, have long been lagging behind other countries in the world. “While maternal mortality rates have decreased globally, they remain on the rise in the United States, which by the most recent count is ranked 46th in the world—a crisis that is exponentially acute for Black women, who are three times more likely to die during pregnancy and childbirth in the United States than white women…..[Further] Globally, paid maternity leave averages 29 weeks; the United States is one of only six countries, and the only wealthy nation, without national paid leave. Across federal and state agencies, abusive institutional practices are all too common, from compulsory sterilization and forced induction of labor, to the denial or withholding of menstrual products and even the practice of shackling women during childbirth.”[iv] With the Dobbs decision, women and women-identifying individuals are being forced to have their children in many states and have lost control of the one thing that should be theirs: their body. More puzzling and troubling is that menstrual products are being withheld or are so expensive some women and women-identifying individuals can’t afford them. Women and women-identifying individual should not be forced to do anything she does not want to and making her either be sterilized, forced into childbirth, forced into labor, or forced c-sections. When it all is brought down to simplicities: my body is my choice!
Today, we must come together and fight to remember that the war isn’t over. A battle was won but no one declared ultimate victory. As we have been saying at YWCA Greater Austin, “We are fighting against the war on women.” If we can band together change will come, a change that our feminist foremothers fought for! We will not go back to how things used to be where unsafe abortions killed so many.
[i] Spillar, Kathy. Feminists React: 50 Years After Roe, the Fight is Far from Over, Ms. Magazine Online, https://msmagazine.com/2023/01/21/feminists-react-50-years-after-roe/.
[ii] Donegan, Mira. In a More Just World, This Would be the 50th Anniversary of Roe v. Wade, The Guardian, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2023/jan/22/roe-v-wade-abortion-rights-50th-anniversary.
[iii] Weiss-Wolf, Jennifer. Are Women’s Rights the Canary in the Coal Mine of a Democracy in Decline, Ms. Magazine Online, https://msmagazine.com/2023/01/19/democracy-usa-womens-rights-abortion/.
[iv] Weiss-Wolf, Jennifer. Are Women’s Rights the Canary in the Coal Mine of a Democracy in Decline, Ms. Magazine Online, https://msmagazine.com/2023/01/19/democracy-usa-womens-rights-abortion/.