On the 36th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision, I feel nothing but profound love and gratitude for all the people who, in large and small ways, with consistency and courage, honor this meaningful human right to privacy, and to make decisions about our own health and reproduction. Roe v. Wade--it is no exaggeration--has saved women's lives.
God knows it can be scary--as indicated by the man who marked today's anniversary by smashing his SUV into a St. Paul clinic full of patients and employees.
My own experience and thinking on reproductive rights has deepened this year.
Last January, I wrote about my experience in changing my mind about abortion. As I continued to write for RH Reality Check and to read more about reproductive health and rights, I had countless personal and professional conversation with people who provided abortions; who morally oppose abortion; who counsel women and families through the experience; people who are activists; advocates; people who are part of a network to offer financial help, or spare rooms, or transportation to those for whom abortion would otherwise be inaccessible; people who write about reproductive health; people who agitate against it; researchers; adoption experts; people who experienced rape and sexual violence; spiritual leaders who believe abortion to be a moral choice; people who had abortions; people whose partners or parents or children had abortion; doctors; midwives; doulas ... and so on.
So many people have been kind enough to trust me with their thinking, experiences, beliefs, and hopes about abortion. I've agreed or disagreed with them, and learned from every one.
If nothing else, I've learned that most of us are simply trying to do the right thing. Most of us are trying to abide by our consciences. I better understand now how a person's thinking on abortion is not a static thing.
I consider myself today proudly and profoundly pro-choice--but once, I didn't. And to come to this point is hardly to exhaust the nuances of real people's experiences with abortion.
I've learned, most of all, that it is person-to-person connections--empathy, sometimes unexpectedly thrust upon us--that is the most powerful, and perhaps most overlooked piece of the public conversation on abortion.
Indeed, many people will argue about abortion as if it is all in theory--debating notions about when life begins, about the Constitutional basis for abortion, about 'choice.'
We debate it forgetting the practical experience, the real-life people, the families, that should be centered in this conversation.
I've never lived in a country where I didn't have a free choice about my own reproduction. For that, I take this moment to celebrate the many thousands of people who made it so--and kept it so, despite frightening and serious challenges to it.
Among the many I admire are these:
- Abortion Conversation Project
- The Haven Coalition
- Planned Parenthood
- Pro-Choice America
- Ibis Reproductive Health
- Our Bodies, Ourselves
- The Pro-Choice Public Education Project
- Catholics for Choice
- National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health
Among the most interesting reading on abortion and reproductive rights:
- "How the Midwest Was Won." Kay Steiger, RH Reality Check
- "Nursing Grudges: Why do we protect the moral convictions of only some health workers?" Dahlia Lithwick, Slate.
- "Being a Radical Doula: How pro-choice advocacy and birth activism go hand in hand." Miriam Pérez, Campus Progress.
To all of you who care about this profound human right: I thank you.