Today is the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the decision that affirmed a woman’s constitutional right to legal abortion. As an activist for reproductive justice, I have celebrated this day for several years.
But something has changed since this photograph was taken on a previous Roe anniversary: I’m pregnant. To be exact, I’m 21 weeks pregnant. I’m starting to show. And as I’ve written about, pregnancy has made me more committed to realizing the promise of reproductive justice – a world where the human right has been secured to prevent pregnancy, to end pregnancy, to pursue pregnancy, to get prenatal care, to be respected and supported adopting or bearing children regardless of race, sexual orientation or socioeconomic status, to health care and accurate education provided freely on the basis of science and medicine, to celebrate sexuality as a source for joy and humanity rather than shame and restriction in our lives.
Last week, I attended an excellent Roe 2.0: Strategies for the Next Generation of Reproductive Rights Activism panel discussion at the Center for American Progress. One of the things discussed on the panel was how restrictions on abortion rights have come to result in widespread interventions (even arrests) of pregnant women in the United States — even women with wanted pregnancies, like me. At the end of the discussion, I asked a question about engaging more pregnant women in the movement, since we have so much at stake.
After the session, an anti-abortion rights counselor from a ministry I won’t name for the sake of privacy came up to me with a pained look on her face, clutching her abdomen. “I’m pregnant too,” she said. “May I ask you a question?” She truly seemed to be shocked. And she was. Multiple times she asked if I had an ultrasound, and didn’t seeing my baby have an effect on me? Didn’t it change my view?
I believe her question was genuine. My open response, which includes what I said to her in person, is here:
Congratulations on your pregnancy! That’s wonderful. Yes, I saw my ultrasound. Trust me – I am just as excited as you are to have a baby. On a personal level, my support for abortion rights today is about my civil rights and my access to healthcare if something happens and I need it.
(But didn’t you see your ultrasound? Weren’t you excited? How can you see your baby and support abortion?)
Trust me – I am just as excited as you are to have a baby. Restrictions on abortion rights have resulted in pregnant women who want to be pregnant like you and me getting thrown in jail, pregnant women having cesarean sections forced on them by the state and other legal interventions. I know I can handle my pregnancy and be trusted to do what is right — I don’t need the government getting involved. In fact, I think it’s dangerous. Further I don’t know what might happen. I could get sick. I could be denied medical care I need because of laws restricting abortion rights. I don’t want that to happen to me. And I don’t want that to happen to you, either. Congratulations again.
I strongly support and celebrate the right to abortion without shame, stigma or obstacles designed to make legal abortion practically impossible to obtain. Yet, the conversation needs to be broader to include those of us with wanted pregnancies who are placed in grave danger by outright bans, funding restrictions and other obstacles to abortion. In the past year we lost a happily pregnant, and later dangerously sick, Savita Halappanavar, who asked for an abortion that would have saved her life but couldn’t get one due to “pro-life” rigidity. There is nothing that justifies her death.
It is on this 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade that I wish for more people, especially pregnant women, women of color, and younger people, to move from the margins to the center of the conversation and political leadership that must ensure our human rights to full reproductive justice.
8 thoughts on “Open Letter from A Pregnant Reproductive Justice Advocate to A Pregnant Anti-Abortion Rights Counselor”
This is a great blog, Erin. Some of the conversations we have with anti’s are quite enlightening. I had an interesting one at the grocery store the other day when I was ordering a cake for our Roe v Wade celebration this evening. Feel free to go to the Brevard NOW FB page and read it. I’m so happy for you and Will with your new baby on the horizon. It is a choice you are happy to make. People don’t understand how important that is as well. All the best Laura
Great post and congratulations! I am all for reproductive justice, as you refer to it. I find it odd that someone should think seeing an ultrasound of your daughter would change your position.
I have two lovely and very much wanted children, but what if I ended up in the position of Savita Halappanavar? How can it be more justified to leave my existent children motherless? Or is the job ‘done’ as long as you pop them out?
Erin, as a feminist, reproductive just advocate and as a women with a disability, I join in with you in our tireless efforts for reproductive freedom. as you post points out, reproductive justice involves both the right to terminate a pregnancy and the right to conceive, the latter right often denied to women with disabilities. As a woman with a disability I want both rights, I want it all! Stephanie
Excellent commentary Erin. I agree with you entirely.
When I was first diagnosed with leukemia, one of the first tests the doctors did on me was a pregnancy test. This immediately brought up a personal question since I had had a miscarriage 3 months before the cancer was diagnosed. I asked them, “Why?” I was told that had the test come out positive, that I would not be able to have the chemo required to save my life while still pregnant. At that point I would have been about 6 months into my pregnancy had it continued. Also during these initial tests, they told me I had less than a week to live without the chemo because of how advanced the leukemia was before I was diagnosed.
Yes, I would have chosen an abortion had I still been pregnant. Yes, I wanted to be pregnant and wanted a child. But no, I do not want the government making these reproductive justice decisions for me.
BTW, I do now have an adolescent son by adoption. An open adoption where the birth-mom made her decisions, including choosing us to raise our son, in part because we (our son’s birth-mom, my husband, and I) all believe in the absolute right of a women to make her reproductive decisions without coercion from anyone. And in case you are wondering, my son’s birth-mom and I email each other on an almost daily basis – the decision was the right one for her and the right one for us.
Reblogged this on Joanne Tosti-Vasey Blogging for Equality and commented:
More thoughts on Roe at 40 from a young, proud and pregnant feminist actively working for reproductive justice.
Congratulations Erin and thank you for your support.
I love the honesty of this post. Thanks for furthering the conversation on this important women’s issue. Please visit Venus Blogs as they also promote stories and issues that enlighten the masses about women’s topics.
Beautifully written. Thank you for your great advocacy. This issue needs more educated and eloquent voices like yours.
The Wisconsin Gazette is a strong supporter of the right for women to make their own choices about their bodies.
In our latest issue we wrote an article looking at the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade
and also an article about our editor’s recent encounters outside of our local Affiliated Medical Services