A week ago, the US Supreme Court handed down a tragic and disastrous ruling Dobbs V Jackson that overturns fifty years of precedent about abortion. I knew it was coming. The Republican Party has been very clear about what it was doing as it packed the court.
I volunteer my time with Planned Parenthood’s Clergy Advocacy Board and give money to organizations working for reproductive justice and abortion access. Sister Reach is a good one, if you’re looking for groups to support. National Network of Abortion Funds is another.
Many states had “trigger laws” already in the books, so that as soon as Roe v Wade was overturned, they could ban abortion. Idaho, the state I loved and left two years ago, has a law waiting to take force, making performing abortions a felony, with no exceptions to rape or incest unless a victim reports it to police. That bill was passed in 2020.
All this is to say that even as I knew what was coming toward us like a freight train from hell, I was still surprised when I was triggered by the decision. I’ve been out of focus all week, as if I’ve been swimming in mud. You can’t get anywhere fast, you can’t see where you’re going, and it is hard to breathe.
I realized yesterday that my fogginess and lack of productivity (that’s how I often know something is not right with me–when I can’t get things done) are because this ruling has taken me back to the minutes and days after I found out I was pregnant in October of 1988.
Many of you know my story, and how things turned out as good as was possible. I’ve preached about how blessing often comes in when you least expect it. All of that is true. AND. The goodness that emerged has never erased how deeply traumatic it was to find out I was pregnant.
A friend drove me to the HEB one night and stood guard on the end of the aisle as I bought a pregnancy test, because I was afraid a classmate would see me buying it. After that was positive, which I had no way of comprehending (who gets pregnant the first time they have sex?!!!), I borrowed another friend’s car and made an appointment at Planned Parenthood, where the first test was confirmed.
Even typing this, I can feel the panic, the dread, and the fear rising in my body. I’m taken back to that day, when I came back to campus and went to class as if everything were fine. (Things were not fine).
I could not see a path I wanted to walk down. I didn’t want to get married at 19 to a guy I didn’t love (he is a good human being but we were not good for each other). How was I going to finish college? Or would the university kick me out? I could not see a way to raise a child on my own. I had no money, no health insurance, no discernible job skills. I lived in a college dorm room and had $500 to last me until May.
I didn’t want to tell my parents that I was pregnant, even if I thought they would, in the end, support me through it.
I didn’t want to tell anyone I was pregnant, for that matter. I’d seen the way society judged and shunned girls who got pregnant. Slut. Whore. Cheap. Tramp. None of those words felt like they applied to me, but I knew that would change when people found out.
I didn’t particularly want to get an abortion. What if something went wrong and I would never be able to have children? What if I died? (Abortion is a safe medical procedure, but even back in 1988, the misinformation campaign was strong). But I seriously considered it, because that way, nobody would have to find out, and they wouldn’t call me a whore.
The irony was not lost on me that my most compelling reason to get an abortion was so people wouldn’t judge me. It made no sense then, and it makes no sense now, that the same people who want abortion to be illegal are the same people who judge and condemn people who don’t get abortions, and give birth to babies they can’t support. (Think I’m making this up? Watch how Fox News talks about people who need food stamps and governmental assistance to afford to raise their babies).
I chose to give birth to my child and place him for adoption. There was nothing easy about that choice, that process, that pregnancy, that year. But it was the choice I made.
And that’s the point. I was facing a million impossible paths, and I was going to have to walk down one of them. I talked with my doctor. I talked with my best friends. I talked with baby daddy. I talked with my parents and family. I talked with the Dean of Students and my professors. I talked with my pastor. I met with a counselor. With their support, I was able to take the best path for me.
Even then, I knew that adoption would not be the right option for everyone. And I knew that if just one of the pieces of my puzzle had been different (health, family support, etc) I would have made a different choice.
If the government had forced me to do it? Or forced me to raise the child, but then offered nothing in the way of support for that forced act–my life would have been very different, as would the life of my child.
This is just my story. There are millions of stories out there. And none of them are captured by the rhetoric swirling around this issue. And if you think the people in your life with uteruses are okay right now, I’d ask you to consider that maybe we are not.
Here’s a helpful post from Instagram. I relate to much of this.
I have withdrawn the past few days, cooked food that involves warm, melty cheese, watched movies I already know the plots of, journaled some, and sat in silence, trying to listen to my body.
I’ll be able to address the fear and panic I’ve been lugging around all these years. I have access to good counseling. I have great family and friends and a good support system. I have privilege, power, and agency. I also have a happy ending to my story, which has been full of blessing and gift these past 33 years. That is always a piece of this for me too.
I’m mindful of the people for whom this ruling will be disastrous, and dangerous, and even deadly. And so I commit to getting back in the fight so I can work to change the system, and work around the system to help support people who need to make medical choices that the Republican Party disagrees with.
If you, or your daughters, need help making your own best choices for your own body, your own life, your own well being, I’m here. Let me know how I can help make your impossible path a little less fearful.