“In a shameful attempt to use the coronavirus crisis to push their own radical agendas, the governors and attorneys general of Ohio, Texas, Mississippi, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Alabama have demanded the closure of their states’ abortion clinics, calling abortions “non-essential” medical procedures.
Moments ago, the federal 5th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Texas’s abortion ban, and since the 5th Circuit covers the states of Louisiana and Mississippi as well, it is expected that their bans will be able to go into effect immediately as well.
Let’s be very clear: Abortions are essential, time-sensitive medical procedures, and using a global pandemic to further restrict access to abortion is despicable.”
– MoveOn.Org letter, March 2020
I know the subject of the hour is Covid-19 and that our attention is (and very much should be) occupied by this health crisis, but in the meantime, progressive policies that have been in place for decades are now being decimated, and are being replaced with contradictory policies, with no opportunity for public scrutiny or protest.
A woman’s right to choose is certainly not the only area of regulation that is being affected. Regulations which have limited automobile emissions are being rolled back, because more polluted air is exactly what we need when we’re fighting a pandemic that attacks our lungs. [Don’t even get me started.] And the Trump administration’s Justice Department is fighting in court, as we speak, the Affordable Care Act, which if overturned will leave millions of Americans without health insurance. Again, just as we are fighting our biggest health crisis in a century.
I wrote this piece a while ago, and was going to wait until the pandemic had passed to post it, but decided to publish it now lest we forget that this administration is up to no good on many other fronts that are not getting much airtime these days.
I was 18. It was the summer of 1976, the Bicentennial. My freshman year of college had just ended. The boyfriend had graduated and was off to medical school the following fall. Besides, he had a girlfriend back home. The “real” girlfriend, the one he was planning to marry, the one who was white, Southern, well bred…the exact opposite of me.
I spent that summer with my aunt, Titi Edna, in Queens, NY. I had a mind-numbing secretarial job at a manufacturing plant. My family still lived in Puerto Rico. My parents were divorcing, and my mother was scheduled to come to New York later in the summer with my 9-year old sister who needed to have one of her lungs surgically removed.
And I was pregnant. Roe v. Wade had become the law of the land three years prior. I was lucky. I had the choice of going to a clean, well-equipped, capably-staffed clinic.
I was alone in many ways. The boyfriend was history. He made that clear on graduation day, when he drove off in his TR7 and didn’t look back. When I called to inform him of our pregnancy, he told me I was on my own. “How can you even be sure it’s mine?” Wow. My mother, whom I might have turned to under normal conditions, already had a LOT on her plate that summer. The last thing she needed was a pregnant teenaged daughter.
I didn’t have a lot of friends in New York. Although I was born there, New York hadn’t been home since I moved to Venezuela (and then Puerto Rico) at the age of 7. Titi Edna was “cool”, but I wasn’t sure if she was that cool. She was Catholic, after all.
I had a friend who lived in Chappaqua, a wealthy hamlet in Westchester County, about 30 miles from the city and less than 2 hours by train from Manhattan. My aunt thought I was leaving for work that Friday morning, and that I would be boarding a train at the end of the day to spend the weekend with my Chappaqua friend.
Instead, I spent the day getting a legal and safe abortion. My friend drove down from Chappaqua that morning to hold my hand during the procedure, and then drove me “upstate” to hunker down for the weekend. Her mom made me chicken soup, and was on call in case anything went awry as I healed and rested for the first 72 hours. It was an uneventful weekend. I took the train back into the City on Monday and went back to work.
I was relieved. There is no way I was ready for motherhood at the age of 18. But there was a part of me that was sad too. I was aware of turning away from an alternative future. The road not taken. I felt wistful about that. There were tears. Choosing to have an abortion has never been a happy or easy choice; it’s often merely the better choice. And a choice that is currently ours to make.
That choice is under attack. Later this year, the SCOTUS will announce a decision that could very well overturn Roe v. Wade outright, and/or relinquish control back to the states on this issue. Even before the actions of certain states described in the MoveOn.Org letter above, if you lived in Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi or Ohio, bills had already been passed limiting abortion to pregnancies at 6 weeks (6 weeks!!) or less (start tracking your periods, ladies…to the MINUTE). Several other states (Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming) had virtually made abortion inaccessible by having only one facility in the entire state where safe, legal abortions could be performed.
We shouted, marched, and fought way too hard for this to happen. My child-bearing years may be behind me, but autonomy over my own body – or any woman’s body – is something I am not willing to relinquish or surrender. Ever. It has become an undesirable, yet familiar, pattern to watch our hard-won victories targeted by the current regime and, in some cases, flat out undone. A woman’s right to choose is on the chopping block, and the chopping has already begun.