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What a surreal experience this morning at the breakfast table explaining to our daughters, 8 and almost 10, that Roe v. Wade will soon be gone. They’re too young to understand the broader implications of yesterday’s arguments before the Supreme Court. But their lives and the lives of their fellow Americans will be affected by it in ways that, sadly, we all know too well.
But even more surreal was Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s comment yesterday during arguments that “women don’t have to parent if they don’t want to.” In her questions to the lawyers presenting their cases, she suggested that women who don’t want to parent can simply put their children up for adoption, an easy solution — in her mind — to a much more complicated issue than she can evidently imagine.
Was Barrett paying attention when her colleague Justice Sonia Sotomayor asked the following?
- When does the life of a woman and putting her at risk enter the calculus? Meaning, right now, forcing women who are poor — and that’s 75 percent of the population and much higher percentage of those women in Mississippi who elect abortions before viability — they are put at a tremendously greater risk of medical complications and ending their life. [It’s] 14 times greater to give birth to a child full term, than it is to have an abortion before viability.
- And now the state is saying to these women, we can choose not only to physically complicate your existence, put you at medical risk, make you poorer by the choice because we believe, what?
And that’s the thing that people like Barrett just can’t seem to wrap their minds around. Not everyone grew up in a picture-perfect, idealized white-bread world like hers. Not everyone in our country has the resources to ensure their reproductive health rights. Not everyone in our country has the means to allow them to choose not to parent.
Imagine a financially challenged white woman who lives in one of Houston’s depressed neighborhoods and already has children. Today in our state, unless she realized she’s carrying a child before six weeks into an unplanned pregnancy have passed, she would have to travel to another state to obtain an abortion. Given that it’s nearly impossible for her to do that, the natural outcome would be that she would have the baby. Can she simply decide not to parent the child? That’s where Barrett’s pie-in-the-sky argument falls apart. Not only would said American citizen have to risk her own health to deliver a child without the financial resources that Barrett enjoys. But she would also have no other choice than to parent a child for whom she doesn’t have financial resources to support.
Well, Barrett might say, she can simply put the child up for adoption. But think about for a second: is a woman living in poverty going to have the resources and the community support to start that process and take care of the child in the meantime? No, it’s not that simple. Nor is it that easy.
And that’s where Barrett and the anti-reproductive rights activists just don’t get it: not everyone in this country looks and lives like them.
Roe v. Wade wasn’t for people like Tracie and me who grew up with financial and health security. Roe v. Wade wasn’t for people like Tracie and me who have had unfettered access to health care and community support throughout our lives. Roe v. Wade was for the woman living with limited options and choices about how to care for her own body and how to provide for her children.
I was just a child when Roe v. Wade became the law of the land. Tracie wasn’t even born. Throughout the course of our lives, it has ensured reproductive health rights for women from all walks of life — and not just the privileged like Barrett.
I’m not “pro-abortion.” I’m pro-reproductive rights for all women. I pray — I believe in G-d and pray genuinely — that our daughters will never have to face such challenges. And it’s more likely than not, given that they are growing up with privilege, that they won’t.
Roe v. Wade wasn’t for me. It was for the most vulnerable among us. And now it’s gone. That’s an American tragedy.