The End of Roe?

On June 27th Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement and the possibility that his replacement could be the majority vote in a decision that could overturn the landmark case of Roe Vs. Wade became a near certainty.

June 27, 2018 will always be one of those days I will always remember; that day you can remember the weather, the time, where you were, how you felt exactly. There are a few days that stand out in my mind, for me: the day I got married (both times) , the day my kids were born ( both times ), Kennedy getting shotthe day OJ Simpson drove down the freeway,  the 2016 election and those two days, one day in 1977 & one in 1981 when I had both of my legal abortions.

When I was 14, Roe v. Wade was decided in the Supreme Court in a 7-2 decision on January 22, 1973. I vaguely remember how women were so excited about the landmark case to legalize this deeply personal decision. It really didn’t affect me until my senior in high school. My boyfriend was a few years older than me. He was a really handsome “bad boy” with no direction or goals, unlike me who had big dreams. I was going to be the first person in my family to go to college.

The summer of 1977 suddenly became a dark and uncertain time for me. I was pregnant, my mom was in the middle of a divorce- she was so consumed with that part of her life she became absent from mine. We really didn’t have a connection. The one thing she was very vocal about was how much she hated my boyfriend with a passion. My getting pregnant was just icing on the cake. Having a baby was not an option. It wasn’t even a thought much less a debate. I wanted it out of me immediately, yesterday. No freaking way, not now OMG NO! The next day I went to get a legal abortion in a clean legal hospital. I never told the boyfriend. We broke up a few months later. I went on to college and my mom went through her divorce.

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My mom and I moved into a small apartment where found myself becoming her parent. She was from a generation where they kept women “barefoot & pregnant.”Her only life skills were making Kraft Mac N Cheese and “making pretty pretty, nice nice.” The 70’s & the 80’s were very a very experimental time for the girls and women I knew. We really didn’t have any parental guidance or support. Growing up in the suburbs of Philadelphia in a middle class world we were full of hope but not much else. More than half the girls I knew had made a “mistake”-a euphemism for an unplanned pregnancy. It wasn’t unusual to have an abortion. The girls that told their parents, like I did, went to a Hospital. The girls who didn’t, or couldn’t, scraped together their nickels and dimes and went to a clinic. Thank God for Planned Parenthood.

In 1981 I was a senior in college getting ready to get engaged but I was not in such a good place. I found out my would-be fiancé cheated on me-a lot. We broke up, got back together, broke up again and on and on. We were sloppy and frantic and careless. And I found myself pregnant-again. This boyfriend drove me to Planned Parenthood, paid for the abortion, and afterward we told no one. That weekend I went down to the shore with my girlfriends. The relationship was over. I had a talk with myself, got my act together and became an independent, tax-paying, young woman. I moved to an apartment in the city, went to lots of happy hours, dinners with friends, traveled, skied, got a great job and started stashing money away. At 25 I met my future husband, we got a bigger apartment with a better view in a better part of town and four years later we got married. We were building a really nice house in the suburbs. I was able to make the down payment from my own savings. It felt like I had finally made it. And what happened next put us over the moon. We were pregnant! I was 32 and so ready. We went to the doctor and he asked me if I had ever been pregnant before and I said yes twice. He asked if they were live births and I said, no. That was the first time I had thought about my abortions in years. And now I thank God I had a choice. My life would be so different. I would have been a single mom at 18, now 14 years later I would of had a kid in high school, might even have stayed with my high school boyfriend! OMG!

Instead I had a beautiful, healthy baby boy at 32. And I could give him and me a good life; Mommy & me and a SUV. Two years later another baby was on the way. I was so excited! My doctor suggested I have an Amniocentesis because I was almost 35. A week later, with a 15 month old on my hip, the phone rang. It was the doctor’s office calling. They asked me to come in ASAP. We got to the office after hours of panic, just knowing something was wrong with the baby. There was another couple in the waiting room for the same reason and I could see the despair on their faces. The doctor called us in and said, “Your baby has a translocation. We need to see if it’s balanced.” This meant tests on both me and my husband.

After a few days later that felt like years, the doctor called with the results. It was “de novo” meaning that since neither my husband nor I had an irregular gene pattern this was new. He would do an extensive heart study on my baby girl that eventually came out normal. The doctor sent me to a genetic specialist. Eventually I went on to every major Hospital in the Philadelphia area looking for answers until I met the head doctor at CHOP (Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia). They had trained everybody I had met with prior. My husband stopped coming. I was on my own. The doctors told me she may have anything from a slight learning disability to profound retardation. They didn’t have data on this gene combination, it was roulette. I scheduled an abortion.

There aren’t words to describe the time between you make such a profound choice and when you act on that choice. I agonized. My life was completely different than it was in my youth. I knew that I could be in for a lifetime of struggle-she could be in for a lifetime of struggle by I couldn’t go through with it. I had a choice. And I had made it.

My family went nuts. My older sister who had had trouble having children couldn’t understand why I would accept the risk, “Your kids are only going to be 23 months apart” she told me. “Mine are 5 years apart. Abort this one and try again. How dare you give Mommy a retarded granddaughter? You’re so selfish”.

The waiting made for some of the worst weeks of my life. I was so alone. There was very little information available to me and the time to change my mind and take my sister’s advice was closing. I think I would have had to go somewhere in the Midwest with all the state laws in PA as I was entering the second trimester. I remember crying in the doctor’s office. I was begging for direction-any direction. There wasn’t the internet 25 years ago. I went to Medical Libraries looking for answers. The doctor put me in touch with a group of women that had balanced translocations but with different gene patterns, so unfortunately they weren’t much help. I was starting to show. My window to choose was closing.

I remember sitting down in the nursery in the middle of the night. I was alone with my son sleeping peacefully and my daughter in my womb. I said to her, “I am not a special person. I don’t want you to come into this world sick. I want you to be strong. I want us to thrive. Tell me what to do…please. In that quiet, calm came over me. Our decision was made and I had the right choice. I would end up scheduling an inducted birth on a hot summer day. She came out on what I like to call a “baby oil highway” and she has been perfect to me ever since. I had made the right choice for her and for me. It was mine to make.

But Donald Trump and his Republican Party want to take away our choice. And if he Brett Kavanaugh is confirmed, it becomes increasingly clear that’s exactly what they will do. I will always remember where I was when I heard about Justice Kennedy allowing Trump to name his successor. I felt so sick I thought I was going to throw up. I thought about those two harrowing days when I went through with having an abortion and I thought about my baby girl and how important it was that I had had time to become ready to make a different choice. I thought about by son and my daughter and then after 2 long hours of shock I do what I always do now-I took to Twitter and suddenly it became about so much more.

I tweeted, “I had a legal abortion when I was 18 from a very bad boyfriend, I wouldn’t have been able to go to college b/c I had no family support since I had to be the parent for my single mom. After I got married at 29 I had 2 children I wanted What’s ur story? Roe v Wade Supreme Court” Replies came in almost instantaneously by private message and in the form of comments to the tweet.

“I was 13. Taken by an old ‘fam friend’ Gone 3 months. Raped & beaten almost daily. Still one of the hardest things I’ve ever done and it was in those circumstances. No-one knows this and I just told the whole f-ing world.”

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“I graduated from high school and was emancipated at 16. I was a child in an adult world. I wanted to be loved so desperately. I got into a relationship with an abusive alcoholic who lived with his parents and got pregnant. I had no support from my family. I had an abortion and broke free. It was a very difficult time. Eventually I are up and married and had a child with a good man. Raising kids with a good adult partner is hard. I cant imagine being a kid myself and having that person as a father.”

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“My grandmother got pregnant in the early 40s. She hid it by wearing constructive girdles. My aunt, her child, didn’t fare so well, ending up having been born with an ill formed spine and a lifetime of pain.”

For 45 years abortions have been legal in this country. It has not been without a fight. The Guttenmacher institute researched the issue and found that since Roe, 1,193 laws have been passed to curb abortion. As of 2016, they list 22 states as “extremely hostile” to abortions. It’s part of the reason for the fear surrounding the retirement of Justice Kennedy and the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to replace him. It will be the so-called conservative majority that Republicans have been selling to their followers for decades and was arguably the reason why Trump was able to keep the presidential race close in areas where his character flaws would have otherwise led to rejection. Things can get a whole lot worse for women with five male justices on the ideological right exercising their majority power over three female justices and Stephen Breyer.

I’m 59 year old, past the age of unexpected pregnancies. I wouldn’t change a thing. Every decision I made was mine to make and I own those decisions. I cherish all the memories, my goals were met which led to setting more goals. I love my children-both adults now. The power of choice helped define my life. It’s our choices that define all of us. And it’s the right to have a choice that is in real danger of being stolen from so many. Like Trump said, we will likely be going back to a time where people will “go to illegal places.” Women will die and people’s futures will be dictated by the government. 5 men will have the power to strip women of their autonomy for a generation or more. Call your senators: (202) 224-3121 Tell them to #DefendRoe


Mindy is a Twitter activist who can be followed @maydaymindy9

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