Forty Years after Roe, Young Activists Speak Out

Today is the fortieth anniversary of Roe v. Wade, and it is also Blog for Choice Day 2013. Head on over to read dozens of posts by pro-choice bloggers. I was going to write something original for the occasion  and I did try, but I just couldn’t. I spent the first two decades of my life dreaming of overturning Roe only to change my position at the very moment Roe came under serious threat. Growing up, late January was that time of year when the dreary weather combined with solemn remembrances of millions of slaughtered babies to drag my soul down, down, down. And so, every time I sat down to write a post for the anniversary of Roe, words refused to come. I had a serious case of writer’s block, and I just couldn’t do it.

All day long, though, I’ve been reading blog posts on the topic by other pro-choice individuals, and I’ve found that truly inspiring. Reading these posts has also made me think back to everything I’ve written on the topic over the past several months. Thinking about both others’ posts today and posts I’ve written in the past was uplifting, so I’ve decided to point readers to a few of my pivotal posts on the subject and then highlight the reflections of other young pro-choice activists.

First, of course, is my viral post, How I Lost Faith in the Pro-Life Movement:

The spring of my sophomore year of college I was president of my university’s Students for Life chapter. The fall of my junior year of college I cut my ties with the pro-life movement. Five years later I have lost the last shred of faith I had in that movement. This is my story.

I was raised in the sort of evangelical family where abortion is the number one political issue. I grew up believing that abortion was murder, and when I stopped identifying as pro-life I initially still believed that. Why, then, did I stop identifying as pro-life? Quite simply, I learned that increasing contraceptive use, not banning abortion, was the key to decreasing the number of abortions. Given that the pro-life movement focuses on banning abortion and is generally opposed advocating greater contraceptive use, I knew that I no longer fit. I also knew that my biggest allies in decreasing the number of abortions were those who supported increased birth control use – in other words, pro-choice progressives. And so I stopped calling myself pro-life.

I added more detail to my journey in an emotive post I titled My “Aha” Moment on Abortion, and I am rather proud of both the articles I wrote after the death of Savita Hallapanavar and an article I penned on the consequences of illegal abortion. Before my post on losing faith in the pro-life movement, I hadn’t intended to spend so much time blogging on this issue. But I’ve found that I have a lot to say — and there’s more of that coming in this new year.

Before moving on to some posts by young pro-choice activists, I should mention one reason I think it’s so important to highlight the work of those who are of my same age and generation. Several weeks ago Time Magazine published an article suggesting that young people are turning against the pro-choice movement. Carly Manes, a young pro-choice activist, wrote a passionate response:

Let me tell you about Millennials who are for abortion care. We are passionate, engaged, and entrenched in the fight for abortion access. And, we see that in order to uphold the right to abortion care we must ensure that it is available, affordable, and free of burdensome hurdles to care.

When anti-abortion activists descended on my campus, I knew we needed to stand up. We needed to do more. We could not allow the lies, misinformation, and intimidation to continue. I was not alone. Many young women and men on my campus felt the same way. We knew we could not just turn our heads and look the other way. We needed to do what our mothers and grandmothers did. We needed to take a stand. So, we started to hold group discussions about abortion focused on discussing personal experiences with abortion, the stigma associated with abortion, and the ways communities can address stigma and promote access to safe abortion care.

We are not alone. Millennials all over the country are standing up for abortion access – they are activists, clinic escorts, hotline volunteers, directors of abortion funds, bloggers, and more.

I’m with Carly. This issue matters, both to me and to the Millenials I know. I work to make a difference here on my blog, and I’m also planning to start volunteering as a clinic escort and to look for other ways to be active and involved. I want to use my platform, my time, and my energy to make a difference, and I think I am only now realizing the many ways open for me to do this. And I’m not the only having these thoughts. And you know what? That’s inspiring.

I want to finish this post by highlighting the work of two other young activists, each of whom wrote today about why they are pro-choice. Ironically, perhaps, one is Canadian, the other Irish. Both posts are well worth reading.

First, Sara Lin Wilde writes about growing up anti-abortion and then doing an about face as she grew up and became more conscious of the intricacy of the world around her — and the true importance of choice.

I wanted badly to become a part of something, some kind of important movement that was bigger than I or my family was. I wanted to do something that mattered. I spent hours in my school’s computer lab after classes, printing off articles about why abortion was wrong and pro-life was the only reasonable way to think. I learned that I was a survivor of abortion, as was every child born since it became legal, and that the proper time to exercise one’s “right to choose” was before having sex; afterwards you deserved whatever you got. I learned that even in cases where the mother’s life is in danger or the child was conceived through rape/incest, it still has at least as many rights as a woman with a history, relationships, life goals, dreams, and feelings. I watched fetus-eye perspective advertising blur the line between a zygote, a newborn, and a school-aged child with complex decision-making, reasoning, and communication abilities, and from them I learned to forget that what gives value to a woman’s right to choose doesn’t exist in a gestating fetus.

[read the rest]

Second, Aoife writes without reservation about the realities of living in a nation where abortion is illegal.

Twelve women. Every day of every week of every year. Twelve women get on planes and ferries and travel to the UK from Ireland for abortions. Every day. In my lifetime that adds up to over one hundred and fifty thousand. Over one hundred and fifty thousand women- that we know of– forced to leave their country and travel, oftenalone, to unfamiliar cities to wait in hospitals they’ve never been to, to have abortions performed by doctors they’ll never see again, and then to take the long journey back home. A few months ago, drinking coffee before my early morning flight back from the UK I wondered how many other women were waiting in airports around the country. How many of them were taking buses in the chilly pre-dawn air to almost-deserted airports, sitting in departure lounges until their gates were announced, drinking overpriced tea at the gates? How many of them were alone?

I’m not American. Roe vs Wade didn’t give my fellow citizens the right to sovereignty over their own bodies. I’m from a place where these rights don’t exist and where an adult woman is valued only as much as a fertilised egg that implants inside her. I’m from a place where women are left to die in easily-preventable agony to serve the principle of ‘life’. A country that attempts to prevent suicidal children who have survived abuse only to become pregnant from leaving the country. Somewhere that forces women to carry their dead and dying fetuses to term against their wishes. A country that says that no risk short of a woman’s almost certain death is a valid reason to allow her to terminate a pregnancy- which is, by the way, largely to blame for the death of Dr Savita Halappanavar. No other risk to her health and well-being, no matter how severe, painful and permanent. Nothing but certain death.

I come from a country where the moment you become pregnant your life ceases to be your own and becomes the state’s. The only recourse we have- hundreds of thousands of women in a country of only four million citizens- is to leave. We’re lucky. Our country is small and close to our neighbours. There are people who will help us, from overseas hospitals who welcome Irish women with the care they need to organisations like the Abortion Support Network (please donate to them if you can! They need everything they can get) who provide both information and financial help to those who need it.

Sometimes I wonder how it’s possible to live somewhere like here and not be pro-choice. The evidence of this beautiful country of mine’s continued refusal to change, however, can’t but remind me otherwise. And then I remember that in my entire life I have only ever seen one woman in person speak out publicly about having had an abortion. I’ve been going to pro-choice demonstrations since I was old enough to vote. I just turned thirty.

[read the rest]

Sara and Aoife don’t live in the United States, but the symbolic nature of Roe still speaks to them. There is something sobering about this, something deeply compelling about the reality that what we do here in the United States matters far beyond our borders. It’s also important to remember that this is an issue that transcends national borders. We are women, whether Americans, Canadians, Irish, Indian, Brazilian, or Egyptian. We are women, and our lives, our dreams, our experiences matter.

And now, head on over to Blog For Choice 2013 to read dozens more posts marking the fortieth anniversary of Roe.

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