Since the Supreme Court announced its decision to reverse the ruling of Roe v Wade last Friday, I can’t stop thinking about what it means. I am so deep in my feelings and thoughts that everything is a jumble. I am sick. My stomach is in knots. My heart feels like it dropped in my chest. My mind can’t comprehend that we are here, that this happened. I am sad, upset, and worried for the future for myself, my loved ones, and my country. I cry tears of frustration and fear, and I worry that things are going to have to get a whole lot worse before they get better.
I worry not just for the state of women’s health in this country, but I worry for the further unjust consequences of this decision upon women in minorities, who already face the heavy burden of racism in this country. I fear that perhaps that was the point all along.
I worry about how this and other hot button topics are creating an even wider gap been the citizens of this country. I see how the Right and Left can’t seem to find a way of speaking to one another without resorting to inflammatory language meant to incite a rallying cry from people who already agree with them instead of trying to have respectful and honest conversations to come to solutions everybody can live with. I see this in people in my community, in my circle, in my own political party, online, in the news, in Washington…it’s everywhere. I wonder how we can ever expect to solve the problems we face if we only surround ourselves with people who only ever agree with us, look like us, think like us.
I worry that we are listening to the wrong voices, that the only voices being heard don’t represent the majority of people. I worry that our elected officials and branches of government aren’t listening to the needs and wishes of the entire country and instead only to their own interest groups. I worry that the highest court of our land is not upholding the spirit of the Constitution and is instead returning to a time and tradition that renders entire demographics to fall prey to the traditional forms of inequality. I fear the corruption of the founding beliefs of our country and the crumbling of our democratic republic.
I’m sick at the number of people who can listen to things like Mary Miller’s speech and still deny that racism is alive and well in America. I find myself amending “Home of the Free” to “Home of the Free (for some).” I’m worried for Black women, especially, who have disproportionately high instances of maternal and infant deaths due to things like preeclampsia or pre-term labor, women who are already biased against in the medical field in so many ways (see Under the Skin by Linda Villarosa, which goes into frightening detail about this).
I’m frustrated by the lack of any coordinated government support for women who are forced by new state laws to carry a child they may desperately want but cannot afford. Instead, we risk further strain on an already struggling welfare and foster care system, increased homelessness, decreased rates of higher education, and more. Yes, a mother could give the child up for adoption, but adoption is not an alternative to abortion. As Dr. Marta Perez states, “Adoption is an alternative to parenting” (see Missing from Roe Debate: Pregnancy is Not Health-Neutral).
I’m worried for women undergoing miscarriages who may need life-saving medical procedures or medications to prevent infection and death for themselves which are already not allowed in some states. I worry for fellow cancer warriors who find themselves pregnant and then not permitted to undergo chemotherapy due to the risk it would pose to the fetus. What if I found myself pregnant again? In my home state of Missouri, the law allows for a medical emergency exception, but where is that line? The language is vague and open to interpretation on this part, so what if my doctors would hesitate for fear of criminal charges/fees and wait too long? I worry that our lawmakers are taking an already emotional and fraught situation and compounding it in the worst way.
I worry about the future of contraceptives and their availability, and about the rapid production and consumption of other drugs meant to prolong men’s ability to have sex. I am frustrated by society’s unfair distribution of responsibility for preventative practice and the burden of raising children when that prevention fails. I’m worried about the effect this will have on women’s place in the work place and their ability to pursue their dreams and goals.
I worry about the risk women will take to avoid unwanted pregnancies, because making it illegal won’t stop abortion, if history is anything to go by.
I struggle to reconcile ending a human life at any stage, especially a baby’s, but I also struggle with telling someone they must forfeit their own life in the favor of another. I shudder to think anyone on this earth has the right to decide whose life is worth more than another, much less people who have no insight into those specific situations and offer little to no aid after imposing their will. I struggle with forcing a woman to risk long-term side effects associated with pregnancy that could severely impact her physical, mental and/or emotional health. I believe that decisions about a woman’s health and whether or not she becomes a parent should be up to her and whoever else she chooses.
I don’t have the answers to our problems, but we aren’t going to get them by tearing one another down or by denying entire demographics of their fundamental rights, rights that are protected by our Constitution…or should be.
What authority do I have to speak on this? None, just my own experiences and thoughts. If I’m being really honest, I’m scared even putting this out for the world to see, but that’s the point isn’t it?
Empathy is the only way we will find a solution to the problems our country faces, but empathy is impossible without first understanding what someone is struggling with, what motivates them, what scares them, what concerns them. If we continue to separate ourselves, we cannot have true empathy. We must do better. We must get uncomfortable. We must listen. We must put ourselves in the shoes of others and search ourselves to consider how we would feel in their place. We must act with compassion and lead with kindness and respect.
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