By Ellen Friedrichs
I get the news about Roe’s overturn at breakfast when an alert buzzes on my phone. It is a beautiful day in June and I have been catching up with my cousin who is in from out of town. But that buzz delivers a gut punch that sucks the air from my lungs.
It’s not that I am surprised. I have worked in health and sex education for almost two decades and we knew this was coming. As it was, we already lived in a country where over 90% of counties didn’t even have a single abortion provider. Where thirty-six states required tht minors obtain parental notification or consent for the procedure. Where waiting limits and trap laws and pre-abortion ultrasounds were more common than not. And where women were being arrested under fetal harm laws and prosecuted for miscarriages.
But until the moment of that alert, I was still able to hope that we could beat back the tide.
My 13-year-old looks solemn when I share the news and asks, “What can we do?”
“Rage,” I reply before bursting into angry tears and panic-naming all the horrors to come.
Then I text my daughter, who is working as a kindergarten camp counselor. “They overturned Roe. Meet me after camp at Washington Square Park for the march? Fuck the patriarchy. ” I don’t usually send my kids curse laden messages. But in this moment, I want my child to know the depth of my fury and where the blame for this situation lies.
But I also want to give her hope. That is why, the day after the Supreme Court leak, we had marched together over the Brooklyn Bridge, holding signs demanding Bans Off Our Bodies, and Abortion Bans Are Against My Religion (which as Jews, is certainly the case). Chanting things like, “Reproductive rights are human rights,” and, “We won’t go back!”
But now, despite our marches—and over the years we have gone to many, many marches— and despite our signs and our chants, back was exactly where we were.
And that was a place where, when I talked to my own kids, I was hearing the echoes of the stories that my mother—a staunch second wave feminist— had recounted from her youth in the pre-Roe days.
Those were the stories of dangerous back alley abortions. Or of girls who had the means or connections to facilitate a trip to Puerto Rico, where abortion had quietly been legalized in the 1930’s. And it was the stories of the girls who hadn’t had these options and instead had babies in high school. Some did secret adoptions. Others saw their future plans derailed. Those were the girls who my mother would cite when she reflected on her own life course, which had seen her go to college, get married, get another degree, and then have kids on her own timeline.
Now though, as I read op-eds and Twitter threads, I wonder: will this go around be a little better since we can move past coathangers and instead turn to medication abortion? Or will things be worse, since we live in a country where pregnancy itself is being increasingly criminalized and monitored? I mean, it is one thing to advise my teen daughter not to look at colleges in red states, but should I really tell her to delete her period tracker apps as well?
I also know that like my mother in her time, my own children are probably not going to be among those most harmed by what may come. I think now of the millions of people around the country who are far more vulnerable. The ones who this very minute are having their abortion appointments cancelled. The ones to whom the abortion fund donations will be going. Or most concerningly, the ones most on the fringes who will never even make such connections.
“There might be dark days ahead,” I say to my two older children, as I consider all the other rights—like contraception, the kind of sex you have, and marriage equality—that are threatened by Roe’s overturn. “But there are things we can do to fight back.” I say this in a way that reminds me of my own mother comforting me as a child when I learned of a classmate’s birthday party after the fact. “The invitation must have gotten lost in the mail,” she had said. At the time, I knew that probably wasn’t the case, yet I so wanted to believe her.
But unlike the lie about that supposedly lost invitation, today, I am hoping against hope that there is a way to make what I am saying true.
Ellen Friedrichs is a contributing writer for Motherwell. She is a health educator and mom of three based in New York. Find her at sexEdvice.com.
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