Where is the love?
I am the mother of two teenagers. Becoming a parent is the greatest joy of my life and also the hardest thing I’ve ever done, which is why I think motherhood is a choice nobody should be forced into.
At this point in my life I have personally witnessed countless friends become parents, countless families struggle with fertility, and countless–yes, countless–people decide to exercise their right to an abortion. There was not a single instance in which less privacy, less choices, more fear and no access to services would have helped.
And yet here we are: facing the likelihood of an America where some women will be coerced into parenthood against their will.
I am writing this the day after Politico published the leaked draft decision indicating that a majority of the Supreme Court vociferously favors overturning Roe v. Wade. Today, many of us woke up – literally and figuratively – to the very real possibility that the right to abortion might disappear for millions, creating two different Americas for women, depending on where they live. One where families have a choice, and one where they do not. The shock is still quite fresh, but here is what is at the top of my mind:
This will hit some people harder than others: If the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade as the leaked decision indicates, it will hit poorest communities the hardest. The sad truth is that wealthy people will always have access to abortions. But the millions of women already struggling to make ends meet will be hit first and worst.
People will die: Striking down Roe v. Wade will not end abortion, only safe abortion. Lack of access to safe and legal abortions leads to higher maternal mortality rates. And, because we know our unequal healthcare system has left some communities without even access to a maternity ward, some communities are certain to experience higher death rates than others.
Medical care will be criminalized: No woman should be afraid that the police will investigate her medical decisions or that she could face jail time for a procedure that was a Constitutional right for decades. Taxpayer dollars and government resources should not be used to persecute women & doctors for health care decisions. If we care about health and safety, we should not be incarcerating more people.
People will struggle economically for generations: Denying basic healthcare will lock women, families, and communities into a cycle of poverty with no end. The lack of access to childcare, transportation and good jobs is already wreaking havoc on our communities. Yet now, laws passed by anti-choice leaders in over 20 states will force overburdened women into motherhood, without any plan to help care for those women and children.
Faith in our democracy will erode: This decision makes the Supreme Court look more like a group of ideologues than neutral arbiters. By creating new rules about when a President can nominate a Supreme Court justice, and then immediately breaking those rules the next time around, Republicans in Congress played games and broke precedent to stack the court. These games have made the Court seem more political, even though everyday Republicans want an impartial and compassionate court just as much as Democrats. This is a bad time to be losing faith in yet another democratic institution.
We will be less free: This decision will make America less free and less equal. Some women will be able to afford to legally access abortion care. Others will be too poor, face criminal charges, or risk bringing criminal charges on a doctor by asking for help. Furthermore, the decision as outlined in the memo, paves the way for the further erosion of our freedoms and reversal of longstanding rights.
The decision could have far-reaching implications. Here is where I say I know it was just a draft. The final decision could look far different. But the draft we have is an indication of how far some members of the court are willing to go. This decision questions the very existence of a right to privacy. Some legal scholars see grounds in this draft for the court to overturn same-sex marriage, decisions banning sodomoy laws, the right to contraception, even interracial marriage. It also assumes that non-viable fetuses are human persons, paving the way for a future court to ban abortion outright in Red and Blue states alike.
Sounds bleak, right? I feel uncharacteristically lacking in optimistic spin or a plan to move forward. But we are resilient people. We have fought our way out of the darkest moments in history. In hard times I have one rule – lead with empathy and lead with love. Do not run away from witnessing pain. We must grieve together.
What can we do right now? It is time to demand action from Congress. First of all, we need to overturn the filibuster that undermines democratic representation. Second, Congress should pass legislation that would keep abortions from being criminalized. Right now they have a chance to pass the Women’s Health Protection Act and codify Roe v. Wade into law. It has already passed the House, we must now urge our Senators to make it law. Here is how.