Today marks the 35th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, which you probably know was the US Supreme Court decision that held that a woman's right to abortion is constitutionally protected. Not surprisingly, Roe v. Wade has been a touchstone ever since for those who support a woman's right to have an abortion and those who oppose that right.
If you know me at all, then it's beyond old news that I consider myself pro-choice. But just in case you don't know why, I'm joining the national campaign to blog for choice today to say a few things about that belief.
I don't know when I first took on the label of pro-choice. I think I remember vague discussions of the issue with a friend in 8th grade, which means the foundation of my beliefs on this issue come directly from my parents. Yet I'm quite certain my parents never said the word to me before that point in my life. Somehow though, I had the sense that a woman should not be forced through pregnancy.
It's not surprising I would get this belief from my parents. My mom who believes that imposing your moral or religious code on another person is the most immoral thing you can do. My dad who, while driving me to my first high school football game, told me that if I ever had a problem and if I ever needed anything, I could come to him. Not knowing what he meant, I just nodded, but he continued, "If you're on drugs, if you're pregnant, if you're ever in trouble, you can always tell me and we will work it out." Of course at this point I'd not yet even kissed a boy and to this day I have never even smoked a cigarette, but still today I appreciate the sentiment.
Still, although quite the liberal, I was not an activist in any sense of the world as a teenager. Even in college, my crowd was the theater scene, not the political crowd. But by the end of college, a shift had begun. I knew women who had been raped. I volunteered as a rape crisis counselor and met these women, some as young as I was when I first discussed the idea of abortion yet before I'd even had my first kiss.
And then I knew women -- women very close to me -- who needed abortions and had them. I could envision what their lives would have been without the right to abortion. It made me take the word of anti-abortion advocates very personally -- they were labeling women I love as murderers. That could not have been further from the truth.
So, somewhere along the line, the abstract idea of abortion became a concrete reality. The broad notion of choice became a series of intensely personal, thoughtful, individual choices. The hypothetical woman with an unplanned pregnancy became a pregnant woman I knew and loved. That is a reality that many, many, many opponents of abortion do not acknowledge. Yes, they acknowledge the very small minority of women who use their past abortions as a platform to deny other women the same choice. But they do not acknowledge that as many as half of the women in their lives have silently undergone that same procedure. These women are real.
So today I blog for choice because abortion is a personal issue for me. Not because I have had one, but because the idea that the women in my life are incapable of deciding for themselves whether or not to be pregnant is insulting at best. At worst, it is a remnant of the days when we believed women were incapable of any rational, intelligent thought. We should be long past that notion in the 21st century. But we are not. In fact, just last spring the majority of the Supreme Court upheld abortion restrictions as constitutional on the theory that women are too emotional to make their own choices about pregnancy. I kid you not.
In this election year, as in every election year, I will only vote pro-choice. Abortion is not a black or white issue; that is its one truth. Because it is so personal, so individual. When a candidate says they oppose abortion rights for all women, that is painfully meaningful to me. It goes beyond their own personal moral code or personal family choices. It means they don't trust the values of women in my life -- the very women who I would trust with my life. I cannot support a candidate with so little faith in the people I love the most.
When abortion is illegal, women die. We know that every seven minutes a woman in the world dies because she did not have access to a safe, legal abortion. And when abortion is illegal, women are second class citizens. Their autonomy is removable by the state. Surely these are not the ideals to which American democracy aspires.