NOTICE: Roe v. Wade and the Supreme Court

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I share anger, despair and grief with all of us whose lives will be changed by the current Supreme Court review of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. I am stunned by the hypocrisy of judges and lawmakers who give credence to the false narratives that have brought us to this moment in the United States.

I’m old enough to remember what life was like before Roe v. Wade in this country. I have friends my age who have become sterile from botched abortions. I also have friends who have had safe abortions by licensed gynecologists at major hospitals in US cities, their medical records proving D&C was necessary due to an incomplete miscarriage. For nearly 50 years, women – my friends, my daughters, our granddaughters – have enjoyed an education, built their careers, and lived their lives without fear that an unplanned pregnancy will cut them short.

In 1973, just after Roe v. Wade, I became a Planned Parenthood educator. The fight to end this new constitutional guarantee for women began immediately. It was never a fair fight. Devoting itself to moral majority, the Right to Life attempted to physically prevent women from accessing the services they had just been promised. They blocked the entrances to abortion clinics with screaming lines of protesters. According to Rand, between 1973 and 2003 there were “300 acts of extreme violence, including arson, bombings, murders and butyric acid attacks”. In a jaw-dropping act of hypocrisy that I know of, a co-worker of mine from a big city told me that the local president of Right to Life brought his daughter to the back door of his clinic for an abortion, then resumed his place by picketing against this medical establishment.

Since Roe, there has been a deliberate move to change the language commonly used to describe the process of human pregnancy. Neither medicine, nor the dictionary, nor even the Bible defines the result of fertilization as a “child” or a “baby”. Here are the stages of pregnancy. The fertilized egg begins its journey to the uterus [womb] as a zygote. Once it implants in the uterine lining, it becomes an embryo. About 9 weeks after the last period, the embryo becomes a fetus until it is delivered. Some cultures believe that life begins with acceleration – the experience of feeling the movement of the fetus – which occurs around 13 to 16 weeks. As medicine has become more sophisticated, the time it takes for a fetus to become viable, or live outside the womb, is now between 22 and 24 weeks. Life, as defined in the dictionary, is the period between birth and death – in other words, from the moment the fetus is born, at which time it becomes a child.

The right to life movement and other anti-choice religious and political individuals changed the vocabulary around pregnancy to anthropomorphize the fetus and thus bolster the validity of their argument.

For the purposes of the current Supreme Court argument, Justice Alito uses this artificially constructed definition to support his personal belief that abortion is, in fact, murder. He and his fellow originalists point to the distinction that there is no mention in the Constitution of abortion. There’s also no mention of the Founding Fathers’ women – remember, “All men are created equal.” There is no mention of people of color or slavery. We all know that these equal men were all white landowners. And they were the only Americans who could vote. While some states gave women the right to vote in the 19th century, it took the 19th Amendment, passed on August 18, 1920, for white women to gain universal suffrage. It wasn’t until the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that black women got the same right. Can we then assume that, as a natural progression towards the base of all laws in the original Constitution, women will not only lose the right to control their own bodies, but will also lose the right to vote?

The issue of abortion has nothing to do with religious belief or with the welfare of a woman and a potential child. It is a question of economy and power. Those who hold legislative power control the flow of money through our economy. Roe empowered women to take ownership of their reproductive decisions and build careers on an equal footing with their male counterparts. It was the end of “keep them barefoot and pregnant,” the end of white men’s inviolate right to be in charge of everything.

How many moralizing lifers actually care about children who are unwanted for a myriad of reasons and have therefore adopted one or more? Why don’t life-sentenced hypocrites devote their efforts to funding research into the perfect birth control so that women can easily and cheaply determine when it’s time for them to get pregnant? When will family life education provide evidence-based and experiential programs, based on proven methodology so that our children have the tools and information they need to make choices that will enable them to succeed? How dare these hypocritical and scandalous men decide that women raped or victims of incest must carry the pregnancy resulting from these crimes.

How many women will have to die for lack of access to safe and affordable reproductive care?

I respect the right of any woman who thinks abortion is bad for her, even though I am passionately pro-choice. What prevents people who share anti-choice beliefs from giving me and those who share my beliefs the same respect?

During their Judiciary Committee hearings for their Supreme Court nominations, Justices Gorsuch and Kavanaugh said they stand with watch the decision – precedent – and therefore would support Roe. The next decision of the Court will confirm them as men of their word or liars. In the latter case, they must be held responsible.

Louise Yohalem
Mill River

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