We’re Going to Lose Roe Vs. Wade. Here Are 5 Things to Do Before It Happens
“We are going to lose Roe v. Wade.”
And, “I thought my daughter was not going to be consigned to a lesser life than my son. I no longer do.”
Those lines were incredibly personal to my circumstances in 2016, living in Atlanta, Georgia. Right around that time, I spoke to my long-time OB/GYN on what she thought about the future of women’s options in healthcare — from access to health screenings to reproductive care, birth control and abortion care. Having lived in a pre-Roe America, she didn’t think it would be possible that the ruling could ever be overturned. As a healthcare professional, the first thing she called to mind, in the years prior to abortion being legal, were the hospital septic wards, which were filled with women suffering from the complications of illegal, back-alley abortions.
Since then, life and career growth opportunities have led me to now live in California. On March 28, 2019, I was on Twitter and saw something about a “heartbeat bill” called HB481, being voted on in the Georgia House. And, I recalled my doctor’s words from 2016: “They’ll never send women back to the septic wards.” Yet, by the end of that next day, HB481 passed in the House and headed to the Governor’s desk. Georgia is one of the increasing number of states to review similar legislation or have already passed laws which will indeed send women back to those wards.
Many of these laws have been struck down by the Supreme Court, and aren’t yet enforceable. But, given the pace and direction at which things are going, they could be if Roe is overturned by the Supreme Court.
There is no end to the political forums, discussions and media coverage on the issue of abortion and these latest legislative events. Pro. Con. Agnostic. Indifferent. Neutral. We all have opinions and varying ways to share them, I can intelligently grasp and respect that. And, I respect that there’s also an opposite side to the pro-abortion argument that has equally passionate supporters, with their own reasons for the cause.
But as a woman, in solidarity with the vulnerability of any woman who could become pregnant at any point in her lifetime, I have to take an incredibly personal view. If I were coming of reproductive age at this moment in time, these are the five things I’d want to tell myself as a woman in America and what I need to remind myself of at this exact stage of my life:
- Consider the benefits of getting on birth control(s) even if you’re not expecting to be sexually active or in situations where you could become pregnant. And it could only help to consider a secondary method to use in parallel with your primary source of birth control.
Research all of the ways that a birth control method could fail: What medications will impact the effectiveness of your birth control pill? Can you rely on 100% consistent condom use in your relationship? With every form of birth control there’s the “perfect lab usage” application that may say “less than 1%” failure, when there’s the ACTUAL human error prone side — which can be as high as 15% for many of the most popular and accessible forms of birth control.
If abortion does become illegal past the sixth week of pregnancy when most women don’t even yet know they’re pregnant, as it would with the Georgia law for example, consider that even for the smallest of failure rates, like the 1 in 200 chance to become pregnant if you’ve had a tubal ligation, that it’s a matter of survival to prevent pregnancy. If you don’t and you’re found having an abortion, you could be forced by the state to carry it to term or face criminal charges with jail time up to 10 years, or even the possibility of facing the death penalty if this Texas bill did become law.
As just one recourse, if oral contraceptives as a medical option work for you, e-commerce and technology are lifesavers in this era, as companies like Lemonaid as well as other resources exist to ship pills discreetly directly to your mailbox. And, apps like these help remind you to take the pill each day. It may even be a good idea, just from an awareness perspective for you and the women in your circle, to research what the current options are if you do become pregnant.
2. Plan ahead and buy the morning-after pill to have it readily available and consider those within your personal network who may not be able to access it. If legal and appropriate, make it available to those who need it. Here’s advice to access it online if you’re not able to easily purchase it in a store. And, while the no-cost or low cost availability of the morning after pill is limited, this piece offers ideas on how to get it for free or at a lower cost if it’s available through your insurance.
3. Be Proactive about Your Personal Safety in Any Relationships — Because Pregnancy Resulting from Non-consensual Sex and Sex Where the Form of Contraception is Non-Consensual Is a Very Real Thing. This means talking frequently about your plans to practice safe sex and watching out for each other — teens and women alike. It’s a critical time to ask yourself and the women around you difficult questions, some of which may need to be some of the following:
- Am I in a long-term or marital situation where I feel pressured or forced to have sex?
- What is date rape? What are date rape drugs?
- Am I in a sexual situation that puts me at risk for stealthing by my partner?
- How can I handle situations where I may feel coerced by a partner to not use protection?
- What are my plans for who I can turn to if I need to leave a relationship that’s become abusive?
The time is now to partner with each other in women-supporting causes, and to consider every woman a sister who’s equally vulnerable at any moment to become pregnant and enter a state-sanctioned status to not have the freedom of choice for reproductive rights on how to manage their condition.
4. Do You Know Where You’d Go for an Abortion? Planned Parenthood offers a “zip code search” feature on this page. What do you find when you search your zip code? Now consider if you lived in another zip code, county, state, country or some remote place on the other side of the planet, and how that access would change and the stakes at risk if you were a person trying to access abortion care. Someone within a 20-mile drive of you most likely has a completely different experience — whether it’s mindset, religion, medical access or social support and financial resources to get the healthcare they need, especially as women. Specific to women’s healthcare and abortion care, this piece in Vice’s Broadly by Jex Blackmore effectively argues that “Onerous anti-abortion laws are designed to make abortion inaccessible — and by design they harm poor women and marginalized populations the most.”
For me personally, after reading the aforementioned article by Michelle Goldberg, I picked up a copy of her book, The Means of Reproduction, on the global battle over reproductive rights. I’ve always been identified as “pro-choice”, but the story of a young girl who was raped and died from an unsafe abortion procedure in the book’s introduction opened my eyes to the life and death global crisis for women and girls when abortion care is viewed as criminal. Additionally, stories like this more recent one — of an 11-year-old rape victim in Argentina who was impregnated and denied an abortion — reinforce the global epidemic that anti-abortion laws inflict on women and girls who are of reproductive age.
Whether it’s awareness of what other women and girls in other US locations face in order to access abortion care to the circumstances of those in other countries, the more we can develop empathy and compassion to help one another and feel personally connected, the better.
5. Who’s in political office impacts the rights of women and girls. And, in a democracy like we have in the US, the time is critical to register to vote and get your friends to register. If you want to actively engage in causes that impact 50% of the planet’s population, the most powerful action you can take is on the ballot. Beyond voting, empower yourself and the women in your circle with information and get involved in any number of the courageous organizations that defend these liberties and access to healthcare, like Planned Parenthood, the ACLU, NARAL and many others.
For me, where the health, safety and very lives of girls and women are put at risk by their own government, this feels like it’s a very dark time in the US and the world. The obstinate optimist in me could say that we can look toward to a future of open-minded lawmakers and conscientious voters who mobilize to put them into office. But, if the past is any indication of the future, the difficult reality is that history could very well repeat itself.
Case in point, look at this American history article on the 1977 Conference on Women’s Rights. This was before I was even born. Yet, here we sit, 42 years later, with the bodily rights of women in the US again at risk of being lost.
Maybe in some future millennium we may celebrate that bodily autonomy and freedom is a right for everyone, not just the half that can’t physically get pregnant. But, until that day comes, with every generation, every new political wave that pushes back, we’re going to have to keep at it, keep taking care of ourselves, and keep staying strong.