Judge Brett Kavanaugh is already policing my family planning

Molly Wernick
2017 Women’s March in New York City. My Sign “Honored to fight like a girl” My husband’s sign “Men say plenty. I’m here to listen.”

After Justice Kennedy announced his retirement, I called my husband in a panic and said, “We can’t have a baby in a country where abortion is not legal. If Roe is overturned, we have to leave. This is the line in the sand. This is the frog in the pot of boiling water!”

When my mother-in-law was in college, she volunteered to help women access abortions abroad, as it was not yet legal in much of the United States. How could she have known that one day her son and future daughter-in-law might be in need of similar support? I’d prefer not to terminate a pregnancy, but if an embryo inside of my body would result in a child with Tay-Sachs disease, that is exactly what I would choose to do.

More than a decade ago, my friend’s mother came up to camp, where we had just spent the summer working, to present her “Screen for 19” campaign with the Victor Center for the Prevention of Jewish Genetic Diseases. After the presentation, all the counselors got swabbed and were told that we’d receive our results in the coming weeks. As my sister had done the screening a year before, it was no surprise to learn that I too was a carrier for Tay-Sachs and Fanconi Anemia.

I tucked the information into the back of my mind for about a decade until my husband, (then-boyfriend), was tested by a representative from JScreen at a Jewish educational conference. As he awaited his lab results for a screening panel of what was then 180 Jewish genetic diseases, (today it is 220), I convinced myself that there was no way that he would also be a carrier for the same diseases. But actually, there was: 1 of every 27 Ashkenazi Jews carries the gene for Tay-Sachs. A strong sense of denial comforted me until the day he received his results. We both carried the gene for Tay-Sachs disease. I knew then that we had a long road ahead. To learn more about this fatal neurodegenerative disease, read about it here.

We want children. We want to raise humans who are kind, empathetic, and driven. We want to fill the world with goodness and warmth. And our family planning journey will not be an easy one. There is a 25% chance that a naturally conceived pregnancy would result in a child with Tay-Sachs disease. I feel nauseated and angered to know that the America in which I would be forced to carry that pregnancy to term is in sight. As a recipient of great privilege in today’s America, I will likely be in driving distance to a safe abortion. But many lack both access and privilege. That fate now lies in the hands of Judge Kavanaugh and the GOP. In the hands of older white men who feel entitled to determine what happens to my body.

My husband and I sit at the beginning of our family planning journey knowing full well that our choices today are at risk tomorrow. Because we can’t plan with the certainty of my ongoing right to choose what happens with my body, then my choices, my rights, have already been taken away.

I am going to continue to fight this every chance I get, and I invite you to join me. My senators, Bob Casey and Pat Toomey will receive the copies I hand-deliver to their Philadelphia offices. I will be at the next Women’s March and the ones to follow. I will keep giving money to Planned Parenthood. And if one day we do have children, we will raise them to be strong feminists who will join us in the fight.

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