Today, reproductive freedom is a right that every woman in the United States possesses, but few women truly appreciate. A woman can attend university, buy her own house or car, and thanks to Griswold v. Connecticut is able to enjoy sex with the person of her choice without the fear of becoming pregnant. Today, a woman has a choice whether and when to have children, and how many she will bear. And in the event of a pregnancy – whether wanted or unwanted, expected or unexpected – a woman has the choice whether to complete that pregnancy or to terminate it.
Many of my married friends don’t realize that we women were once considered non-entities. They don’t realize that not long ago, they could not have received a bank loan in their name without a male relative’s approval. Many of my friends don’t know that, though it was illegal in this country for 150 years, abortion was a common, private family matter for thousands of years before it was first made illegal in the U.S. in Connecticut in 1821. And sadly, many of my friends don’t realize how badly women and their families suffered as a result of criminalization of abortion.
On this 39th anniversary of the transformative Roe v. Wade ruling, I am thankful that piles of dead women have stopped showing up in morgues because of botched and unsafe backstreet abortions. I am thankful that doctors no longer refuse to treat miscarrying women for fear of facing criminal charges for aiding an abortion. I am thankful that women who are victims of rape are no longer forced by the state to carry their rapist’s baby to term and then share parental rights with the rapist.
When abortion was illegal, women had to navigate dangerous, murky channels to find an abortion provider. Often, women paid exorbitant prices and endured sexual abuse from amateur backstreet abortionists. Illegal abortions were performed in unsanitary conditions by ill-qualified persons. Abortion complications were rampant. And hospitals would not treat women with abortion complications until death was knocking – too late too often. I am thankful that, because of Roe v. Wade, no woman in the U.S. has to endure illegal abortion.
But what I am most thankful for, is that my sister was able to have a legal, safe abortion when she found herself pregnant at the hands of her physically abusive boyfriend. If abortion were illegal , she would have been connected to her abuser forever. She might have feared leaving her abuser. She might have feared his abuse turning on her children. She might been trapped in a relationship with an abusive man. She might have died at his abusive hands, or at the hands of an exploitative, swindling amateur abortionist.
Because abortion is legal, my sister no longer has to endure physical and mental abuse. She is not trapped in an abusive relationship. She doesn’t have to fear the abuse will turn on her children. She doesn’t fear her children will normalize abuse or become abusers themselves. She isn’t afraid of leaving her abuser. And best of all, she is alive and safe. And she hasn’t regretted it for even one second.
On this 39th anniversary of Roe, I am glad that my sister was able to take her future into her own hands. Because of women like her, we are all empowered.