This week, I had planned to write a Mother’s Day column. It was going to be really special– I was going to do my first mother-daughter Q&A which would’ve been fun because yesterday Yurema turned twenty-four. It was going to be a week of celebration.
Unfortunately, news broke late Monday night surrounding the leaked documents from the U.S. Supreme Court stating that the court plans to overturn Roe v. Wade. So instead we decided to turn this into a mother-daughter Q&A about threats to our bodies in our “modern-day” country. My daughter, Yurema, sat down with me on a rainy spring morning out in Connecticut to talk this out.
Yurema: Hey mama.
Maria: Hi Yuyu.
How are you holding up?
I’m ok, but this has been a pretty rough time. Honestly, I’m more worried about you and your generation. I thought we were done with this…
Honestly, it’s frustrating to feel like you are constantly yelling into the void. Progress was made and now we are so clearly going backwards. I think some of us have a vague understanding that Roe v. Wade protects our right to choose, but what does it signify to you?
Let me give you some historical context. As a little girl growing up in the 70’s, I witnessed the women’s rights movement flourish. Feminist organizers were part of my daily existence! For us, legal access to an abortion was not just a topic of conversation, but also our lived experience. I remember seeing graphic photographs in magazines of dead women lying in a puddle of their own blood after having no other choice but to get an unsafe abortion. Access to abortion has alway meant saving women’s lives.
But you also told me that the case is fundamentally about privacy. So what do you mean by that?
Many people think that Roe v., Wade has to do with the specificity of when life begins in utero or getting access to abortion. In fact, the central legal argument made is that a woman has a right to privacy in her health decisions. Period. And that includes her right to choose to have an abortion or not.
I think it's critical that we remember that this is what we are arguing about: a women’s right to privacy. So what’s next? Will the government get to decide whether I get a nose job, a breast reduction, or a hip replacement? It’s so disrespectful.
We talk a lot about this at home: how does privilege play a role in all of this?
I’ve seen a lot of people all over social media say that this overturn would not stop abortions, it would only stop access to safe abortions. Women have been terminating pregnancies since the dawn of time. But as is typical around issues of healthcare and getting the best treatment, it's all about what? Money and whether or not you have it.
If you have money, you can drive or fly wherever you need to go and pay whatever its costs to make it happen. For example, the state of California plans to put abortion access for all women into the State Constitution. But if you have deep economic challenges and you are stuck in a state where there is no clinic, then you will be forced to go through an unwanted pregnancy.
I know this must be difficult to be living through after having gotten your own abortions when you were my age.
Ten years after Roe v. Wade, I got pregnant twice within one year when I was in college, while using birth control. I had to get two abortions. It’s not something I would ever wish on you or any other person. But I would hold your hand and be there for you if you needed to have one.
There is a very intimate way I connect with this case because I lived through it before. I had to walk through a group of anti-abortion protestors to get my second one. But while I am definitely intimately connected to all this, I also am deeply concerned about the state of this country.
What do you think this signifies about the direction we are headed in?
It’s really scary because we understand what it’s like to make slow progress, but this is a country going backwards. That is very concerning and distressing.
What would you say to all the people scared for their right to choose right now?
This country has always been in a series of rebellions against systems of power: white supremacy, patriarchy, capitalism…the list goes on. The only way things have progressed and changed is when people got involved, made their voices heard, and their power seen–from the streets to the ballot box. I believe in people power.
So all of us have to see the real threat to the country that we are living in. Then, you have to do everything within your power to not be complacent. For example, this particular battle has everything to do with the ballot box. So take some time to process what is happening in whatever way you need: talk with your friends and family, go for a walk, or even disengage from it for a minute. And then, make a plan for how to get involved. And if you have privilege, think about how to use it in a helpful and effective way for those who need it most. You don't have to reinvent the wheel. Just get involved.
Our right to privacy, to our lives, and to our choices are at stake.
Thanks for talking with me, ma.
Of course mijita.
*We know this is a difficult issue for a lot of people, but I believe in dialogue Please keep comments civil and respectful.
**When I say women in this article, I understand that any gender can get an abortion. For the sake of not using language that reduces a person to their reproductive organs (i.e. a person with a uterus, a menstruator, etc.) I used the term women. If you have any helpful suggestions for better language to use, please let me know in the comments.
Cover Photo: VIEW Press/Corbis News via Getty Images
Quote from "Roe v. Wade." Oyez, www.oyez.org/cases/1971/70-18.
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