Monday, June 27, 2022

Roe v. Wade v. Kennedy

It’s been a while since I’ve engaged in the “reflection” aspect of my blog. Blame it on a lack of free time or an oversaturation of opinions on pressing topics in which I often share the same views. In other words, if somebody else has already said it—and said it well—I often don’t feel the need to add one more “amen” to the corner. However, the recent and stunning—though not unexpected—overturning of Roe v. Wade was my exception. With outrage that has been palpable, and commentaries both subjectively enlightening and at times infuriating, the “think pieces,” podcasts, and political commentaries have been in abundance. So, again, I wondered if my thoughts and feelings on the matter were possibly not needed, until I reconciled that I hold a unique—and possibly surprising to some—perspective on and connection to this historical event. 

I was born in August of 1973—a mere seven months after the January 22, 1973 passage of the Supreme Court’s 7–2 decision in favor of “Jane Roe” (later identified as Norma McCorvey), declaring that women in the United States had a fundamental right to choose whether to have abortions without excessive government restriction and striking down Texas’s abortion ban as unconstitutional. Let’s be clear: many women have made this decision for themselves for years prior to Roe v. Wade albeit illegally, which often lead to dangerous and, most disturbingly, life-ending consequences. The law did not give them permission to make these decisions; it gave them the freedom to make these decisions and be medically, legally and, at times, financially supported in doing so, regardless of their individual choice and right for needing to or simply wanting to make this decision. However, what makes Roe v. Wade so personal to me, is that my mother was facing this very decision while carrying me. 

A military wife and homemaker, and already mother of five, my mother was surprised by the news that she was pregnant (again) with me in the fall of 1972 (affectionally leading me to later be labeled the “oops child”). However, far more pressing than an unexpected pregnancy was that my mother was nearing the age of 40 in a few short months. Today, most folks wouldn’t scoff at someone starting a family at that age (even if still not being medically encouraged). Yet during those years, it was considered extremely high risk, compounded by the fact that my mother suffered from severe hypertension. As a result, the latter raised great concerns for her medical team regarding the impossibility of a successful pregnancy, stating that her placenta may not properly develop and/or separate from her uterus, thus depriving me of oxygen and leaving me severely mentally impaired. Because of this, her doctor—and without question in light of the then newly legalized abortion rights for women—presented my mother with this very option. 

Me--the Miracle Baby
Understandably, the news rocked my mother to her core and she was left, along with my father, to make a literal life-changing decision. However, being a highly religious woman from the South, my mother instead chose to rely on her faith that all would go well and decided to move forward with carrying me to full term--a decision her doctor vowed to support her through by sending her to a clinic that specialized in complicated pregnancies. As for my father, he also supported my mom’s decision and—in true fashion for anyone who knew him—casually stated to her, “Well, we’ve already been blessed with five healthy kids, so if this one is not, it’s ok.” Well, the fact that you’re reading this blog that I've written lets you know how things turned out. And although I’ve been fun lovingly called “crazy” by those who appreciate my humor, I think we can confidently say the proof has been in the "accomplishments pudding" to the contrary (wink). 

My loving parents. RIP.
Throughout my mother’s life, she would recount this story to me on occasion and every time it would make me as emotional as it does now. Moreso because it demonstrated to me that my parents embodied an amount of faith that I am not ashamed to admit I do not (yet) have and—in a similar situation—cannot for certain say I would have been able to lean on in order to make the same decision. My parents would continue to demonstrate such levels of faith throughout our family’s history of tragedies and triumphs that would provide my siblings and I a blueprint to rely on in navigating our own trials and tribulations. So why am I sharing this story? Because despite these unbelievable demonstrations of faith and the blessing that occurred in the form of my miraculous birth and very existence, I remain Pro Choice—not just for me but for every woman who may need to make this decision for a myriad of reasons that should never have to be explained. 

Although most would look at my mother’s decision as her being Pro Life, the irony is that being allowed to CHOOSE to be Pro Life is in itself Pro Choice. Am I grateful for my parent’s decision? Of course. But would I have been disappointed if they chose not to make that ultimate sacrifice just for me, and undoubtedly impact their own lives and those of my siblings? Of course not. How could I be when I would have had no existence or knowledge of a world with me in it? It is because of this reason that arguments “on behalf of the unborn fetus,” have always felt both audacious and flimsy, but I digress. Without a doubt, I am certain my mother made her choice because a life of “what if’s” would have been far harder for her to bear than any hardship of caring for me but, again, it was a choice she was allowed--and had full governmental rights--to make. 

Therefore, seeing this reversal of history has been nothing short of egregious, not only because of this country’s long-standing obsession with governing bodies—be it a woman’s or, most historically, people of color—but because the ramifications of this reversed decision will be catastrophic and the Pandora’s Box that has been opened, thus threatening human rights of every ilk will, without a shadow of a doubt, be called into question mostly under the guise of Christianity, backed by conservatism, yet fueled by greed and control. Spanish philosopher George Santayana once stated, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Sadly, as the recent 2022 Sundance Film Festival selection documentary, “The Janes,” so captivatingly explored, remembering the past is not the problem; forgetting we need to fight to keep from returning to it is. 

Unfortunately, the past is very much now our present. Yet the only sliver of hope is the truism that history always repeats itself—for better or for worse. Therefore, the same fight that was required leading up to the 1973 landmark decision is the same fight that must be reignited now. It is a fight we all must engage in because regardless of where your political, personal, or spiritual convictions fall on this debate of life versus death, what are someone else’s rights that lost today will be your rights that are lost tomorrow. What you choose may not be what I choose; what I choose may not be what you choose, but every choice should be left to the individual doing the choosing. And although this country has not always delivered on upholding those unalienable rights especially for those who often needed them the most, it in no way absolves us from relentlessly demanding these promises be fulfilled. That can never be a choice; that must always be mandatory.   

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