On January 22nd, 1973 the US Supreme Court announced its decision legalizing abortion. For the last 43 years we have been living, and dying, with the implications.
Yesterday Frederica Matthews-Greene posted a compelling essay in which she predicts that future generations may look back in dark amazement at this chapter in American history. She suggests we may be approaching a tipping point, but not where we might expect it.
The article also follows her own journey.
At the time of the Roe v. Wade decision, I was a college student — an anti-war, mother-earth, feminist, hippie college student. That particular January I was taking a semester off, living in the D.C. area and volunteering at the feminist “underground newspaper” Off Our Backs. As you’d guess, I was strongly in favor of legalizing abortion. The bumper sticker on my car read, “Don’t labor under a misconception; legalize abortion.”
Interestingly, it was an article in a 1976 issue of Esquire magazine that led her to reconsider her position.
How different our country/world might have been, had Roe v. Wade gone the other way. Today we are used to 5-4 decisions. On this one it wasn’t even close, 7-2. And it is chilling to think all this lay in the hands of 9 men to decide. Would it have been any different if there had been female justices on the court in 1973?
Though offered as a solution for the mother, abortion is actually a far greater convenience to those who supposedly care about her.
What we didn’t realize was that, once abortion becomes available, it becomes the most attractive option for everyone around the pregnant woman. If she has an abortion, it’s like the pregnancy never existed. No one is inconvenienced. It doesn’t cause trouble for the father of the baby, or her boss, or the person in charge of her college scholarship. It won’t embarrass her mom and dad.
So there is significant pressure on a woman to choose abortion, rather than adoption or parenting. A woman who had had an abortion told me, “Everyone around me was saying they would ‘be there for me’ if I had the abortion, but no one said they’d ‘be there for me’ if I had the baby.”
For everyone around the pregnant woman, abortion looks like the sensible choice. People think: If she would only go off and do this one thing, everything would be fine. But that’s an illusion. Abortion can’t really turn back the clock. It can’t push the rewind button on life and make it so that she was never pregnant. It can make it easy for everyone around the woman to forget the pregnancy, but the woman herself may struggle.
Near the end Mathews-Greene writes what for me was the most haunting sentence of the whole essay:
Essentially, we’ve agreed to surgically alter women so that they can get along in a man’s world. And then expect them to be grateful for it.
I can’t help but wonder when this kind of awareness will reach critical mass. And what will happen when it does? What other dehumanizing alterations have we submitted to in the name of convenience, progress, and security?