This post is part of our "What Does Choice Mean to You?" series commemorating the 37th anniversary of Roe v. Wade.
I first became aware of abortion
around the same time I became aware of many things related to sex and sexuality
– during puberty.
It was 7th
grade, and I was nursing both a broken heart and raging hormones. One day during a break between classes,
my best friend slipped me a piece of paper. On it were the names and numbers of every family planning
clinic in NYC. Neither of was us
was sexually active-– YET–but we both understood the risks of becoming
pregnant at such a young age. Although
we were aware of HIV at that time, an unplanned pregnancy still posed the
greater risk to our educations, happiness, and possibly our very lives. We all knew of girls who were beaten,
forced to drop out of school, thrown out of their homes, and expected to get
married because of an unplanned pregnancy. When we became sexually active, we needed to know where to
go for information, advice, and yes, abortions.
At the time, abortion represented
survival to me. As a little brown
girl from the Bronx, I knew what the statistics said about girls like me and
our chances of “success.” If I
knew one thing, I knew this: I was not going to come home and tell my mother
that I was pregnant. I was not
going to have to tell my father that I was pregnant. And I would do anything to make that true. So I was always practiced safer-sex (my
first boyfriend, poor guy, had to wear two condoms the first time we had
sex). I limited the number of
partners I had. And for years, I
kept that piece of paper Selene gave me.
For me, abortion meant a chance to go to school and get a job – to
create the life I had dreamed of. Abortion
gave me the chance to be a mom when and if I wanted to be, not just because my
body said it was time. Abortion
represented the chance to live.
During high school and college,
abortion represented the awakening of my social and political
consciousness. I argued on behalf
of women’s rights to bodily autonomy and self-determination. I raged when Clarence Thomas was nominated
to the Supreme Court for many reasons, the foremost being his opposition to
abortion rights. In fact, for a
great deal of my life, abortion was an IDEA. I placed a lot of my identity, political, social and
cultural onto my support for abortion rights. In my view, if you didn’t support a women’s right to safe,
affordable abortion, they you didn’t support women. No discussion needed.
That line was drawn in not in the sand, but in concrete. That was my one non-negotiable.
As I began my thirties, and my work in
the reproductive justice movement, I carried all the past history with me. And I realized for all my ranting and
raving, I had lost sight of the most important part of the abortion experience
– the woman. On any given day, I
could count more than two dozen women in my life that had had abortions:
family, friends, acquaintances, sorority sisters, classmates, co-workers, and
Each experience was unique, and I was deeply thankful that each had
legal access to abortion. My focus
shifted from abortion as survival or political to abortion as a lived
experience. The innovative work of
Exhale (www.4exhale.org) and the
life-saving efforts of the National Network of Abortion Funds (www.nnaf.org) and many other amazing
organizations, reminded me that ultimately abortion is about each woman doing
what is right for her.
Despite the barriers to access,
the constant legislative and legal challenges to abortion, and the ongoing
cultural warfare over abortion, I remain grateful for the rights granted under Roe v Wade. And as I
approach my own 37th birthday I am more committed to Roe than ever before.