Legalizing abortion was a major step in both women’s reproductive rights, and in acknowledging the fact that women are more than capable of making decisions about their bodies. While January 22, 2019 marks the 46th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, a day to honor this massive step forward, it's also important to acknowledge the new threats and state-level rollbacks to abortion that we've seen through the years.
"Since Roe v. Wade, politicians have chipped away at access," Debra Hauser, president of Advocates for Youth, tells Bustle. "They have created onerous and unnecessary restrictions that have closed down clinics. They have insisted on unnecessary waiting periods that result in added expenses for many women. For example, if a person has traveled potentially hundreds of miles just to get to a clinic where abortion care is available, they then may have to wait around for days to fulfill state law's waiting period — adding the price of additional nights in a hotel, food, and lost wages to the cost of care."
Although Hauser points out that obtaining an abortion in cities is easier, women in rural areas may have to jump through hoops, making the whole process far more difficult than it should be. "Over a third of women live in counties without any abortion provider at all," Hauser says.
Before I got my abortion in 2005, Roe v. Wade never really crossed my mind. I was a member of my college campus’ pro-choice group and I was glad to know that abortion was legal for those who needed it, but because it didn’t affect me personally and none of my friends at the time had had abortions, it didn’t weigh on my mind. It was, honestly, something I took for granted.
But when I found myself accidentally pregnant and needing an abortion, my appreciation for the decision of Roe v. Wade took on a whole other meaning for me. It may not have been something that I was completely cognizant of in the days leading up to my abortion or even the day of my abortion, but in the days, weeks, and months that followed, when I spent a decent amount of time being grateful that I had access to that abortion I got in March that year, Roe v. Wade became intensely personal to me. My abortion saved my life by giving me the opportunities I wouldn’t have had if I didn’t choose to terminate.
For Katherine, 23, the right to choose is something she's grateful for every day. As she tells Bustle, she was raped in college, was too drunk to consent, and had been off her birth control for three days. She awoke to her attacker being on top of her.
“I am appreciative of Roe v. Wade every day that I go to work, think about my future or my life without worry,” Katherine says. “I can do anything I want. I can go anywhere I want — all because I wasn't forced to carry my attacker's child.”
Pearl*, 41, tells Bustle she got pregnant twice as a teenager. “The first time because I was a dumb kid and the second because my birth control failed," Pearl says. "I took it for granted that Roe v. Wade existed. I knew the stories of back alley abortions and women dying needlessly, but it felt so distant from my world. Now as a mother by choice, I am beyond grateful on a daily basis for myself and my child that I can be the mother I was meant to be instead of an accidental mother. It's better for her and for me. Now I find it mind-boggling that anyone would ever tell a woman what to do with her [her body]. It makes no difference to me that those [...] parts have the power to grow life.”
For Jessica, 31, being able to have a safe and legal abortion was a wakeup call. "The fact that I was able to have a safe and legal abortion reinforced how privileged I am for living in California," she tells Bustle. "I was nine weeks along when I found out and 11 weeks when I had the procedure .[...] Despite the stigma I felt from my own friends, my husband and I just weren't ready."
Jessica also lives with bipolar disorder and was worried about the potential effects of her medications. "I didn't feel responsible carrying a child when on such heavy psychiatric medications," Jessica says. "I had been pregnant through almost the entire first trimester on these medications without my knowledge."
Jessica says her abortion made her realize how much of a fundamental right it is as a human being. "To have control over one's body, over one's choice to become a mother. So many women in my position living elsewhere wouldn't have had access, just because of the personal views of those in power," Jessica says.
“I think the fact that we have the power to grow life is distracting us all from the real issue of women having autonomy over our own bodies,” Pearl says. “If you have a uterus, then you get to decide how to use it. End of story. I wouldn't dream of telling anyone what to do with their pancreas — and that little sucker makes insulin; talk about the power of life right there. So please, stay the f*ck away from my uterus and all my other parts.”
While I'm especially grateful today for Roe v. Wade, as I sit here writing this article, having fulfilled my dream to become a writer, a dream that would not have become a reality if it weren't for my abortion, I don't need today to be reminded of what I have now and what I would have given up if I didn't have my abortion. My life, in itself, is my daily reminder.
*Name has been changed.