I am a woman who stands in the very intersection of this pro-life/pro-choice debate, so I feel moved today to share my thoughts on what happened today as the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. I mean, it’s not every day the government of your country votes to make you and all the other millions of women into second class citizens. It’s not every day you are told you don’t matter, not if you have a uterus. Nope. If you have a uterus, only your uterus matters…and the government just better go ahead and decide exactly how that uterus gets to exist, how that uterus will be used, and how that uterus will quickly be forgotten (along with the rest of you), when it’s no longer working the way the government thinks it should.
I have a unique perspective on this one…maybe one that a lot of people on both sides of this issue may be unable to see or articulate. I was adopted as an infant, born to a mother who was just 15. She chose life for me, because even at that tender age, even with a mountain of hardships in her life that would have made it impossible for her to keep me and provide the kind of life she thought I deserved, she also understood that she had some privileges she could leverage, too. She was a young, healthy girl who had the support of her family to get her though the pregnancy and the trauma of birth and placing me for adoption.
I’m going to stop and say that again, because I need you take a moment and really hear me—the trauma of birth and placing her baby for adoption.
Because even in the best of circumstances, and I would honestly say mine are pretty close to the “best of circumstances”—where a healthy young woman had some support and access to good food, a roof over her head, and some prenatal care—there is still a deep and undeniable trauma that comes as a result of the separation of mother and child. Period. Most people don’t like to talk about that, let alone create and fund the support services needed to help the mother and child AND adoptive families deal with that trauma. But you don’t ever hear anyone talk about that when they lift adoption as the beautiful, ideal solution for those mothers who are unable to take the best care of these babies they are compelled to have. It also doesn’t seem like mothers matter enough in this country to even warrant actual maternity leave to allow the time needed for their bodies to heal and recover after growing and birthing a brand new human. I was still bleeding and in pain from my c-sections when I had to return to work, and I used up every scrap of paid and unpaid leave I was allowed to take.
So here is one of my mothers, faced with an impossible situation, and she had to make the best decision she could for her and her unborn child. She chose to give up part of herself and her life to give me mine. And that should be her choice, and hers alone.
Her body. Her life. Her choice.
My other mother, my adoptive mother, was older, married, relatively financially stable, and longing for a family. She had three miscarriages trying to conceive and carry a baby to term. She and my dad got close, once, and there’s an old photo album and tiny gravesite to mark the pain of their loss. They decided then to adopt, and were able to adopt my sister and I just 1 year and 16 days apart. It sounds like the best possible situation for everyone, and I will agree it truly was the best possible situation because I’m here, right? I’ve had this life.
But all of it came at a cost to all of us, and the effects rippled through our families. And yes, while overall, I will always be positive about what I have had and experienced in this life of mine, it hasn’t been free of pain or heartbreak or sorrow. All three of us have experienced the absolute best and worst of this world because we’ve had this shot at life together, but ALL of that came because both of these women came, in some way, from those privileged places where they had the means and the support and the safety nets they needed to make those choices.
Most women in this country today DO NOT have those privileges and support and safety nets. Many women in this country don’t have access to nutritious food, safe places to live, jobs to support themselves and their families, equal access to education, even basic healthcare. Many women don’t have the means to support a child—financially, physically, emotionally. And that doesn’t even begin to touch on the complications that come from situations where a woman is raped, or when a hopeful expectant mother is told her baby is suffering from a genetic disorder or a life-threatening disease that could endanger her life too, if carried to term.
In some states, even miscarriages could be deemed “illegal” now. So my adoptive mother, with all of her best intentions to have the American Dream of getting married and having a job and starting a family—even she becomes a villain, a criminal, in this new world we’re living in today after the Supreme Court’s ruling. I have to hope that some of those Justices just didn’t think all of this through before they voted as they did. The alternative—that they had thought through these scenarios, and still voted the way they did—would make me seriously question both their sanity and their motives.
And then there’s this whole unimagined scenario where my birthmother decided to keep me. At 15, she may have had to drop out of high school—or at least college would have been out of the question (which she started after I was adopted, but is still trying to finish today after stopping out when my half-siblings were born a few years later).
And my birthfather? He’s a wonderful man, and his family were good, hardworking people, but they were poor, and he was just 17 when I was born. His football talent offered a scholarship to college, which he may have had to forfeit if he took on the role of full-time dad.
So maybe before we decide that EVERY woman in this country should be forced to bring EVERY pregnancy to term to bring as many babies as possible into this world because, “Yea! Babies! We love babies!”, we should actually think what essential systems must be in place so we can, as one large human community of the United States of America, ensure that ALL babies have access to what they need to survive and thrive and become well-adjusted, supported, productive, accepted, and genuinely cared for members of society.
Maybe we should keep our politics off each others’ bodies altogether. Unless, of course, along with this strict control over the output of every uterus in this country, there also comes a 2-for-1 deal on vasectomies for every penis. We want to keep things fair, don’t we, because we’re all in this together, right? For the babies?
I’m home with laryngitis. My voice literally just disappeared yesterday. And when I went to the doctor, she told me I needed to just rest and not talk for a couple days, so I was camped out on the couch at home working and sending emails and joking with my colleagues that the universe was telling me to be still, be quiet, when the news broke. And it started to dawn on me as I felt the anger rising and the words itching to come out, that maybe the universe knew I needed to be home for this, because it hits me at home in deeply personal ways—as an adopted child, a sexual assault survivor, the mother of a young daughter, and a woman still of reproductive age with hella white privilege in this country at this stage and station in my life where I have a good job, decent financial security, a big supportive family, a community of friends who are just as close as family, reasonable access to healthcare, a home, a car, health insurance, and two beautiful children who were wanted, planned, and a choice that all of those other privileges allowed me to make in order to bring these two beautiful lives into the world.
But what kind of world did I bring these beautiful lives into?
Is it a world well-prepared and able (and willing) to come together as one large community to help those precious lives feel loved and cared for? Is it a community where ALL of the beautiful, precious lives are celebrated and included and supported to be the best, most authentic versions of themselves? Because that’s why we want them to be born in the first place, right? To BE exactly who they are? Because to want them to be anything but EXACTLY who they are isn’t really protecting their “right to life” is it?
Whew! Okay, good. Glad we could take a second and clear that one up for all the folks in our country who are feeling unseen, uncared for, unappreciated, discriminated against, targeted, or encouraged/required to show up in this world as anything other than their beautiful, uniquely authentic selves. Thanks! We’ll be sure to be on the lookout for the rulings and the laws to make sure that happens…though someone might want to get Justice Clarence Thomas on the same page, because it sounds like he’s already looking to ban the contraception that allowed me to plan my pregnancies so I could give my babies and myself the best possible lives. Oh, and while he’s at it, he’s already talking about taking away rights from same-sex couples, which would pretty much decimate their right to live their lives as the actual humans they were born to be. Let’s see if we can get on the same page there too, while we’re at it, okay?
But this isn’t just an issue that hits hard at home for me. It’s an issue that hits at work, too, because I sit with students in those moments when they get assaulted and have to worry about the possibility of an unwanted pregnancy on top of the trauma they just endured and haven’t even begun to process yet. I sit with students who learn they’re pregnant and suddenly realize their immediate future is falling apart…but they don’t have time for that. They’ve got decisions to make because the clock is ticking if they even happen to live in a state that allows them the possibility of having an abortion.
And does it soften the blow that word—abortion—tends to have on folks if we throw in circumstances like the student is poor and the pregnancy was the result of abuse, only compounding the trauma of the abuse with more trauma if she is forced to carry the abusers’ child to term, and then attempt to place the baby for adoption?
And we haven’t even touched on the effects of gestational trauma that babies experience in utero, or the effects generational trauma this child will carry with them into their adoptive family, who have all of their own experiences and traumas.
Sounds like fun, doesn’t it? And a really healthy environment for everyone involved.
This country is poised in a very precarious position, where they could either start making some massive mistakes (the first of which happened today when the U.S. Supreme Court abolished Roe v. Wade and stripped all humans with uteruses the right to make decisions about their own bodies, regardless of their wants or needs or privileges or lack thereof, which, if I’m not mistaken, is sort of a twisted violation of their own “right to life” now isn’t it?) And it hits me that maybe the universe silenced me today so I’d pick up my pen instead, because maybe someone like me on a day like this might have something important to say, maybe even something worth listening to.
Because just as we are poised at the edge of one of the most colossal failures in the history of human existence, I think maybe we’re also poised at the edge of this incredible, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity too. An opportunity to actually get this whole life thing right for ALL of us for a change. ALL humans. And maybe even every other creature on this living, breathing planet we have been entrusted to care for, too, so it can, in turn, support and sustain our existence…and all these babies!
I think it’s truly our CHOICE where we ALL go from here.
So if you are a human with a uterus, or perhaps more importantly, if you are a person who loves a human with a uterus, it’s time to pay attention, to rise up, to speak out, and to start making some choices of your own that can lead us closer to that world where every human with a “right to life” has the right to a life worth living in the first place. A world where we will, as one large community, care for each other and for those babies longer after they’re babies, because that “right to life” can’t matter at conception and then suddenly NOT matter after birth. That just doesn’t make any sense, does it?
Here’s the truth I see from where I’m sitting—we humans could do some really incredible, meaningful shit if we focused our attention and intentions on the kind of life we can create for each other and those precious babies OUTSIDE the womb. We sure spend a lot more time out here, don’t we? Seems like it might be a pretty great return on investment if we stop and really collectively think about that for a moment, and then come together, collaborate, support each other, love each other exactly as we are, and make it happen.
Maybe that’s the work that starts tomorrow.
I’m ready. Who’s in?