There’s no mistaking it: I am pro-choice. But unlike most of the people who prescribe to this belief, I think Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court case that made abortion legal, is not the only legal way for women to have control over their reproductive rights. If overturned, women would still be able to get legal abortions — maybe not in their hometown, but definitely somewhere in the United States.
But, before all of you staunch pro-choice activists out there holler, hoot and come after me, listen to what I have to say.
In a column titled “If Roe were overturned” written for USA Today in 2005, reporter Laura Vanderkam said, “A Roe reversal would not change the country’s total number of abortion providers much. In fact, a year after Roe is overturned, it would be … rare [that a] woman notice[s] any difference in her life at all.”
Vanderkam and I share the same opinion. I love my right to choose, and I wish to maintain that right, but it is frankly unnecessary for there to be a federal law protecting a woman’s right to have an abortion.
Everyone knows there are two sides to the abortion rights debate: pro-choice and anti-abortion. Within the pro-choice movement, two separate groups have emerged, consisting of the pre-Roe generation that remembers the suffering endured before 1973 and the post-Roe generation.
There may be research and history books that try to paint a picture of what the pre-Roe era was really like, but no matter what, there is no replacement for actually living through it. The truth is that, even though young reproductive-rights activists believe in a woman’s right to choose just as I do, they did not live through the era when abortion was illegal and, therefore, do not have the same drive to keep it legal on the federal level as the current leaders of women’s organizations. Due to this “lack of drive,” in a couple of decades when the current pre-Roe leaders retire, there may not be a new set of people ready to step up to the plate with the same fire and passion the current leaders have. If this happens, change is going to occur.
There is no doubt in my mind that pre-Roe was a nightmare. Abortion was illegal and dangerous, and fatal back-alley abortions were rampant across the country. The heart of my opinion is that the status quo cannot and should not be maintained forever.
Every one of us, even if we are not willing to admit it, wants to maintain the status quo in one way or another. Most people who subscribe to the pro-choice belief want everything to stay the same. They do not want to restrict abortion and they definitely do not want it to be illegal again. I am the same way. I certainly do not want to go back to pre-Roe suffering, even though I do not have any personal experience with abortion being illegal.
Where I differ from a lot of other people is that I know maintaining the status quo is not possible forever, especially with reproductive rights being such a “hot” issue. I want abortion to be legal, but I know that change is inevitable in every life situation, including reproductive rights. This is not a question of if but when Roe v. Wade is going to be overturned.
There will be a huge uproar within the pro-choice community when this happens, and each state will have to decide for itself whether or not abortion should be legal. I definitely want to preserve my right to choose, but I live in California, a relatively consistent democratic state, and my ability to get an abortion is not going to be hindered if Roe is overturned.
That being said, I know some states will vote to make abortion illegal if Roe is reversed. Still, even if abortion becomes illegal on the federal level, reproductive rights groups such as National Network of Abortion Funds (NNAF) will be able to provide assistance to women in states where abortion is illegal. Organizations such as these are not going to allow women to be forced into back-alley abortions. They will find a way to help women pay for the travel and cost of an abortion if there is no other option.
I am not trying to be an idealist. I know abortion access can be difficult, particularly for low-income women, but I also believe that major organizations like Planned Parenthood and NNAF have a lot of resources and know a lot of people who will help women in need.
What I am saying may differ radically from the opinions of most people who are pro-choice, but even though my opinion may be controversial, I know a society cannot progress without change. Therefore, I say reproductive rights leaders stop all the fuss and prepare for change because, as Robert C. Gallagher once said, “Change is inevitable — except from a vending machine.”