The Handmaid’s Tale

The thing has happened. Roe v Wade has been overturned by the highest court in the land. I’m not going to go into why this is a travesty of justice, because if you don’t already know, you probably won’t want to read on. There are enough memes and commentary floating around on the internet right now that nutshell-capture the insanity. What I do want to write about is why and how this affects me, because I’m a woman like any other woman, and anything that happened to me could happen to someone else. Someone’s daughter, someone’s mother, aunt, sister.

If it were not for Roe v Wade and the precedents it set in our great country, I would not be writing this missive. I would not be here. Very simply, I would be dead.

I had an abortion at age 17. The origin story of this pregnancy is not something I’d like to go into in great detail, except to briefly describe how I got into a car with someone I didn’t know very well during a party in Denver when I was in high school, and how I remember very vividly telling him “No” and “Please stop” and with all my heart: “I want to go home”, while he pinned my right hand down with his knee so I couldn’t reach for the car door handle. His right hand was around my throat.

Had I been drinking? Yes. Was it my first time? No. If you think any of those things matter, you’ve got a whole different set of problems, my friend.

And so I was pregnant when I graduated high school. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was. I had received a provisional acceptance to Colorado State University (thanks to ever-worsening grades my senior year) that required a preliminary summer semester. About a month in, I had a routine doctor visit where I got the news. I remember begging the doctor not to tell my parents. I struggled for several weeks afterward trying to figure out how to get the money to pay for an abortion out of pocket, even going so far as trying to get a loan from a bank to pay for it. I had to ask a friend from my dormitory to go with me to co-sign because I wouldn’t be 18 for another few months. As I recall, I was trying to raise about $500.

I was so full of shame. Later that summer, the night before I was supposed to leave for Europe to visit family with my parents, I had a complete breakdown and finally told my Mom what had happened. She and my dad arranged to take me to a doctor to terminate the pregnancy. Had they not paid for it, had I not said anything, my next step was suicide. I knew exactly how and when and where I would do it, and I’d planned every last detail. I was completely mentally and physically prepared to take my own life.

My parents are immigrants to the USA from Germany. Growing up in post-World-War-II Germany, my parents knew poverty, and they knew about living with a legacy of shame in a country whose leader had perpetrated the worst of atrocities against humanity. Shame was something they had to live with daily. For me to get pregnant at such a young age, to do something as cheap and tawdry as having sex out of wedlock and bringing the shame of my loose womanhood and resulting condition into their home was utterly unacceptable.

My adoptive parents were not able to conceive a child on their own. I was the lucky result of the grudging alternative. This might sound like a gratuitous dig, but it’s also true: they never let me forget that they rescued me from certain doom. Twice.

My parents taught me early on to follow the rules. They believed they were in the greatest country on earth. They were staunch believers in the efficacy of a democratic government. They taught me to respect “authority” figures like policemen and judges. I was a straight-A student throughout my grade, middle and high school years. I never stepped a hair out of line until my senior year of high school.

In the summer of 1988, I went from being the star of the family to being the black sheep, literally overnight. The kick in the gut about this story is that for nearly 30 years afterward, I agreed that it was all my fault. My parents did what they felt they had to do to help in the moment, but my Dad never let me live it down. To this day, it’s one of his favorite things to bring up when we have any kind of argument. They never asked me how I became pregnant, and I never told them. In fact, I’ve never told anyone until now. Lucky you, Ghost.

All of this is to say that it took me nearly 30 years to realize that I was (a) not at fault for the conception, and (b) not wrong for making the decision I did, and (c) to understand that my parents’ upbringing and background made them incapable of handling the situation and relating to me in any other way than they did. None of that really matters anymore.

TODAY, though, TODAY, I’ve also lost all faith in the government of my country to protect me and my civil rights. This woman who doesn’t even jaywalk is now inclined to distrust every single aspect of perceived “authority.” Our US government does not have women’s best interests at its core. Fuck our lazy, malicious Supreme Court, making decision after decision rooted not in logic, but based on whatever Fox News is upset about that week. Fuck the right wing for leaving us this legacy of a preponderance of religious and ideological zealots in the highest position of justice in the nation. Fuck Biden for his impotence and inefficacy. Fuck all of our elected officials for not standing in the way of this absolute shitshow.

You are all murderers. You are all guilty of the exact crimes you contend women having abortions are committing. You are all the worst dregs of humanity, the scum at the bottom of a sewer. I hate you with a fire that is all-consuming. The blood of every woman who dies as a result of not being freely and easily able to terminate a pregnancy, or, even worse, to receive life-saving medical care during a miscarriage or complication, is on your hands.

Because if I had not had access, in what was then a red state, to a swift and relatively simple abortion in 1988, I would not be alive to write this today. I would not have lived to have all the wonderful experiences I’ve had in my fabulously child-free-by-choice life. If it were not for a decision made by a Supreme Court that held the core values of integrity and justice above all personal and political beliefs in 1973, I would be dead.

34 years ago I was demoted to a second-class citizen in my own family. Today the highest court in the land has left it up to individual states to decide whether I am a citizen with equal rights to my fellow man, flying directly in the face of the 14th and 19th amendments. The United States of America, supposedly the greatest country on earth, is misogynist. When the state makes decisions for me about what I can and cannot do with my body, I am denied agency and autonomy. I am a second class citizen in my own country.

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