Freedom is a constant struggle
When my family moved to Massachusetts, my mother couldn’t legally get birth control or even learn about it.
By the time I was in college, the Supreme Court had ensured that married women could get birth control, though unmarried women couldn’t.
By the time our daughter was born, the Supreme Court had made birth control and abortion (within limits) legal. It seemed progress was slow but irreversible. We are now reminded that freedom isn’t free, that rights aren’t permanent, and that elections have consequences.
Many people today can’t remember the time when abortion at any stage was illegal. They never searched an underground network looking for a “doctor” who would provide an unknown substance that might or might not cause a miscarriage, or one who would provide a procedure that might or might not be safe. They never had a dormmate who bled out in the common bathroom after an illegal abortion.
Abortion has never been an easy choice. Neither were some alternatives. Many people can’t remember their high school friends sent to live with out-of-state relatives until they gave birth and gave up their child. They never read a letter like this:
Is there any way possible for me to never become pregnant again? I mean until I die. We have been married for five years. I have had five children and one miscarriage … I have a moral obligation to the five I have. I think I should rather end my life than go through another pregnancy and bring another child into the world where it cannot be cared for properly.
(According to the Guttmacher Institute, 59% of people who have an abortion already have at least one child.)
Young people may not remember the murders at the Planned Parenthood clinic in Brookline, or the murders of other abortion doctors and clinic workers.
They could read The Family Roe, by Joshua Prager. Or they could ask their mothers or grandmothers.
We can be proud that Massachusetts passed the ROE Act, anticipating the Court’s decision, and protecting those rights. There are many ways to support people in other states who have lost reproductive rights—and voting rights. We should do that.
Pat Jehlen (D) is the Massachusetts state senator representing the Second Middlesex district, including Medford, Somerville, and parts of Cambridge and Winchester.
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