Today, I blog for choice as part of NARAL’s Blog for Choice Day on the fortieth anniversary of Roe v. Wade. According to a recent poll by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, most Americans under 30 don’t even know what Roe v. Wade is about.
I turn 31 in May, so I just make the cut for this statistic. On one hand, I’d like to believe it’s because my generation doesn’t need to even consider the legality of abortion as it has always been legal in our lifetime. On the other hand, I worry that our generation has lost sight of the significance of just what Roe v. Wade has meant to millions of women and families in America since it’s ruling forty years ago today.
So that’s a huge motivator of why I’m writing today, of why I’m blogging for choice.
I am all too keenly aware of how this topic is both a sensitive and impassioned one for many of you. Today, NARAL wants us to share our stories about what choice means to us. So despite whatever your beliefs and opinions are on the abortion debate, I hope you’ll allow me the comfort of my space to share my story and my thoughts.
Pregnancy tests have been a loaded object for me most of my life. Prior to getting engaged, they were a mark of shame, of clumsy embarrassment and guilt. When Larry and I were in college and after we moved in together, we had our share of pregnancy scares. In every instance up until 2008, our plan for an unplanned pregnancy was a no-brainer: I’d get an abortion. It wasn’t because we didn’t love or want our future child – far from it. We loved the idea of our child growing up in a supportive environment: physically, emotionally, financially. And for those seven years before we got engaged, we just couldn’t provide that.
That changed on January 28, 2008. It was just two days after our wedding and we were walking around the Magic Kingdom at Disney World for our honeymoon. We had stopped in front of Peter Pan’s Flight, one of my favorite rides. In front of us was a sea of parked strollers, their seats empty and their owners presumably occupied with their little ones on nearby rides. We laughed at the sight, joking that one day too, a stroller of ours would join that throng.
“I guess ‘eject’ isn’t our immediate response now, huh?” I said casually, even though having children was never a casual idea to us.
Larry chuckled. “You know, I guess you’re right.” He smiled.
We wouldn’t have “the talk” for another ten or so months, when we decided that we’d wait at least three years before diving into family building mode.
# # #
That all changed just a year and three months after our wedding when I was diagnosed with premature ovarian failure. That day changed everything in our lives, our marriage, and our previously imagined ideas of how we’d build our family together.
In the days and weeks after my diagnosis, I remember having this particularly bitter thought: all those pregnancy scares were a waste of our time, causing us unnecessary worrying and stress because it was never going to happen anyway. The truth was that I’d never need an abortion because my body just wasn’t capable of getting pregnant on its own. That revelatory notion brought me little comfort as I grappled with the knowledge of my barren womb and my desperate longing for a child of my own.
# # #
Infertility was never a choice for me. And for 1 out of every 6 couples in the United States, it’s not a choice. It’s a disease. Infertility is as biologically indiscriminate as cancer, diabetes, or the size of your feet. In many ways, infertility robs us of choice: the choice to build our families the way we imagined we would; the choice to parent when we want to; the choice to have genetic children of our own.
I was robbed of all those choices the day I found out I had infertility.
# # #
Roe v. Wade isn’t just about abortion.
Roe v. Wade is about choices and rights. It’s about the choice to terminate or the choice not to terminate a pregnancy. It’s about the right for women to make decisions and choices about their bodies and their own lives. It’s about protecting those choices and those rights.
I have a right to build my family. I did not choose to be infertile.
Infertility and reproductive choice are inextricably linked to one another. And sadly, that link is largely bound in legislation that would seek to deny me access to those medical procedures that would help me build my family. Defining “when life begins” or “when a person becomes a person” – as was the case back in late 2011 – directly challenges and threatens Roe v. Wade and a woman’s right to her reproductive choices and rights. But personhood amendments also challenge and threaten the entire infertility community, potentially barring us access to the necessary medical treatments and procedures we need to build our families.
While it seems that personhood legislation has largely died down since Mississippi Initiative 26 failed, it has popped in some frightening ways since then. The idea of a personhood debate still looms large in the back of my head as a direct threat to the infertility community and as such, I remain vigilant.
Because I’m not about to have my choices and my rights – my right to build my family in the way I choose in this infertility paradigm – be taken away from me again.
# # #
The legacy of Roe v. Wade was never about taking away life.
The legacy of Roe v. Wade lives in the protection of reproductive choice. And for the infertility community, its legacy lives in the protection of that choice. It’s that protection that paves the way for us to access the treatments we need to build and create the families we so desperately desire.
The families we have a right to build.
If that isn’t pro-life, I don’t know what is.
See the rest of the blogs participating and join in yourself here for today’s Blog for Choice, hosted by NARAL.