I Remember the Before Times


I am a woman old enough to remember the before times. I remember going to school one fall day when I was 13 knowing my mother was going to die. It would be another 8 years before Mom told me it was a back alley botched abortion from which she had a raging infection. Her doctor could not put her in the hospital because he would lose his medical license and face criminal charges. He could not even prescribe her antibiotics, although he finally was able to get her some. He also finally found a way to get her into the hospital that awful day. The infection she had from being butchered on that kitchen table would have killed her, and my intuition was right. That was the last day she could have lived at home. That abortion led to a hysterectomy she neither planned on nor wanted a year later, after the loss of my brother or sister she could not carry to term.

I should mention that my mother was forced to an abortion because her parents were appalled she was divorcing her second husband. My father had died, you see, and Mom had remarried the year prior to a man she had not really known very well. He was a charmer though. You know how charming men can be — they can hide an abusive side, and he certainly did. My grandparents wanted my mother to have the marriage annulled so they could save face in that 1967 society, and they would pay for it as long as Mom took care of that little pesky pregnancy. So, she did.

Mr. Rather writes the following:

If Roe is gutted and not replaced by new laws, a wave of desperation will engulf the nation. Countless women will feel the loneliness of fear, the disorientation of anxiety, and the despair that comes with pain and loss. They will cry tears and shake with anger. They will weigh the risks of traveling to states where abortion is legal, of finding other ways to end their pregnancies. They will be forced to carry life to term, knowing that the same political forces who insisted they do so will do little to help care for that life once it is born.

I remember the stories of women with coat hangers, and throwing themselves down the stairs on rounded, full bellies, of literal back alleys like my mother experienced, of girls my age going to “live with aunts” and the more affluent ones going to Mexico for a weekend. Those stories were told among the sexually active — and those who might someday be sexually active, because we needed to know our history and our present life. I remember the sadness and the fury and the burst of energy, the drive from my high school peers along with those we met in 1971 and 2, marching, working, to get Roe passed, and the utter relief when it was.

I also remember going to a Phyllis Schlafly rally in Denver to protest in the early 80’s, and seeing young women there with placards proclaiming, “There were no such things as coat hanger abortions”.  Oh, such babies. More importantly, how did we fail so badly to tell women’s history to our daughters and granddaughters?

Rather ends:

Tonight I understand the anger. I understand the fear. My primary emotion is one of sadness. We are stumbling towards a future that is unmoored from our past. Many of the justices today suggested a gleeful, breezy contempt for what was painfully built by those who came before them. They are willing to unleash who knows what. Perhaps, when this chapter is fully written, they will have proven to be the ones least prepared to anticipate what comes next.

I’m 67 now. I am so angry again, so disappointed, and so focused. I will be damned if I will die having lost Roe and not fighting back. It was my introduction to politics; sexual and domestic violence has been my mainstay in all of my years of activism and ministry, and I will go down making sure that women’s bodies are under women’s control. We do NOT belong to anyone but ourselves and those whom we choose to share ourselves with. It is never anyone else’s right to impose their will over ours. Never. No government, no religion, no social caste system, no other person, has the moral right to impose their will or misogynistic system upon us. And I will be one of 100’s of 1,000’s who will fight for this fundamental right to liberty here in America. We shall prevail.  Again, and hopefully for the last time.

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