In Celebration of Birthdays and Roe v. Wade

By Kit-Bacon Gressitt

January 22 was my birthday, which interests me greatly, being that I love birthdays — still. But, understandably, few folks noticed it.

January 22 was also the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision that resulted in legalized abortion in the United States. But, unfortunately, few folks noticed it.

But I did, I noticed it, as I do every year. Every year I make note of the decision that has affected my life multiple times. And, as much as I love birthdays, if I had my druthers, I’d give up my flowering plant and chocolates and unabashedly early adult beverage; I’d forego the caviar dip and dinner and cake; I’d decline the ribald cards and presents and familial adoration; I’d chuck it all, if I could feel confident that the pro-choice population is aware of the Roe v Wade decision, it’s significance, and the persistent efforts to deny the constitutional right it confirmed for women.

And with the new Republican majority in the House of Representatives, those efforts are already picking up. Just last Thursday, House Pro-Life Caucus Chairman Chris Smith (R-NJ) and Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) announced the introduction of the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act.” If passed, the act would permanently encode the prohibition on federal abortion funding that heretofore required a vote each year since former Rep. Henry Hyde (R-Ill.) first succeeded in denying access to affordable abortions for women on Medicaid in 1976.

That was three years after the Roe v. Wade decision. Today, thirty-eight years after the decision that gave all women the right to choose an abortion, the majority of women do not have ready geographic or financial access to providers.

I would more gracefully accept Smith and Boehner’s effort to permanently deny abortion funding to women in the military, disabled women, and low-income women (you know, the gals they slander for making more babies than they can afford), if these fellows first introduced a bill called the “No Taxpayer Funding for Erectile Dysfunction Treatment.” Yes, let’s nip the need for abortions in the bud, so to speak. Perhaps if all the white, wing-tipped males who would vote to control women’s bodies and their seed therein suffered from a bout of flaccidity, they would get their heads out of our neither regions and back on the economy.

But I suppose one shouldn’t joke about abortion opponents — particularly not their penises — because they are so darn effective.

I wonder if my daughter is aware of Smith and Boehner’s bill. It’s simply the latest chisel chipping away at her right to choose to have an abortion — or to choose not to. I wonder if the Women’s Center at my college is aware. I could find nothing on the center’s website about the bill, the Roe v. Wade anniversary, nothing. And I found nothing on the campus website, either. I left a message at the center, but what could they have said if they had responded: “Oops,” “Roe who,” or worse?

And that makes me worried for my daughter, for the young women at my school, for the parents who struggle to feed the children they have, to keep a roof over their heads, to find a job. God forbid the heterosexual ones conceive yet again in the throes of comfort-me-we're-about-to-lose-the-house sex.

I worry for them, because I can imagine a world without access to safe, legal abortion. It is not the soft pink-and-blue place that legal abortion opponents fantasize: all the cooing and joy and miraculous appearance of parenting skills and endless supplies of disposable diapers; where unwed women, promising college students, rape victims, women who don’t want children, drug addicts, women with life-threatening pregnancies, burned-out mothers, and abused and damaged women pledge to see their pregnancies through, singing “Kumbaya” and basking in the glittery glow of fairy dust.

No, a world without access to safe, legal abortion is a much more harsh and unforgiving place, where the risks of hunger and poverty, neglect and abuse, chronic crisis and unrealized potential, clothes-hangar-punctured wombs and death, all clamor at the door and sometimes enter in. And they make anti-abortion activists look fun.

Yes, I worry for my daughter, for all our daughters, so I wonder if I might take advantage of my birthday to ask you for a gift — if you might give it: Please learn a little about the Roe v. Wade case, why the majority of the U.S. Supreme Court made the decision to support women’s right to abortion, why some would prefer that they hadn’t, why the right is so vitally important.

Click here to read an overview of the Roe v. Wade case.

Read the oral arguments, linked from the same page, on the left. The case was argued twice by attorney Sarah Weddington; the second time, because the court makeup had changed before it was able to decide.

Read the majority Supreme Court decision, written by Justice Harry Blackmun.

Read the dissenting opinion by Justice William Rehnquist.

Watch If these Walls Could Talk, a dramatic look at three women of three different eras and the abortion decisions they made.

And start talking about abortion rights, talk with women who have exercised their right to choose, listen to why they made the choices they made.

If you think you don’t know anyone who has had an abortion, you can give me a call or send me an email. I have exercised my right to choose several times, and I live at peace with the full range of consequences, including my daughter. I’d be happy to talk with you about it.

In the meantime, I’m going to have one of those adult beverages. I’m older now, I’m allowed.

Love, K-B 760-522-1064

1992 posters by Robbie Conal

Crossposted at OB Rag, the Progressive Post and San Diego Gay and Lesbian News.