By Lori Dziurda
I feel sorry for your daughters. It’s July 2018 and we are on the cusp of having a conservative majority in the Supreme Court, which is a direct threat to the protections for women’s health and privacy encapsulated in the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling.
We feminists know that was your plan all along. Get the court, outlaw abortion, and then come after birth control. We’ve been talking about this for 45 years.
At 47 years old, I’m not worried about myself, but I have a four-year-old daughter. I’ve been thinking about her in this. About what this decision might mean for her and where the next 10 years might take us. I’ve been thinking about what I need to do, as her mother, to protect her. While I don’t know what the laws look like a decade from now, I am not powerless.
It isn’t that women didn’t have abortions before Roe v. Wade. They were not uncommon. They were just dangerous. Deadly, in too many tragic cases.
There are many, many reasons that a woman could want or need to terminate a pregnancy. She may have a non-viable embryo or fetus that will die anyway and medical termination is safer and less traumatic for her. She may be choosing to terminate a potentially viable pregnancy to allow her to pursue life-saving cancer treatment and ensure that the children she already has have a chance to grow up with a mother. She may have been impregnated against her will through rape and is taking steps to reclaim her life or preserve an opportunity to flee a violent partner. Or maybe she just got pregnant and for her own reasons (i.e. none of your fucking business) has decided she doesn’t want to continue the pregnancy. Since that’s the one you guys seem most bent out of shape about, let’s focus on that.
We know, through the miracle of data, that the only thing that actually reduces the demand for elective abortion is accurate information and access to reliable birth control. So here’s the saddest truth of this sad time – my daughter probably won’t die because of a botched back-alley abortion, but yours might.
You see, I’ve been using anatomically correct terms for my daughter’s body and genitalia since she was born. Also since she was born, I’ve been explaining that her body belongs to her and while her parents and medical doctor may need to touch her now against her wishes in the service of health or hygiene, this is temporary, and that one day, no one will be allowed to touch her without her consent.
This is not an abstraction. We are practicing. She is allowed to ask me to move out of her “bubble space,” I check before I kiss or hug her, she checks with me before she puts her feet on me when we’re lounging on the couch and knows that if she kicks me, I will ask her to move them because it has to be pleasant for both people.
My daughter is curious about the friends in her pre-school who are expecting baby brothers or sisters. When she asks questions about how this happens, I provide her with age-appropriate, accurate information about where babies come from. By the time she’s old enough to think about sexual activity, she’s going to know more than any of her friends. Oh, I also accept this will happen way earlier than I am comfortable with, so my current goal is for her to have all the salient facts while she’s still young enough to be grossed out about it.
She will know how to correctly use a condom and will have access to them. She will know what activities are less risky for pregnancy and disease transmission but still enjoyable. She will know that teenage sex is often awkward but it should never be painful or humiliating. She will know she has the right to say no to anything she doesn’t want to do. She will know she also has the right to say yes, because it’s her body.
She will know that if by accident or, horribly, by someone forcing her against her will she has unprotected sexual intercourse, she can tell me what happened and be supported in what happens next – whether that is testing for STDs, a pregnancy test, or (and I cannot actually believe I’m saying this) a mother-daughter vacation in Ireland. And if she gets pregnant and wants to be a mom, we’ll figure out how that will work, too. It will be her choice, though.
Because at this very moment, through every conversation and interaction we have, my daughter is learning that she can trust her mother and can talk to me about anything.
She will grow up knowing that I am powerful and, more importantly, that she is powerful, and she will be far safer than the girls who get told to put an aspirin between their knees and wait until marriage. The ones who get shamed by their own families for doing what teenagers are biologically programmed to do. The ones who get asked what they were wearing or called a slut for leading someone on. The ones who resort to drinking poison, or having someone punch them, or attempting a D&C with a knitting needle or Coke bottle, or going to someone who is not licensed or qualified to help them, who ends up perforating their uterus instead.
I think I can save my daughter, but I fear for yours, and all the other girls and women you’re putting at risk. So I’ll continue to fight you in public, in private, everywhere I can. Because I believe in protecting life more fully than you can ever imagine. And we’ll win, again, because this cause is just and we are right.
About the Author
Lori Dziurda is coming to terms with the reality of being a newly single mom in a newly red state. TL/DR available on Twitter @LDZbranch.