Heartbeats, holidays, hopefulness, helplessness

When I was in grad school in Ireland, my friends and I made an agreement that if one of us should find ourselves with an unwanted pregnancy, we would rearrange our schedules for an immediate “girls’ holiday” to the UK—cocktails, spa visits, shopping, all that fun, female stuff. And an abortion.

It’s something that I had never had to think about in the United States. Roe v. Wade had been settled by the Supreme Court almost two decades before I was born, and while another Supreme Court ruling from my own home state, Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey, allowed for more restrictions and guidelines, abortion would have been generally accessible to me had I needed it.

On the other hand, Ireland’s Eighth Amendment gave fetuses equal rights to life as the women carrying them, in the Constitution, meaning that abortion was banned in all but the most limited circumstances. A year before I moved to Galway, Dr. Savita Halappanavar died in the hospital there from sepsis after being refused an abortion despite her pregnancy resulting in a partial miscarriage. Her death prompted widespread reaction and activism and played a large part in leading to the referendum repealing the Eighth Amendment with a 67% majority.

However, that referendum wouldn’t take place until 2018, meaning that for the first time I was living in a country were abortion wasn’t legal. While I was on the pill, no form of birth control is 100% effective (including abstinence, given that as many as 1 in 4 women experience sexual assault), and it was always in the back of my mind that, should something happen, I would not only be faced with the stress of an unwanted pregnancy and abortion, but also of having to travel abroad to deal with it.

Luckily, the “girls holiday” wasn’t a plan my friends or I ever had to put into action, but it was a reality for women every day, and it’s a reality for increasingly more and more women and people with uteruses in the United States. While Ireland has moved forward with their sensible approach to reproductive freedom following the referendum, the United States goes backwards every day.

After Trump’s election, I immediately started planning to get an IUD, wanting more reliable protection than the pill (although, again, nothing is 100% and I know women who have gotten pregnant with an IUD in). But this, too, isn’t accessible for everyone; thanks to my health insurance I paid $55 for my IUD at Planned Parenthood, but without insurance it would have cost over $1000. Not the kind of money that most women have sitting around, especially those who also can’t afford healthcare.

And we don’t know where it will end, as this article from The Cut explains so well. Surely the ultimate goal is to overturn Roe v. Wade, allowing states to ban abortion completely. Twitter users have pointed out that by taking steps toward making abortion a felony it also serves to disenfranchise women, particularly women of colour, as felons lose the right to vote. It’s terrifying to look at my country from the other side of the world and be afraid to go back.

It is especially hard to hear the stories of women with wanted pregnancies who had late-term abortions due to serious health risks or nonviable fetuses, women who were desperately excited for the children that they never got to have and who, under new and proposed laws, would not only have to grieve their losses but also be criminalised for them. It is especially hard to hear about women who have miscarried, often multiple times, whose losses will be scrutinised under these new restrictions to ensure that they aren’t trying to cover up a termination.

And you know what? It is especially heard to hear about women who got pregnant when they didn’t want to be, or couldn’t afford to be, or any other reason. I am pro-choice in all circumstances, and all women (and people of all genders who are capable of pregnancy) deserve the dignity of their privacy and reproductive freedom, especially when they are facing what may be some of the most difficult circumstances of their lives.

While it heartens me to see posts like this where women from less restrictive states are offering to play cousin or auntie or far-away friend to women from Georgia, Ohio, and others so they can have the sort of “girls’ holiday” my friends and I hypothesized about, it’s also devastating to think that this is the direction things are moving, where reproductive rights are taken away and replaced with an underground network that relies on civilians willing to circumvent or defy government rulings. It feels like a cliche to invoke The Handmaid’s Tale at this point, but it is unnervingly accurate, and it’s a dystopian future I hope there is still time to avoid living in.

Please, help to fight against these draconian anti-choice laws. 

Donate to pro-choice candidates: Emily’s List, NARAL endorsements

Planned Parenthood

NARAL

ACLU

National Network of Abortion Funds

Yellowhammer Fund (Alabama)

Access Reproductive Care: Southeast

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