Saturday, January 21, 2017 was an incredibly powerful day for women. Regardless of where we stand on the political spectrum, it was a moment when many generations, ethnicities, cultures and socio-economic classes of women in cities all over the world stood and marched together in solidarity. Millions of women (and many supportive men) participated in this monumental event for a variety of reasons stemming from concerns regarding women’s healthcare and access to contraception, fair and equal pay, environmental consciousness, immigrant rights and a plethora of other serious concerns related to the threats and promises of the new administration. In the face of dramatic changes in legislation, we worry the clock is winding backwards to a time of suppression, segregation, oppression and division.
One of the many concerns motivating women to unite is the possibility that the Roe v Wade decision of 1973 will be reversed, eliminating a woman’s right to choose how to respond when faced with an unplanned pregnancy. Without arguing the various circumstances surrounding conception, specific details of abortion practices or moral justifications and religious beliefs, it’s important to remember that this “choice” is never an easy one. Of the options available to women during a confusing and often frightening time, no choice is better than, or superior to, the other.
Many years ago, I worked at a residential facility for pregnant and parenting teenage girls. Their revealing experience and decision-making process was palpable. Fourteen, 15-, 16- and 17-year olds were faced with a time-sensitive and life-changing choice. This is the same heart-wrenching choice women in their 20s, 30s and even 40s also experience when they are not expecting or prepared to become parents. Children of children are neglected as their mothers continue to navigate the world of adolescence and early adulthood. Children are deprived of opportunities like arts, music, travel, and even quality time with their parents, only available to more privileged and prepared families. Women are forced to reconcile with feelings of guilt, shame and regret over very personal, critical and sensitive decisions. Parenthood is a very serious and life-altering commitment which requires ample financial, social and emotional resources. The painful reality is that some women are not able to raise their children and some children are not able to stay with their biological parents.
As a society—men and women, conservatives and liberals alike—we continue to pour salt on this primal wound. We blame women who are so “irresponsible” to get pregnant in the first place. We judge women who choose to terminate their pregnancies. We deny women who are trying to raise their children with inconceivably limited resources. We shame women who relinquish their parental rights. We call these pregnancies “unwanted,” and by extension the children who result from such circumstances. The solution to this complex dilemma is to demystify the stigma, confront the taboo and stand in support. In support of life. In support of choice. In support and celebration of the strong, tender, brave, vulnerable women and this profoundly complex feminist issue.