On Friday, June 24, 2022, the Supreme Court overruled Roe, the landmark ruling of 1973 which established abortion as a constitutional right in the United States. As a consequence of either “trigger laws” designed to go into effect following the Supreme Court’s action or the existence of previously unenforceable bans, abortion is now illegal or significantly restricted in at least 11 states. The criminalization of abortion does not simply affect women, but all people with child-bearing capacity and their families. Accordingly, it is important to ensure the language used to discuss this topic is inclusive.
Many people are grieving right now. Polls indicates that the majority of American’s believe that abortion should be legal and accessible. A fundamental right has been taken from American people, demoting women, trans* men, and all people of child-bearing ability to lesser-than citizenship. Never before in the history of the American nation has a constitutional right been revoked.
First off, let’s reiterate the importance of mental health really quick. If you or a loved one is experiencing emotional distress that is hindering the ability to function, seek support. Abortion is a polarizing issue, and not everyone “gets it.” So, find support that validates you. Maybe that is friends and/or family, maybe that is professional services. There is no shame in seeking mental healthcare. Remember that you are not alone, and we are stronger together.
If you are feeling stable, but unsure of how to proceed, I would like to offer some suggestions of what we can do as individuals during this unprecedented time.
Have difficult conversations with folks. Use clinical language and try to present the information objectively. Believe me, I understand it can be challenging to maintain composure during this time. But individual emotions cannot guide us, only science can. Explain that the Supreme Court decision will create a public health crisis. For example, women and child-bearing folks are 14 times more likely to die from pregnancy and childbirth than they are from safe and legal abortions. Further, the illegalization of abortion will disproportionately impact low-income folks and BIPOC folks.
Additionally, we should be encouraging each other to be safe. Do you use a period tracking app? Do you use the internet? Are all your financial transactions electronic? Some states, characterized as “hostile” states, intend to criminally prosecute folks for abortion and miscarriage. These entities may exercise their power—sometimes deputizing ordinary citizens in the process—to seize control of our digital footprints and use the information to penalize those seeking the health care they need and deserve. Now more than ever, it is critical for us to consider our public exposure and privacy.
Put money aside for emergencies
If you or your partner or your family or whomever is at risk of having an unplanned pregnancy, get out in front of it. As it stands currently, there are some states that intend to continue providing abortion services. Folks may have to travel—possibly by car to avoid persecution—to these states for services. It is wise to begin setting aside some cash for this, just in case.
Similarly, it does not hurt to stock up on birth control and other contraceptives during this time. Please do not panic and hoard these items, as we may lose the right to contraception in the future as well. If that happens, it will be important to ensure as many people have access to contraceptives as possible. But because this is a time to arm ourselves for what is coming, it is nice to be adequately prepared. Again, this differs from hoarding.
If you are a male, do not intend to reproduce, and want to protect your partner and fellow humans, consider getting a vasectomy. No one will question your ability to make this decision for yourself, which is a privilege. Vasectomies are non-invasive, out-patient procedures that pose very little risk to overall health. This is a great way for men to show their support during this time.
Not that it matters how I feel (because who can stomach a myopic opinion about abortion and sex right now) but personally, I am committing to an indefinite period of abstinence. There are many ways to enjoy sexual intimacy and fulfillment without risking pregnancy. From where I’m sitting, intercourse isn’t worth the risk. (Read: I DON’T WANT TO DIE)
Donate to community pro-choice funds
Social justice activists and organizations throughout the country are having fervent discussions about how to protect child-bearing bodies during this time. Many are pooling resources in preparation for large numbers of people in need of monetary assistance for travel, lodging and food to obtain abortion services in other states. If you are in a position to do so, please consider donating to these initiatives.
If we see another person who needs help right now, we need to help them. We need to stick together and lift each other up.
Write to state legislators
If you live in a state that is continuing to provide abortion services, I encourage you to reach out to state legislators and thank them for protecting bodily autonomy. You could also ask how you can be of service during this time.
If you live in a state that is neutral or hostile toward women/child-bearing bodies, write to your state legislators and plead with them. Present credible evidence that supports your argument, and use business-letter formatting. Be respectful, mindful of your language, and concise in your message. Keep your letter to about one page, and be sure to identify as a constituent.
Participate in peaceful protests
This weekend, folks have taken to the streets in protest. Rallying with others can promote a sense of comfort and soothe our souls. Those who want to participate should freely do so, just be kind and keep each other safe please.
Vote with your dollars
If you are a frequent reader here, you may already know that I am a fan of voting with dollars. Look into where your money is going and support companies that support pro-choice policies.
We do not yet know what the loss of this constitutional right truly means for America. Prior to Roe, surveillance was not ubiquitous as it is today. We find ourselves in a dystopian reality of living in a wealthy, influential country that has decided to ignore all medical and scientific opinion and jump back in time 60 years. This move may translate to changes among foreign abortion policies, as it sets a bit of a precedent. The United States now joins Poland, Nicaragua and El Salvador in retrenching abortion rights, even as Ireland—previously one of the most restrictive regimes in the world—liberalized access in 2018. The move came in response to widespread protest and outrage at the danger posed by punitive antiabortion laws.
My fellow pro-choice humans, I am with you all. I stand in solidarity with all women and child-bearing humans and their families during this terrifying time to be alive in America. Let us take care of ourselves and each other, and prepare to fight.
Also by Coker: Do You Need A Mental Health Day? How To Do Self-Care With Some Grace
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Photo: Gavatri Malhotra via Unsplash, Jasmine via Unsplash