Stephanie Austin

January 2003

My Take on Roe V. Wade

I am a senior English major, which as any English major or those related to an English major could tell you, is a hell of a lot of reading and writing. When I am not reading, I am writing. Sometimes, I am writing about what I read and reading about what I write. It's a crazy life, but I signed up for it.

I arrived on the campus of my diverse institution of learning yesterday morning and amidst the stream of my guppy-like peers, found myself strolling across a plethora of random hash marks made in chalk. They went every which way but south, like dance steps for that horrid Las Ketchup song that makes no sense. I wondered if it was vandalism and decided I didn't care if it was. I just needed to get some coffee and get to my class early so I could finish the reading for the day. Until, of course, I happened at the beginning of the walkway and noticed a somewhat hastily scrawled and haphazardly written message carved into the pavement the fine grounds people work so hard to keep clean. Another goddamn thing I have to read and that pissed me off. Giving into a power greater than myself, that of public curiosity and fascination with chalk messages, I maneuvered around.

I immediately jumped back off the footprints, not because I felt so overcome by this powerful message in chalk that provoked meaningful thought, but because I suddenly felt violated. Walking further along, I finally saw the source of the chalks marks (I'm sorry, baby feet), which turned out to be parented by tables with bright banners and middle aged zealots in suits lining the pathway encouraging me to "Choose to Support Life." One old white guy (a republican, I am sure) approached me and held out some sort of propaganda and I knew what it was without looking. My first impulse was to tell him to shove it you-know-where, but then thought better of it as it was probably over crowded up there anyway. Instead, I said no and shook my hand dismissively because there was nothing in that brochure he was trying to assault me with that I hadn't seen or heard before.

I knew it was the 30th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision, but it wasn't something that weighed on my mind every day. I went online and looked around a little, and doing so realized what a precarious and dangerous situation we, as women, are in right now. It was bad enough to be bombarded with the hype around campus that I had nearly passed off as part of the daily "join us or die" ritualistic booths set up around the union. My annoyance at campus so-called rallies seemed inconsequential in light of more serious and complex issues.

I consider myself to be a well-rounded individual. I am educated; I come from a middle class upbringing; I have friends who don't drink themselves nuts every weekend but instead go to plays and museums, and I watch CNN a few times a week to make sure I am informed on my world and those in it. I am capable of rational and logical thought, which leads me to make decisions based on the facts surrounding me.

I support my right and the rights of my sisterhood of women to choose. I have the power to shape me and my life. It is for no one, absolutely no one, to get in my face and tell me what I can and cannot do to better myself, my life, and my well-being. My body, my choice, and my power. Not my body, their choice and his power. (His as in President Bush.)

Roe V. Wade was a step in the direction of a woman to take control over her body and allow herself the capacity to think and make informed decisions regarding her future, and it is in danger of becoming unconstitutional. Why? For no other reason than the politics of gathering votes. In its current form, the Supreme Court upholds the decision. We are in danger because several pro-choice judges are close to stepping down and it is likely our fearless leader, the paralleled George W., would appoint a decidedly pro-life justice to replace the one who leaves. In that frightening scenario, we might be screwed. That is an atrocity against women, and more importantly, an atrocity against what this country was founded on. Remember the Constitution? And that crazy little Bill of Rights? And the first Americans fighting for freedom?

Those of us who have been dormant, taking for granted our freedom over ourselves, should consider becoming pro-active in the pro-choice debate. If someday it's gone, we'll bitch about it but really won't have that right because we didn't stand up and let the world know what we believe.

When the pro-lifers tell me to choose to support life I say that I do. I support my own.

Editor's Note: Kim Wells

I had to put my two cents in here, because of Stephanie's comment about the guy who pestered her being a Republican.

I am a little bit older than Roe V. Wade, and I have stood with girlfriends in clinics as moral support when they needed me to hold their hand after a procedure that is no one's business but their own.

I am also what would be called a Liberal Republican, (I know, sounds like an oxymoron, but it is possible) and some of us are working REALLY hard within the party to change this association of Republicans with anti-choice. (I don't call it pro-life because that is their friggin' propaganda.)

Ann Richards, one of my heroes, said it best (and she's a Democrat and I idolize her in many ways) "The Reagan administration defines life from conception to birth." What happens to the fetus after it's born is not something many of the most rabid anti-choice people think about. Adoption is definitely part of the choice-- but it must be a consensual thing, not something that a woman is forced to do. It takes love to carry a child for 9 months and then give it to someone else-- and I can think of few things more painful than being forced to live for someone else, have someone else literally take over your body, without you having any say over it, for that long. It's not merely "inconvenient."

As a member of a party that is SUPPOSED to be for less government intervention in our lives, I think it ought to be a no brainer, and every time it comes up, I write to them and say "No, do not say that you must be anti-choice to be Republican." It's my little way of trying to swing the world away from the overly conservative, anti-woman agenda . . . And there are actually quite a few Democrats who are anti-choice, so it's not actually a given-- I have a quite liberal friend in other ways who is a Democrat who campaigned for Clinton and everything but she is rabidly anti-abortion. So it's not as black and white as it feels when you first think about it.

I really think it's important across women's groups to not let the Good Ole Boys (and they're not all 'boys') get away with letting us think that it's a single party issue . . . cause women are on both sides. In fact, few people know about the group Republicans for Choice. It ought not be a partisan issue-- it's about women's rights, not party politics. Now, I realize there are some problems with the way Roe v. Wade is worded-- it's a weak ruling, in many ways. If it makes you feel any better, Stephanie's fears about Bush putting an anti-choice judge on the bench may be something not to worry about:

According to the Republicans for Choice website,

In the last election, Bush said he would not use abortion as a litmus test for his court nominees. "Voters should assume that I have no litmus test on that issue or any other issue," he said during his Oct. 3, 2000, presidential debate with Al Gore. "The voters will know I'll put competent judges on the bench, people who will strictly interpret the Constitution and will not use the bench to write social policy."

If we judge by what other Republican presidents in the past did (Reagan appointed Sandra Day O'Connor, for example, a staunchly moderate middle-of-the roader, and not at all the flaming conservative people expected) then we might feel comforted that Presidents do realize how important it is to not try to use the court to make their wishes alone come true. It does tend to backfire. Bush definitely is under pressure from some constituents to allow his personal preference (he is against abortion except in extreme cases) to sway him. But people like me, and anyone who agrees with me, can sway him if we let our voices be heard.

Safe, legal abortion is something that I and many women who would not personally choose to have an abortion feel should be available for those who do. I'm at the phase in my life now where an unplanned pregnancy would be survivable-- it would make my life more complicated, but I would welcome the change and learn to reschedule some things. I haven't always been there, and am glad that I no longer have to make the hardest choice ever. But I still believe that any woman who wishes ought to be able to make the decision to have an abortion-- it might be the only way she has of saving her own life.

I do think that there are lives at stake-- it's not a clear-cut case and should not be taken lightly. But you know that bumper sticker that says something about only one person comes out of the clinic alive? Well, if abortion were illegal, it would go back to being a race between the two-- add some lye (Drain-cleaner for those of you who don't know what it is), or a coat hanger, or a tumble down a couple flights of stairs, and it's mother vs. unwanted pregnancy in a way that will probably kill them BOTH. If you've never had to face this decision yourself (as a man, or a woman who has never had an uplanned pregnancy) you have no right to say anything to those who do.

And finally, if you read this and decide you have to send me any hate-mail because you're pro-life and feel I ought to not be able to exercise my Constitutional privilege for free speech, note now that anything polite will be listened to, and perhaps dialogued with. But any rude "Bible-quoting" hateful rhetoric will just be deleted . . . so save your effort and time.

-- the Editor

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