On the End of Roe: Actually, The Sky is Really Falling

We knew this moment would come. I certainly did, and if you’re reading this, you probably did too. Back in 1999, as a teen in high school, I wrote an article for a feminist ‘zine (called “Harriet” after the spy) that my friends had started, warning that if George W. Bush were elected over Al Gore, Bush’s SCOTUS appointees would likely have Roe in their crosshairs.

That was just the beginning of a two-decade long streak of features, blog posts, listicles and op-eds I’d write, warning about the erosion of women’s rights, a backslide which picked up steam during the Tea Party era (remember the “GOP War on Women?”) and never faltered.

Fast forward to today, when an unprecedented leak of a draft SCOTUS opinion by (ahem, Bush appointee) Samuel Alito looks like it’s teed up and poised to completely overturn Roe, and while we’re at it, end the idea of a constitutional right to privacy. That’s a crucial concept currently bolstering the decisions on gay marriage, on ending sodomy bans, on allowing birth control and interracial marriage.

Abortion-rights advocates feel like a pack of Cassandras who have been running around for decades saying that Roe was on the edge, saying that our fundamental rights are on the edge. We often felt unheard.

We’ve marched and written, marched and written. At Lilith, we’ve commissioned articles that said for many who need abortions in rural or poor Red state areas, Roe is on the books in name only. We’ve urged our readers to end abortion stigma, to donate to abortion funds, to pay attention, to remember life before Roe when women died, or wanted to die.

We’ve worn hanger buttons and necklaces, we’ve exhorted feminist organizations to be stronger, to say “abortion” more forcefully, to center women of color and include non-binary and trans patients in their advocacy, all while throwing our small donations at them anyway, hoping they’ll provide service to one more desperate person with our dollars.

We’ve known it was coming and still, we woke up this morning feeling wounded, sick, dizzy and betrayed.

We’ve watched our male allies eyes glaze over at the “a-word,” because oh, no, we’re talking about it again and it’s kind of yucky to them, even if they’re pro-choice. We’ve envisioned millions of feminists going on strike, or taking to the streets, for reproductive justice, an unstoppable tide of fury, even as we’ve experienced the powerful movements for Black Lives, for Trans acceptance, and more, garner what seems like widespread support–and then face vicious backlash, as feminism has, as so many movements that dare suggest we all live life on equal terms eventually do.

We’ve thought about our own lives, maybe stuck dealing with the fallout of harassment or sexism at work, or simply burned out from balancing a job, a pandemic, virtual schooling, and caring for our parents, and wondered how making it to the next rally would even work, much less trying to procure an abortion ourselves, or for our friends, in a post-Roe landscape.

We’ve known it was coming and still, we woke up this morning feeling wounded, sick, dizzy and betrayed. Physically shaking. Perhaps we were angry at others for caring, but not caring enough. Perhaps we are angry at ourselves for wanting to show up, to march again, to be better allies and activists and advocates, but because life got in the way we ended up at the grocery store, or even on the couch, instead.

It’s important to take stock of where our movement, our allies, even we ourselves went wrong, but we can also take heart in the explosion of anger so many people are feeling now, even if it’s too late for this stage of the fight. As Jews, as feminists, we know in our deepest hearts that we are on the right side of this: we know that no one should be forced to carry an unwanted pregnancy, that every family should be able to live in dignity, with healthy standards of living and no fear of violence or coercion from the state, and that the right to reproductive healthcare, from contraception to abortion to postpartum care, are all connected to each other, and necessary. All these rights are fundamental.

And we will win, even if it takes another fifty years, because we are right, and they who would control our bodies are wrong.

This morning, as we dutifully posted about this loss on social media and reminded people that abortion is still legal until an actual decision is reached, and abortion funds are still helping people (and need our support!) we’ve wondered what is going to happen to us, and if there’s anyone else out there who has finally woken up, who is ready to help us carry this burden into the next phase of the fight.

Photo by Joan Roth