What is Real Choice? Roe v Wade Still Affects All Families 39 Years Later

On this 39th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision I think about all the expectations, decisions and conflicts with which couples and individuals face in their lives and how a pregnancy can change many of these issues.  I have counselled many women and men when faced with a decision about a potential or confirmed pregnancy they, their partner or teen is facing.  Whether it’s an unplanned pregnancy that ensues between a man and a woman after a few months of volatile dating,  a pregnancy that occurs when a committed couple is struggling financially to support the 3 children they already have, or a pregnancy that is an outcome of a date rape of a 16 year old daughter. 

In all of these cases, the decision to go ahead with the pregnancy affects many people in the family and may cause many ripples of stress that the family system may or may not be able to withstand.  In some cases, if the stress of beginning or continuing the pregnancy is too overwhelming a woman needs to come to terms with the meaning the pregnancy has for her, what the loss of the pregnancy will mean to her personally if she chooses to end the pregnancy and whether she knows it or not, she will need to mourn that loss.  All of these are difficult and at times very complex decisions. 

As the states’ and federal courts continue to challenge Roe v Wade since it was first passed by chipping away at the various aspects of the law (whether it be the money needed to pay for the abortion, the time she is required to wait between having counselling and getting the procedure,  or the access to Plan B without a prescription if she is under 17), I shudder to think of the clock turning back to a time when women died of back alley abortions.  I feel grateful to have had so many opportunities afforded to me by the hard work, persistance and at times physical harm and death of my elders who fought the hard battles since the seventies so that I could make clear, safe and optimal decisions regarding my education, career and the timing of a family. 

 Sarah Weddington and Sari Cooper

This year I presented at the annual conference of American Association of Sex Educators, Counselors and Therapists and was fortunate to hear Sarah Weddington speak about her jouney as an activist, lawyer, and politician.  In her book “ A Question of Choice” about her experience leading up to her arguing the Roe v Wade argument in the Supreme Court, I was humbled by the amount of grass roots organizing that was needed in order to challenge laws in state and federal courts across the country.  It has inspired me to dedicate more efforts to ensure that my generation and those that follow will maintain the right to privacy, freedom to choose and control over their bodies.  As Weddington herself says:  “…women’s issues are part of a big wheel, and reproductive rights are only one part of a larger consciousness — if you can’t decide this for yourself, you can never have control over the rest of your life. “  Get involved, start talking with your friends, relatives, co-workers, volunteer for Naral or Planned Parenthood.  The time is now.   Happy Anniversary Roe, Sarah and all those people who worked and continue to work for rights of all women.