On the Anniversary of Roe v. Wade: A Midwife’s Bittersweet Reflections

Today is a beautiful and tortuous day, and while I feel great elation every January 22nd, celebrating the Anniversary of legal abortion in the US, this day is also deeply painful.

This is my third Roe Day working as a midwife: the first as a student and the latter two as an abortion provider.

I am grateful to practice in a state where Medicaid fully funds abortion, but at the same time know that my tiny island of abortion access is not the norm for women around the country.

The Hyde Amendment prohibits any federal funding from going towards abortion care, something that severely limits the right to choose for women in the military, indigenous women, and women who are incarcerated.

88% of women live in counties without abortion providers, many more have restrictive waiting periods, parental consent laws, and increasingly, bans on terminations after twenty weeks of gestation. Many medical schools and family practice and OB/GYN residency programs allow their students to “opt-out” of abortion training, as though it were an elective procedure. In fact, even though I work with residents who are being trained in abortion, very few, if any, plan to perform abortions as part of their medical practice once their residencies are complete.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, over 200 legal restrictions have been placed on abortion at the state level in the past four years, some of those include 24-72 hour waiting periods, forced lectures on medically inaccurate information, and laws that require abortion clinics to have the same layout of outpatient surgical centers.

Texas has seen the number of its clinics dwindle to an abysmal number due to laws such as those listed above, putting many undocumented women in the untenable position to either choose to pass through an ICE checkpoint to try to get an abortion or remain pregnant when they don’t want to be.

I could write a dissertation on the current state of abortion access in the US, but what I need today is a place to lay out my conflicted emotions about today.

In a few hours, I will walk into work and put on my little white coat, and provide contraception care and even a few medication abortions today, one of the most rewarding and cherished aspects of my job. I will wish my dedicated co-workers and friends a Happy Roe Day. We will keep fighting the good fight, and give each other a little nod of solidarity and strength and rejoice in our work.

But today is also filled with deep pains for many reproductive justice activists. We know that Roe still only means abortion for some. We will see the thousands gathered in Washington D.C. for the March for Life, co-opting and destroying what should be a pro-choice holiday.

We will cringe when moderate politicians further disparage abortion and add to its stigma by calling for the procedure to be “safe, legal, and rare.” We will further sigh and watch as the national organizations, forged out of the feminist movement of the 60’s and 70’s align themselves with those politicians because they promise to stand up for choice, but ignore our cries to repeal Hyde, to stop the wars, and to fight for economic and racial justice, all of which we must have for true reproductive freedom.

I am holding so many emotions in my heart today. As any radical must, we must look to the hope for change and lay out  the steps to struggle for a better world.

I find hope in grassroots organizations like the CAIR Project, who give small grants for abortions to women in need in the Northwest.

I find hope in the abortion clinic and birthing center that opened in Buffalo, New York a few years ago, recognizing that pregnancy has many options associated with it, and that neither one needs to be segregated from the other.

I find hope every time I talk to a young woman willing to stand up to the bigots.

I find hope with the rise of the full-spectrum doula movement.

I find hope every time a patients mocks the protesters

I find hope with organizations like SisterSong, a woman-of-color led group who have been leading the fight for reproductive justice since the mid-90’s.

I find hope with plays like Mom Baby God, which exposes the hypocrisy and rhetoric of the anti-choice movement from the inside out.

Today is a day full of disappointment and reflection, hopes and fears. Wherever you are today, I hope you have some great folks with which to process and mourn, hope, and struggle for a world in which the following is not just written on our signs and banners and on our hearts, but is the reality for everyone:

Free abortion on demand. No apologies.

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