I'm One of Thousands Who Will Soon Lose the Right to Choose
America is still reeling from the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. The conservative majority’s ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson on June 24, 2022, set off a cascade of abortion restrictions in states with so-called trigger laws, at a time when abortion rates are the highest they’ve been in 30 years. While some restrictions took effect immediately, other states began a longer legal process that will ultimately result in a near-total ban on abortion.
Unless it’s successfully challenged in court, by late August – 30 days after the Supreme Court’s judgment was formally released – a 2020 law passed in my home state of Idaho will make performing an abortion a felony punishable by up to five years in prison. The law, as it stands, makes exceptions only in cases where an abortion could save the patient’s life, or they can provide a copy of a police report alleging rape or incest. Idaho’s Republican party voted against adding language to their platform stating that abortion should be allowed when the patient’s life is at risk, and has also taken aim at the exceptions for rape and incest. While that doesn’t change the law, it does raise concerns about the state’s Republican-held legislature.
Coming from a family in medicine, I’m well aware that abortion is a necessary part of healthcare, and that banning, criminalising, or limiting access to abortion doesn’t mean people will stop getting them. It only means that they’ll stop getting safe abortions. Now that abortion regulation is left up to the states, we’re left with a lot of questions: What can we do to support abortion rights? How does this affect access to contraception? And what does the future hold for people, like myself, who may someday end up pregnant in one of the states where abortion is illegal?
As a graduate student, I now split my time between Idaho and California, but I grew up in Idaho’s capitol, Boise, and still spend my breaks at home with my family. Boise is a blue dot in an otherwise painfully red state. Sure, I’ve been called some racial slurs, seen some Confederate flags, and heard some upsetting stories from LGBTQ+ friends – but in my little liberal bubble, things weren’t so bad. I grew up seeing “Blue Girl, Red State” bumper stickers sold at the Boise Co-op and had plenty of strong, diverse figures in my life. I had the pleasure of spending weeks of my childhood on the Nez Percé and Shoshone-Bannock reservations learning real-life skills from Indigenous people and hearing their stories. I’ve watched Idaho become increasingly diverse, which, as a Middle Eastern American, has brought me hope for what the future of the state may look like.
Until now, I felt like things in Idaho, sociopolitically, were only ever getting better. I’d forgotten, or rather, forced myself to forget, that there were plenty of signs growing up that marginalised groups, including women, were treated with substantial difference. We had agency, but when we chose to use it, we were punished in some way or another. Now we’ve lost our agency and the stakes are higher.
I grew up Christian. I went to Sunday school and youth group and received every sacrament possible. I sat in the church basement in my early teens and was forced to look at pictures of mangled fetuses, disgusted by the leaders’ decision to provide chips and chunky salsa as a snack that day. A video played in the background of a woman who allegedly crawled out of an abortion clinic’s waste bin and lived to tell the tale. I was told I should make choices to avoid pregnancy. Yet a physician was hesitant to give me birth control to manage heavy periods and endometriosis symptoms (not that I owed her an explanation for needing it). Instead, she wanted to pray over me, and she did, until I gave my mom a knowing glance and she convinced her otherwise.
At home, I was told I should withhold sex until marriage. At school, girls were taught how not to get raped instead of boys being taught not to rape. I was “dress-coded” constantly throughout my teens for doing inappropriate things like wearing a tank top. Once, I was even sent home after a teacher was caught looking up my skirt when I went upstairs. He was allowed to stay.
If we’re responsible for anything and everything that happens to us, how can you deny us the right to make arguably the most important decision of all?
What’s ironic about all of this is that, as a young woman growing up in Idaho, I was taught to make choices. I was in control of my body, my own fate, and the fate of others. For better or for worse, I was responsible. No man, or anyone else more powerful than me, was going to be held accountable for things I could find ways to control. I was supposed to make smart choices that affected others positively. In that sense, taking away a person’s right to choose an abortion actually goes against the conservative teachings of a conservative state. If we’re responsible for anything and everything that happens to us, how can you deny us the right to make arguably the most important decision of all?
When I was 16, I walked out of the pouring rain and into the Planned Parenthood on State Street because I thought I might have been pregnant. A provider there offered me the guidance my own doctor refused to. Protesters outside told me how I was supposed to feel: like a criminal. And soon abortion will, in fact, be a crime. I can’t say I’m surprised.
I don’t know what will happen to the Planned Parenthood that helped me, or any of the abortion providers in the state – but I do know that Boise has voted to limit the use of city funds to assist the abortion ban, and that Planned Parenthood is opening a clinic in Ontario, OR, just over the border, less than an hour away from the city. There are few comforts in waiting for your rights to be stripped away, but I’m taking solace where I can find it. For now, that’s the only choice we have.