What Is Happening Here?

Me at the office of the Prairie Dispatch – 1973

On January 22nd, 1973, I was 22 years old. I was living with Michael, working at a regular job, going to school, writing columns and developing photos for a community newspaper with a decidedly alternative approach to journalism. My co-workers were activists who’d been anti-war, anti-racist, pro-women’s rights, pro-worker, pro-social justice and generally outside agitators. That day was historic because of the following decision by the United States Supreme Court.

Roe v. Wade, legal case in which the U.S. Supreme Court on January 22, 1973, ruled (7–2) that unduly restrictive state regulation of abortion is unconstitutional. In a majority opinion written by JusticeHarry A. Blackmun, the Court held that a set of Texas statutes criminalizing abortion in most instances violated a woman’s constitutional right of privacy, which it found to be implicit in the liberty guarantee of the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment (“…nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law”). Brittanica.

I’d never had an abortion but I knew women had gone through the traumatizing process. I knew people who had dreadful back alley procedures with terrible health consequences. I knew women who’d left the country for their abortions, headed for abroad where this option was legal, where they’d be safer, but who had economic hardships added to an essentially difficult emotional experience. I don’t pretend to know all the backdrops for these unwanted pregnancies which at the very least, were not likely to produce happy families at the end of nine months. Given the additional layer of inadequate social services to assist those women who would be unable to adequately provide for those undesired children, the limited options for women to be self-determining in this most private situation, struck me as the height of hypocrisy for those clamoring for the rights of the unborn. Sacred in the womb but unsupported out of it? Appalling. And what if these sacred fetuses grow up to be gay, black, transgender or anything other than cisgender white people? Or voters who don’t support Republicans? Aren’t they next on the list of people whose rights need to be rolled back to the dark ages?

When I was older and finally pregnant, by choice with my partner of choice, I never had the tests available to a woman of my age, which could predict whether I might be carrying a baby who might have genetic defects. For myself, those tests were irrelevant because I knew I couldn’t terminate a pregnancy which I’d chosen to begin with my beloved husband. However, I never once judged any woman who made that choice for personal reasons which were none of my business. I never met anyone who took those decisions lightly. Not feeling able to care for a child for whatever the underlying cause was frankly none of my business. It still isn’t. And I don’t believe that choice should be in the hands of government entities. What law is there that controls the private decisions of males? I can’t think of one.

Photo credit – PBS

I simply can’t understand why who people love, and the way they love each other, absent brutality or child sexual abuse, should be of any interest to anyone. What effect does it have on anyone’s life? Why does it matter if it’s not interfering with the way these people intent in curbing the rights of others, have no personal stake invested? I don’t want to impose my views on anyone simply because their lifestyles don’t match mind. Truly bewildering to me.

Why is there a continuous assault on education? Why are people afraid to allow their children to read books that expand their views of the world? Why is “different” or “other” so frightening that anything other than one way, their way, is the only way? I feel that as a group, our populace is getting more narrow, less worldly and just plain ignorant.

How did math textbooks become a dangerous social tool that could corrupt innocent children into adopting what some believe are dangerous, lascivious lifestyles? Why is critical race theory, generally taught only at the college level, being denigrated as a tool intended to make white children feel responsible for what happened in the past? And is still happening in the present? History is written by the victors – I remember that statement. Is this backlash all fear-based? All I know is that it’s a bunch of half-truths at best and lies at worst.

A handful of controlling politicians are making an effort to disenfranchise huge swaths of the voting public. Three Supreme Court justices who dissembled in their confirmation hearings, stating that they believed that Roe v. Wade was established law, only to jump on board the first case they could to strike it down, are now angry that they’ve been outed as liars. The incessant yammering about states having the authority to establish their own laws hearkens back to the Civil War, which in actuality, seems to be a conflict that never really ended.

Religion is being touted in Congress as an American way of life. I thought these rigid constitutionalists understood that there was a separation of church and state, in addition to the fact that our three branches of government were supposed to serve as checks and balances on each other. Seems like muddy waters to me. The press is frequently referred to as “the enemy of the people.” Sitting senators and representatives whose statements have been recorded and played on television deny making those same statements. What seemed dystopian only a few years ago has morphed into the threat of an autocratic nightmare.

I was a teenager when Buffalo Springfield released “For What It’s Worth.” I thought it was provocative back then and spent a lot of time thinking about what it meant to be a patriot. To me it meant the right to dissent when the country was going the wrong way. All these years have passed, years of hope and dreams and years of despair. I didn’t expect to spend my “golden yearsfeeling alternately disappointed, angry and outraged virtually every day. What is happening here?

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