On Friday, the US Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, a landmark 1973 decision that guaranteed abortion access to women seeking to legally terminate a pregnancy. Protestors across the United States took to the streets to express their outrage, marching and chanting in support of abortion rights – and rightfully so.
The Guttmacher Institute, a pro-choice research organisation, predicts that 26 states are certain or likely to ban abortion without federal protections under Roe, including 13 with laws set to be triggered quickly. New Guttmacher research also shows the need for abortion in the United States is rising just as access is about to drastically shrink.
Iowa is one of those state whose future on abortion rights remains unclear. For now, the procedure is still legal up to 20 weeks into a pregnancy. However, Friday’s decision has cleared the way for Republican lawmakers to pass and enforce more restrictions, like prohibiting abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected, something that could happen as early as six weeks into a pregnancy.
As a woman who grew up in Iowa City, and attended the University of Iowa, I find this infuriating. Why? Because when I was 17, I got pregnant – twice – by my then boyfriend with whom I was in an abusive relationship. Neither pregnancy was planned and both times I was in shock when my pregnancy test showed a positive result. I wasn't ready to be a mother. And to make matters worse, he denied they were his. In hindsight, I am so thankful that I had an abortion clinic to turn to for support.
My boyfriend and I had been together for a little over a year. I don't recall when the abuse began but it wasn't long after we started dating. He was the jealous type and, at first, I confused his unhealthy behaviour with love.
Once, he locked me in a bathroom to keep me from going to work at a restaurant because he thought one of the waiters had a crush on me. Another time, after he found out I was getting ready to have dinner with a male friend, he threw me half-dressed into his car and beat me. I'd go to high school with bruises on my arms and face covered with make-up.
After one particular night out, he bashed my head into the pavement and on another, drove me miles out of town all the while hitting me until I pretended to lose consciousness. Although the police were often involved, any charges I pressed were eventually dropped as my boyfriend was so good at apologising.
It wasn't until he got me pregnant the second time that I knew I had to end things. I'd thrown a party to raise money to pay for the abortion as I didn't want to ask my family for help, and the next day he broke into my father's house while I was alone and accused me of having been unfaithful. As he pinned me to the bed, and repeatedly slapped me, I feared for my life. By the time I reached the abortion clinic, I was hysterical.
There was no doubt in my mind that I had to terminate the pregnancies and today I shudder at the thought of what might've happened to me, and my unborn babies, had I not. In 2016, my ex-boyfriend died of a heart attack at the age of 49.
It is a woman's fundamental right to choose whether to have a child. And in the year 2022, almost 50 years since Roe v. Wade, it's incredible that the issue is still being discussed and that the U.S. Supreme Court has now gone and overturned the decision.
Women will continue to have abortions regardless of any laws. Therefore it is imperative that everyone continue to share information now on the availability of abortion pills and support independent abortion clinics to help women get the care they need.
If you're able, you can donate to help the effort to fight this rollback of women’s rights through the National Network of Abortion Funds (AbortionFunds.org) – so that frightened 17-year-olds like my former self, and others in similar desperate situations across the country, can have access to safe and legal abortions, as they deserve.