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Friday, June 24, 2022

Roe v Wade: In Memory of Her


She had a name, but we always called her "The New Girl".

It was a few weeks into the new school year when she came into the senior class in high school. She and her parents had moved to our small town from another state. That just didn't happen in our town. Nobody ever moved into our town. Or out of, as a matter of fact. You were born or died.

So, to come to us from away and in your senior year was just enough fuel to start the rumor machine to work overtime.
She was also beautiful. Deep, green eyes. Lush, lovelyl, long, flowing brown hair. A perfectly perfect figure. A woman's body, really. One of the first rumors was that she was not really 17 going on 18. Probably more like 19 going on 20. 
She also had nice clothes, clearly not bought at Arlans Factory Store Outlet - the precursor to Walmart - like the rest of us. And, she didn't live on a farm or in one of those ranch houses off the highway built after WWII. No, she lived in a large home with a lovely lawn and garden. Someone said her dad was a lawyer with an office in Boston. 
She was an only child - a very rare status in our little town.
The second rumor that started was that she was "boy crazy". That's what the kids in my town said which was really code for "slut". Someone said she had gotten into "some trouble" in her old high school and that her parents wanted her to have a "fresh start". 
She made the cheerleading squad and was instantly popular - especially with the boys. The girls were jealous so no one was really her friend, but they had a grudging respect for the power she seemed to have with the boys who, of course, had all the power. 
It also didn't take long for the rumors to swirl that she was "making it" - the 70s equivalent to "hooking up" - with the captain of the football team. 
It was a cold day in the middle of February when we got the word that she was found dead in her bathtub. The "official word" was that she had fallen asleep and accidentally drowned.
It was just before graduation that the truth had come out. She was pregnant. She wanted an abortion. Her parents refused. It was illegal. Her father was a lawyer. What was she thinking? They would move her temporarily with an aunt in another state. She would have the baby and put it up for adoption. 
That was not okay with her. She found someone, somewhere (locally, it was said), and had the abortion. 
And, it was botched. Of course. She had bled to death in her bed but her mother had moved her body to the bathtub, cleaned her up, and said she had drowned. 
The autopsy, of course, proved that to be wrong but because her father was a lawyer and her family had standing and status in the community, the "official" word was that she had drowned. 
Her parents preferred the rumors of suicide rather than death from a botched abortion.
That young woman and her story changed my life. I was enraged. I grew up in a community of good, Roman Catholic women who used Lysol douches as birth control because The Church said that "The Pill" was immoral, as were condoms. But, no one said anything about Lysol douches so that's what they used.

And, when Lysol failed, well, there were lots of kids in my town who were jokingly referred to as "The Mistake". Except, the joke wasn't funny. 
On this day when Roe v. Wade has been overturned, I am remembering that girl from high school. Yes, I know her name. It seems important to give her anonymity in this. 
I say her name to myself and keep her face in front of me every time I go about my work on the board of RCRC (Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice). 
I know this much to be true: Overturning Roe v. Wade will not stop abortion. It will just stop legal abortions. 
But, here's the other thing I know for certain: This ruling and the state-level laws don’t stand alone—they are entrenched in a white Christian nationalist, patriarchal political agenda that has targeted voting rights, trans rights, immigration, education, and more. 
It’s never just been about abortion; it’s about the control of women's bodies. Truth is, everyone’s bodily autonomy and freedom are at risk. And, as always, marginalized and low-income people are the most harmed.
So, today, I'm calling on my "vital inner life force" to help get me through this day. In China, it's known as "Chi". In Egypt, it's known as "Ka". I'm calling on that energy to make itself manifest in myself and all women today.
Make no mistake: denying someone the inherent right to exercise their divinely-given moral agency and bodily autonomy, and to make decisions about their family and future is a violation of both human rights and religious freedom.
The only way to overturn that is to strengthen ourselves so we can help others strengthen themselves. We will get through this. It will take a long, long time. Decades. But we will overturn this. 
I can not believe that my granddaughters will grow up with fewer constitutional rights than I did.
There are a lot of women today without hope. Share some of yours with them. 
There are a lot of women today who are filled with fear. Help them to know that courage is just fear that has said its prayers.
There are lots of women today who are filled with rage. Help them to find a way to harness and channel that energy for good, to bring about change, to help others help themselves.
But first, build up your own vital inner life force. Because you can't give away what you don't have. 
We will get through this. Together. I only wish "The New Girl" in high school had known that. 
I say these things in memory of her.

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