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Commentary: Setting the record straight

Cathy Null
Rich Egger
Cathy Null

I always appreciate when Tri States Public Radio invites me to provide a commentary for Women’s Voices. This time the organizers have asked me to comment on Dobbs vs. Jackson’s Women’s Health Organization or as most of us refer to it “the end of Roe v. Wade.” To tell you the truth, I’m so angry it has been hard to organize my thoughts. I’m angry because I feel like we’re in Mr. Peabody’s “WABAC” machine from Rocky and Bullwinkle.

American women have been through this before and women of a certain age remember all too well what it is like to live in a time and country where abortion and women’s health care rights are criminalized. I’m 75 years old this year. My teen and young adult years were spent during the late 60s and early 70s. My memories of abortion during that time period are dire: illegal mafia provided abortions; emptying bank accounts to scrape together enough money to buy an airline ticket to get to a state that provided abortions plus the money to pay for the legal abortion.

I also remember classmates who disappeared for months at a time. It didn’t occur to me until years later that my classmates had gone “somewhere” to finish a pregnancy and give a baby up for adoption. They weren’t visiting their aunt and uncle for an extended vacation.

Let’s set the record straight. No girl or woman wants to need an abortion. But it happens. It happens to women who don’t have enough income to provide for another child, it happens to women who weren’t planning to be pregnant in college, it happens to girls and women who are raped. It happens when a couple discovers their pregnancy isn’t viable. It happens for many, many reasons. In a perfect world, every pregnancy would be the beginning of a loved and wanted child. Becoming pregnant is not a perfect science. Sometimes it just “happens.”

Before the creation of “the Pill” it was even more difficult to prevent pregnancies. I’m talking about the “birth control pill” not the other pill that is in the news now. Mifepristone is another story and another reason to be angry.

The birth control pill was “invented” in the 1960’s. Thank you, Birth Control advocate Margaret Sanger and her friend suffragist and philanthropist Katherine Dexter McCormick, who advocated for and bankrolled the creation of the birth control pill. But as with all things female, getting the pill to all women who wanted it took some time. According to Wikipedia…. “Although the FDA approved the first oral contraceptive in 1960, contraceptives were not available to married women in all states until Griswold v. Connecticut in 1965 and were not available to unmarried women in all states until Eisenstadt v. Baird in 1972.” That’s right, it took 12 years and a trip to the Supreme Court to provide the birth control pill to women in all states and another trip to provide the pill to unmarried women.

The Birth Control pill changed life for so many women… it’s inconceivable how many more women were able to go to college and get a degree and how many more women entered the workforce because they were in control of their reproduction.

This is not news. The Birth Control pill has helped women to be in control of their lives. Access to legal and safe abortion is another part of legal and safe health care for women. I am the first to admit I’m naive. I know some people will never accept abortion as a choice. And that is their right. Don’t take the pill or have an abortion. Your choice. It’s just not the choice for the majority of women of child bearing age. And that is their right.

There are very important things the anti-choice people could be doing. Where is the legislation to support every woman’s pregnancy…medical care, hospital stay, paid leave while doing infant care? Where is the legislation to provide childcare and preschool to every family who wants and needs them?

Remember I said I was naive. I also admit to not understanding the US judicial system. But here’s how it feels. Two MEN, Alito and Kacsmaryk, have made decisions to turn the lives of childbearing women in the United States upside down.

I know life is not “fair.” But….. as it turns out, I’m also a very sore loser!

Cathy Null is retired from the College of Fine Arts and Communication at Western Illinois University.

The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of the university or Tri States Public Radio.

Diverse viewpoints are welcomed and encouraged.