A few months ago, a friend and I were at lunch when the discussion turned to the topic of unexpected pregnancy. We were talking about whether our outlooks on it have changed since we were high school and college students. It was interesting to think about how being older, more financially stable (if only slightly), and in committed relationships changed our perception of whether or not abortion was an option we would consider if we were suddenly faced with a difficult choice.
My friend's response was that, although she certainly would have strongly considered an abortion if she had become pregnant as a student, she no longer saw it as an option for her now that she is in more of a position to make room in her life to have and raise a child. The way she saw it, despite the surprise and possible poor timing, it is much more likely that she would accept it and proceed with starting a family. "You?" she asked.
I could tell that my response surprised her. Or maybe it was just the adamant tone with which I asserted that there was no way I would ever go through with a pregnancy unless I felt absolutely ready to give birth, raise a child, and to take on the gigantic, colossal - almost unfathomable - responsibility of being a mother. I told her that it wouldn't matter if I was happily married. It wouldn't matter if I was filthy rich and knew I would never have a problem providing for a child. It's MY life, MY body, MY choice.
The subject changed naturally, and I barely even noticed her reaction to what I had said, but my friend called me later that evening and had this to say:
"I just wanted to apologize for how I acted at lunch today. If I seemed surprised at what you said, it's because I was. But that's your view and I completely respect it. And I want to make sure that you know that if you were ever in that position, you would have my full support and friendship, no matter what. You're right. You are the only one who can make that choice for yourself."
I have to tell you, I was totally touched. I really hadn't given our conversation that much thought, and I really hadn't been concerned about my friend's reaction. I knew from previous conversations about reproductive issues that she is staunchly pro-choice and that she's the type of person I would feel like I could count on if I was ever in a tough situation. But, even so, it felt really good to hear that. Really good. It made me want to call up every single girl and woman I love and tell them I fully support them in the personal decisions they are making and will make about their bodies.
But, as women, we unfortunately have a lot more to worry about than whether or not our close friends will support our decisions. We need to fight vehemently to make sure that every woman - regardless of age, race, class, sexuality, size, or ability -- has both the LEGAL RIGHT and ACCESS to a full array of reproductive choices including abortion. We need to not only recognize the importance of Roe v. Wade and the right to choice as it appears on paper, but to never give up fighting for all women to actually have access to the choices the law is supposed to guarantee. Access that women can afford. Access that is recognized by insurance companies. Access without age limits and parental notifications. Access without waiting periods. Access without mandatory counseling. Access that doesn't involve having to find transportation to another city or state. Access without protesters attacking clinics, threatening doctors and patients, or keeping clinics from being built in the first place. Access without limitations on the types of procedures medical professionals are allowed to provide. Access that never compromises the health and well-being of women.
The 35th Anniversary of Roe v. Wade is certainly something to celebrate. But we still have a long way to go.