I was once young. And fresh off the turnip truck. So naive I laugh today looking back. I thought every lesbian would be my friend. I worried about the ducks I saw in Rock Creek Park. What would they eat? Who fed them?
It was an early girlfriend who moved me off the worry with the philosophy that we had to work together, work where we lived and do what we can to change the world. I couldn’t fix everything.
But I should work to fix something.
The value of reproductive freedom touched me by high school. I have friends who were forced to marry in 11th grade because they were pregnant. And yes, the boy stayed in school while the girl was removed.
I traveled with friends to Planned Parenthood for birth control. I planned, researched and was prepared to help a friend get an abortion, illegal and in secret — until the day the school nurse called me to her office. Her only question was regarding her son’s involvement in the pregnancy.
My friend for whom I had been planning, for whom I was prepared to be what by today’s legal standard in many states would make me — an accomplice to murder — vanished. The official story was that she went to New York City for a theater weekend. She returned with a stuffed animal and looked pale and haggard. We have never spoken of it.
I am a lesbian. I chose to fight for reproductive rights because dominion over my body is paramount. You know the Mother Jones quote, “Pray for the dead and fight like hell for the living!” Unless life begins at ejaculation, a woman is here and is living. She has a right to choose.
So, I have marched and slept in clinics when they were threatened with bombs. I have escorted women to and from the door of providers in the face of vile, mean protesters.
Women must control their own bodies. Reproductive rights seem essential to the independence and freedom of all people. Health care, labor force participation and productivity seem inalienable rights to me. Choice allows a woman to be whole.
June’s stunning U.S. Supreme Court decision overturning nearly 50 years of precedent in Roe v. Wade shocked the country. It shocked me. Justice Samuel Alito’s opinion for the 6-3 hard-right majority has led to half the states outlawing abortion and returning women to illegal makeshift procedures, secrecy and shame.
There is every reason to extrapolate from the Roe reversal. In his concurring opinion, Justice Clarence Thomas, states that in future cases “we should reconsider all this Court’s substantive due process precedents, including Griswold, Lawrence and Obergefell.”
The Griswold v. Connecticut ruling overturned state laws restricting birth control.
The Lawrence v. Texas ruling overturned state laws banning sodomy between consenting adults.
In 2015 the Obergefell v. Hodges ruling legalized same-sex marriage nationwide.
Roe was the No. 1 priority of the far-right conservative legal movement. They are emboldened by their win. They will come for all of us. They will divide us and have us fight amongst ourselves.
The timing couldn’t be worse. Stock market losses find many advocacy groups struggling with post-pandemic related funding shortfalls. Some philanthropic groups are suspending donations to LGBTQ+ causes.
As noted by Inside Philanthropy, “LGBTQ+ people make up at least 4.5% of the U.S. population, yet, from 2014 to 2018 nonprofits focused on the community received only 0.18% of grant dollars from U.S.-based foundations.”
This summer’s media cycle has moved on: the violence of automatic military-style rifles in the hands of the young and the aggrieved; the Jan. 6 hearings run by my newest and most unexpected hero, Liz Cheney; climate changes; airline snafus. Even a war in Ukraine has been on the back burner.
It’s easy to lose track of the significance of Roe. It’s easy to worry about the next Supreme Court decision.
It’s hard not to be overwhelmed. It’s hard to know where to begin.
As soon as you can, move off the worry. Work together, work locally and fix something.
Turns out the ducks in Rock Creek are OK feeding themselves.
Lynne Brown is the publisher of Washington Blade.