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I remember the joy and excitement of learning that my husband and I were expecting a second child. My first months went normally. We told our family and friends about it, who shared in the joy of our growing family (and my young son’s first brother).
At 20 weeks, unknown prenatal complications were life-threatening – a diagnosis I refused to believe. We consulted many doctors and studied all the options. Suddenly having to choose between my life and my pregnancy shocked me, but my mother’s advice helped me realize that the real shame would be to make the wrong decision for my health and my living family.
The decision to terminate my pregnancy was not taken lightly. I had a child to whom I was already a loving parent to consider. It was a decision that only I could make, with the support and expertise of my doctor. I feel lucky that I was able to make the decision that was right for me when so many people today cannot. We deserve to live in a nation that respects our right to decide our own future and honors our ability to know what is right for us.
As we’ve been waiting for a long time, the stunning SCOTUS leaked notice Roe vs. Wade still stings and represents a devastating blow to our freedoms – and an attack on reproductive freedom is an attack on democracy itself. Our constitutional system exists to uphold the right and freedom of each person to decide their fate, choose their faith, and build a family as they see fit. In a democracy, citizens are actively engaged in the political sphere, directing and shaping our society.
Apparently, functioning democracies value and defend individual freedoms like freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, religious autonomy, and our right to fair trials. In democracies, people actively engage, lead and shape the political sphere and the society we share.
Of course, many people know that democracy in the United States has long been in serious jeopardy. We recently experienced a stolen election threat, and our political institutions cater to a conservative white minority that remains significantly overrepresented in the Electoral College, Congress, and gerrymandered legislative constituencies. Republicans actively suppress voters of color. Banning abortion represents another egregious step in their coordinated attack on our freedoms and a prime example of the ideals of racial capitalism on which this nation was built.
We know that attacks on abortion mainly harm blacks, browns and the poor. Those who can afford to travel can still access the health care they need – people who cannot function at the mercy of systems that neither see nor care about their well-being. There is no gender equality without reproductive freedom and the right to dictate our future. We cannot overstate what is at stake now.
Roe earned my right to watch over my body years before I was born, a right that neither my mother, nor my grandmother, nor the enslaved women from whom I descend had. My ancestors likely experienced forced birth to provide slavers with cheap labor – one of many longstanding tactics used to maintain and enforce white supremacy historically.
There’s no time to lose. We must abolish the filibuster now and pass the judicial law to expand SCOTUS, or face the ramifications of this broad, cruel and devastating decision. Please make no mistake: ending Roe could mean ending countless critical and hard-won civil liberties. In Roe, the Court held “liberty” under the due process clause of the 14th Amendment, including our right to privacy. By overturning this ruling, Judge Samuel Alito is paving the way for future rulings aimed at eliminating privacy, marriage equality, access to contraceptives, trans rights, and more.
Democrats repeatedly use abortion rights as a campaign issue and then fail to deliver on their promises to protect and expand our right to reproductive freedom. We deserve leadership that represents the whole population, keeps its promises, guarantees access to abortion for future generations, and understands our right to reproductive freedom as being at the heart of any functioning democracy.
I am grateful for the opportunity to have done many meaningful things in my life. I helped lead a presidential campaign, led the fight for earned sick leave and the fight for $15 an hour, served as deputy director of the Women’s Bureau, and currently co-directs the Center for Popular Democracy and CPD Action, which is the largest network of multiracial organizations in the country. Most importantly, I experienced the gift of raising two sons (whom I seek daily to instill in a sense of justice and power). I couldn’t do any of this without the protected right to exercise choice over my body and my future seven years ago.
Advocates have protested, organized and fought for decades to demand a broader, inclusive and transformational definition of freedom than the white men who founded this country were able to imagine. We must move toward a new vision of our democracy that honors our inalienable rights to our bodies, lest we remain trapped in our nation’s worst traditions.
Analilia Mejia is the Co-Executive Director of the Center for Popular Democracy Action (CPDA), an organization that works to create equity, opportunity, and vibrant democracy in partnership with high-impact, grassroots-building organizations. The CPDA works on campaigns that promote a pro-worker, pro-immigrant, racial and economic justice agenda and achieve victories to improve people’s lives.