Remembering on Roe Day

By Caitlin Gullickson, NOW Communications Assistant

I don’t treat the anniversary of Roe v. Wade as a day of celebration. For the other 364 days in the year I celebrate that women have the options they do, and I lament the roadblocks partisan activists and politicians throw up to prevent women from having choices. To me, Roe day is about remembrance.

On this day I remember the lives lost because, as a country, we were once so dishonest with ourselves. Good girls didn’t have premarital sex. Only bad girls got pregnant. Only loose women got raped. We legislated morality to make the world less complex. Contraceptives were available only (if at all) to married couples. Abortion was illegal in most states, hidden in the back alleys. It was easier this way, no discussion necessary.

Except it really wasn’t easier. Not for the desperate woman looking to terminate a pregnancy. It wasn’t easier for the women who died from botched and unsanitary procedures. But these women were “dirty” and deemed unworthy, by many, for remembrance.

I disagree. I remember them — honor them — even though they are unknown and number so many. I try to imagine their desperation and their fear. I think of the friends and family they left behind. I acknowledge the dreams unrealized and potential lost. I memorialize this day because I know that making abortion illegal doesn’t end abortion and doesn’t “save” babies — it kills women.

We stand up on this day to speak truth to those who will listen. History shows that criminalizing abortion didn’t end the practice in the United States; somewhere between 200,000 to 1.2 million abortions were performed in the U.S. during the 1950s and 1960s. We know that prior to Roe v Wade, as many as 5,000 women died annually as a result of unsafe abortions. We know, from a global perspective, that of the 42 million women who seek abortions each year, 21 million of those women obtain the procedure illegally. Today, unsafe abortions cause 50,000 deaths a year. So I will say repeatedly, until it sticks: Making abortion illegal doesn’t end abortion. It doesn’t “save” babies. It kills women.

Because we believe in the inherent worth of women, we place value in their individual lives, dreams and experiences. We believe in women. We trust women. I support reproductive justice. I am “pro-women’s lives.” I fight the narrative that only selfish women have abortions because they have the audacity to dream or the gall to face hard truths.

Most importantly, I remember.

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