Where were you when you heard the news that we’re being stripped of our bodily autonomy? I was watching a video of Blake Lively at the Met Gala looking stunning while describing her Statue of Liberty-inspired gown when a friend texted me the Politico article. (Thanks for ruining my night, Kate.)
It reminded me of the night RBG died, when everyone was just texting each other “Fuck.” Except the texts between my friends in New York City or San Francisco weren’t as charged as the ones with my friends who, like me, live in New Orleans. We knew this means we are about to live somewhere abortion will be banned.
Louisiana is a trigger state, meaning if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, abortion will be outlawed immediately throughout the state. The only exception will be to save the life of a mother—there will be no exceptions for rape or incest. Louisiana is one of 13 trigger states, and one of 26 states that are certain or likely to ban abortion without the protections issued from the Roe decision. If Roe is overturned, the closest place Louisianans will be able to go for an abortion is likely Illinois; look up how far away that is on a map. It’s hard enough for people to afford to evacuate when a category 5 hurricane is barreling toward us; financially, logistically, mentally, the challenge of getting an abortion will be insurmountable for many people here. Like most terrible things that happen in America, it will disproportionately affect Black and brown people.
And then, on Wednesday, a Louisiana legislative committee advanced a bill to make abortion a crime of murder, which would put the pregnant person and doctor at risk of homicide prosecution.
Now, contrary to what Matt Gaetz might think, most of the people I was texting with on Tuesday night are mothers. They are the moms with whom I’ve ranted on group Zooms, cried while sitting six feet apart at the park, stood next to while screaming into the Mississippi river. We have perfected the art of googling “EUA [Emergency Use Authorization] children under five vaccine Moderna Pfizer,” and we have questioned whether it is possible to do gentle parenting in a pandemic while not running away to New Zealand. (It’s not.) We have felt like no matter how hard we try, it will never be enough. These past two years, we have inhaled the failures of the U.S. government when it comes to parental leave, universal healthcare, and childcare, childcare, childcare. And we have barely experienced even a millimeter of what the majority of parents in the U.S. experience daily.
I am a cisgender white-passing Latina woman living in the South. I have layers upon layers of privilege and support. I wanted my kids. I planned for them. I love them, dearly. But parenting two young children in the hellscape of the last two years nearly broke me.
Fifty-nine percent of people seeking abortions already have children; that’s because parents know. We know the financial, physical, mental, and social costs of parenting. Becoming a mother has made me significantly, unequivocally, more pro-choice, not less. And don’t come at me with how magical children are—what a gift!—and how amazing it is to have their unconditional love. I know that, too, of course: I signed up for a second one! But nobody should be forced to play “Baby Shark” on repeat while their “gift” screams in his carseat, and you’re trying not to burst into tears as you lecture him about how if he wants to cry about real problems, he should learn about something called “the patriarchy.” That, too, should be a choice.
Here’s where I get mansplained to about adoption. Guess what?! I am aware that not all birthing people have to become parents. You know what else is challenging beyond imagination and which you don’t understand until you’ve experienced it? Pregnancy!
Even if you are lucky enough to suffer from zero complications during your pregnancy, those nine months are painful, exhausting, grueling, and full of hormones that give you emotional whiplash. There are times when you don’t feel like your body is your own, which is extra traumatizing for survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence. You simultaneously feel all powerful—I am creating a life! Bow down!—and like a breeding cow—I am nothing but an incubator! Just let me eat sushi!
To everyone who feels that wearing a piece of cotton over your face takes away your ability to breathe: Allow me to introduce you to the experience of carrying a baby the size of a watermelon in your body as it moves your organs around and presses on your ribcage. I know it’s really hard to wear a mask in a grocery store for five minutes, but I wore one while birthing a human, so, you can kindly shut up now. (Not for nothing, wearing a mask while bringing a life into this world is not among the top 10 pain points of that experience.)
I say all of this as someone who went through pregnancy relatively unscathed, especially when you consider that Louisiana has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the country. A study found that Black women are more than twice as likely to die in the year following their pregnancy than white women are, so I clearly haven’t experienced the worst of it.
I know anti-abortion people aren’t really interested in hearing from me and never were. They know they will be able to access abortion for their families or loved ones or mistresses, regardless. They will not be charged with murder. Still, I need to say this: If you want to incentivize being a mom in this country, support paid parental leave. Support affordable childcare and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Stop ignoring Black women’s pain in and around childbirth. Stop criminalizing miscarriages.
I wanted my children and I became a mom, and I don’t regret it, and I’ve never felt more fervent in my support for other people’s options not to take this very difficult path—especially if they have fewer resources than my friends and I do. So if you’ve made it this far, just remember that abortion is still legal in Louisiana for the (very short) time being, and there are resources available to help.
Happy fucking Mother’s Day.