Note: This is the text of my talk at the Roe v. Wade 40th Anniversary Event held on January 23, 2013 at the State House in Augusta.
On January 22nd 1973, I was twelve years old. I am part of the first generation that came of age after the Roe v. Wade decision.
If any mention was made of Roe v. Wade in my Catholic family or my downtown Lewiston neighborhood, I didn’t notice. My mother was too busy taking care of six children to pay much attention to what was happening beyond our community. And I was busy being a twelve year old.
But five years later – when I got pregnant just one month after high school graduation – abortion was one of the options I considered. At the time, I wasn’t really aware that the right to a legal abortion was a relatively new option. As we often do when we’re young, I took my rights for granted.
Much later, when I got divorced after 18 years of marriage and started dating again, it was reassuring for me to know that if I experienced a birth control method failure, abortion was an option. There is no way I could have handled a new baby when I was already a single mother of four teen and young adult children. Knowing I had the safety net of legal abortion allowed me to test the waters and to learn what a truly healthy relationship looked like and felt like.
My reproductive years are behind me now. But that doesn’t make the issue of abortion rights any less important to me. As a mother, I believe that my daughters deserve to have the right to make their own personal decisions about their bodies – for their entire lives. And they deserve to have access to birth control and other reproductive health care services as well.
It really, really worries me that we’re seeing an erosion of those rights, at the state level, all over the country – with increasing numbers of new restrictions making abortion less and less accessible. Unless we can turn the tide, I fear for my daughters’ generation and the generations of young women yet to come.
Today’s event is a combined celebration and rally for a reason. Forty years of choice is definitely something to celebrate. But we need to stay vigilant because there are people who would deny us the right to make decisions about our own bodies. People who want to control our reproduction and our sexuality. We cannot let them win.
I am truly grateful to the women and men who went before me to make safe, legal abortion an option for me and for my daughters. As I learn more about the history of this movement, I gain a deeper appreciation for what had to happen in order for my 17-year-old self to take abortion rights for granted.
And the older I get, the more I appreciate the next generation of reproductive rights activists – the young women and men who are working so diligently to assure that Mainers continue to have access to safe, legal abortion, and birth control and the full range of reproductive health care services. They inspire me and keep me going when the going gets tough.
As a woman, as a mother, as a future grandmother… I’m happy to stand here today and to be part of Moving Choice Forward for Maine.