In elementary school, there was a time I longed for the pink or blue ribbons my classmates pinned proudly to their shirts. The words “I’m a big brother” or “I’m a big sister” always elicited a cheerfully explosive response from a group of students, and teachers paused class to revel in photos of freshly swaddled babies. So, patiently, I waited for the day I would parade either a pink or blue ribbon because, in my naive kindergarten mind, everything in life was fair, and one day it would be my turn.
However, my turn to pin the pink or blue ribbon to my shirt never came. And, fifteen years later, as I watched two male professors debate women’s reproductive rights in my college classroom, I was reminded of just how inequitable life is.
The debate, sponsored by Adrian College’s Institute for Ethics and the George Romney Institute for Law and Public Policy, sought to determine the legality and morality of abortion. Prompting the debate is the Supreme Court’s impending decision of whether or not to overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark decision of the U.S. Supreme Court in 1973, ruling that the Constitution of the United States defends a women’s freedom to choose to have an abortion without excessive restrictions imposed by the government. However, now 49 years later, the decision is threatened by a current case in which the state of Mississippi proposes banning abortion after 15 weeks and subsequently overturning Roe v. Wade.
As Professor Paul Moreno of Hillsdale College rattled off court cases that he deemed unconstitutional, including Roe v. Wade, Professor James Spence from Adrian College told personal stories of instances where a family is at the forefront of determining their loved one’s care.
Although the two struggled to speak on each other’s knowledge and opinions on the matter of abortion, neither would ever be in a position where the government could impede their reproductive rights. Furthermore, they failed to articulate a struggle beyond the matter of legality versus their perception of abortion’s morality.
While I craved to experience the joy many of my classmates felt as they shared photos of their newest siblings, I more so wished to fully embrace the role as a big sister— a wish my parents desperately wanted to make come true. Previously suffering a miscarriage at 13 weeks, and despite their unmeasurable desire to bring another child into their family, my parents found themselves in a position needing to make the decision many are looking to take away.
After a regularly-scheduled 20-week ultrasound appointment, my parents learned their baby girl was diagnosed with a severe case of Turner’s Syndrome, a chromosomal abnormality causing the baby’s heart to have only three chambers along with large cysts in many vital organs. Doctors concluded the baby could abort itself naturally in a few weeks, as they saw the baby’s size was already diminishing, or my parents could decide to do it in a hospital, where it was sterile, and there were medical services ready.
The decision was painfully clear to my parents, who were always pro-choice but never expected to be in a position where they needed to make the decision themselves. Parents protect their children, or at least they should be granted the opportunity to do so.
My parents protected their child, who was already on this earth. If my mother were to wait to abort the child naturally, there was a chance she would not have been around to raise and support me. More than that, my parents protected the baby, who, if in the rare case survived to be born, would have needed excessive life support care for what would have been for only a short period of clinical care. There was no need to fill this child’s only time on earth with the suffering expected with medical procedures.
Life is not a linear replication of what is outlined in the Constitution. So, as I listened to two men debate the overturning of Roe v. Wade, I could not help but wonder why we even had the debate in the first place? I have become the person I am today because my mother chose to have an abortion. She made a choice—one she does not regret—to raise me without the fear of leaving me too soon. But, more than that, I am here today because my mother had the right to make that decision. I hope I, and all women, are never denied the right to make that same choice in the years to come.