The article from Anonymous this morning got me thinking about my mom. My mom is an RN with almost 40 years of experience under her belt. She’s a charge nurse, she trains nursing students, and she won a giant award last year. Her coworkers and patients love her. She has a lot to be proud of.
She says that her greatest achievement – the thing she is most proud of as a nurse – is the years she spent coordinating and providing illegal abortions in the Seventies. After a long shift at the hospital my mother would transport women needing illegal abortions and would provide care after the procedure. Sometimes she helped women who were suffering from infections and injuries after botched abortions. She wasn’t compensated for this, of course, and risked having her nursing license revoked as well as being arrested. My mom has never gone more than 4 MPH over the speed limit but she knowingly and deliberately broke the law to help women get the care they needed. Many of these women were victims of rape and domestic abuse and my mom, who survived and escaped an abusive marriage at 21, knew she needed to help. Many were young and all were scared. She saw herself as a soldier of sorts, doing what it took to protect and defend vulnerable women.
She was thrilled, she says, to watch the demand for illegal abortions dry up as safe, legal reproductive care became more accessible. She raised me with a strong sense of bodily autonomy – that no one should touch me without my consent, that my healthcare decisions were between me and my doctor, and that if I ever needed her help getting birth control or an abortion she would assist me without question. She was confident that the law would support us in these situations and took comfort in the fact that her daughter would never need to worry about using illegal channels to get reproductive care.
Now she’s getting ready to go to war again. She’s watching in horror as TRAP laws and cuts to Planned Parenthood’s funding take away the reproductive choice she fought for. She says that she’s near the end of her nursing career anyway and can think of no better way to end it than to be arrested for facilitating abortions for women in need. When we talk about new abortion laws she just says, “Don’t they remember how it used to be? Why should we go back there?” She’s scared that the young nurses she works with don’t have the same conviction she does and that if the time comes there will be no one to help tomorrow’s scared young women.
My mom isn’t sentimental or religious, but she isn’t sure that abortion doesn’t end a life – she just knows that women’s lives are more important. When I look at my peers I notice that reproductive choice - something that at its core is about valuing women's lives - isn’t on their minds. It’s just always been there. Most are white and middle-class and have never struggled to get healthcare; they don’t have moms like mine to tell them what’s at stake.
What about you guys, though? Do any of you or your parents have stories from the Old Days or what you're doing to make sure we don't go back there?