Center for American Progress

Life Before and After Roe v. Wade: Lessons Learned

Life Before and After Roe v. Wade: Lessons Learned

Motherhood is one of life’s greatest gifts and for me, a blessing. When my husband and I became parents, we embraced the opportunity to nurture and guide a young life. It was a transforming moment. Perhaps because I know the joy and the responsibility of parenting, I also believe that a woman should have the right to decide when she will become a parent.

I have experienced life on both sides of Roe v. Wade. I felt the pain of a childhood friend as she described the crude procedure she endured in an unsafe environment because of an untimely pregnancy. The health and safety risks she took could have been avoided had abortion been legal.

Later in life, as a school teacher and administrator, as well as a community college professor, I saw young women struggling with untimely pregnancies. For many of them, their life circumstances – health care-related problems, economic struggles, and other compelling situations – made parenthood a devastating experience.

While many associate unintended pregnancy with youth, young women are not the only ones who struggle to determine if they are ready and able to become parents. Older women – married women – often face the same decisions. The problems are as varied as the women themselves – health complications or no access to health care at all, a household on the brink of collapse due to violence or economic fragility. The list goes on and on.

Given women’s varied experiences, the continuum of health care available to all – young and old – should include access to information and a variety of services, including abortion. Parents should talk to their children about sex and contraception, but because so many do not, the schools should provide those valuable lessons. Contraception – including emergency contraception – should be available to those who need it. It is the best way to reduce abortion. And, if my daughter, or any woman, needs to consider abortion, I want her to have the right to make the best decision for her life and to have access to the best medical care available – not the horrible conditions many women subjected themselves to prior to Roe v. Wade.

In my opinion, women – and men – would be better served if the same energy being used to overturn Roe v. Wade were used to find better ways to educate all of our young people. I spent three – almost four – decades educating and working with boys and girls, men and women. I know first hand what all the experts tell us: if we encourage people to use their innate talents and guide them toward satisfying and productive lives, we will take giant steps toward ensuring that they have children when they are ready and able. Education coupled with good health care are the answer.

Our country continues to struggle with the issues of abortion and contraception, but I believe the ultimate decision belongs to women. Provided with meaningful educational opportunities, as well as access to health care that includes information, contraception, and abortion, they will make the best choices for their lives.

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