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I share a birthday week with Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that recognized the constitutional right to abortion. This year, I turned 30, and Roe turned 44.
I’m generally not one to make much of my birthday, but I have to say that I’ve been looking forward to 30 for a while. My friends and colleagues in their 30s or beyond have often told me that their 30s were the time they’ve felt most comfortable with themselves and sure of their lives. I know that I am coming from a privileged vantage point – many people never experience the stability I’m anticipating in my 30s, or they find that other phases in their life bring greater happiness for various reasons. But as someone who has dealt with anxiety throughout my 20s, I am extremely happy that my personal and professional life appear to be stabilizing at the start of my fourth decade.
However, as I quietly celebrate leaving my 20s behind, I am acutely aware that my 30th birthday falls at a moment of transition to a new regime that is extremely threatening to reproductive rights and justice. At 44, the constitutional right to abortion should be comfortable and settled. Instead, it is under serious threat from multiple angles, including all three branches of federal government.
During our birthday week, a man was inaugurated as the President of the United States who brags about sexual assault and has stated that women should be punished for having abortions. A man was inaugurated Vice President of the United States who has championed many anti-abortion legislative actions and who stated that a Trump/Pence administration would “see Roe v. Wade consigned to the ash heap of history where it belongs.” A Member of Congress felt emboldened by the new administration to introduce a ban on abortions after 6 weeks of pregnancy – which would prohibit abortions earlier in pregnancy than many women even realize they are pregnant. Our new President has pledged to appoint Supreme Court justices who are committed to overturning Roe v. Wade, and we could see his first nominee named as early as next week.
These, of course, were not the only occurrences that dampened our birthdays, Roe’s and mine. This month has been packed with threat after threat by the new occupants of our federal government to justice and decency; not to mention that the new administration has already made clear that it is willing to tout propaganda as facts while calling facts propaganda. The threats to Roe v. Wade’s legacy are in many ways merely a part of the broader degradation of social justice, civil rights, and human dignity.
I’m clearly not going to be able to fully leave anxiety behind in this world. But if my personal life is indeed settling into steadier rhythms, I see an opportunity to more usefully deploy the privilege I will have in my 30s to advance reproductive justice in an ever-more hostile climate – including to protect the constitutional right to abortion. Happy birthday, Roe! I’m in my 30s now, and I’m ready to go all in for you.