Op-Ed: The Day Roe v. Wade Was Overturned

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Sara Persechino


The day Roe v. Wade was overturned, I held it together until my daughter asked, “Will it always be like this?”

I assured her no, reminded her people she loves are fighting to ensure everyone has the health care they need, and held her close.

“This is really hard for you. I can tell because of your heartbeat,” my eight-year-old said.

It is hard. It is hard to look at my two daughters knowing they now have fewer rights than I did growing up. That the care I received in anticipation of building our family may not be accessible to them or their friends.

I am a mom because of the care I received from a New Hampshire abortion provider. At 17, I had an abortion when faced with an unwanted pregnancy. Years later, the same doctor stayed late to help manage the miscarriage of a very wanted pregnancy.

I know, firsthand, that every pregnancy is unique. That there is no decision more critical than if – and when – to start a family.

My abortion enabled me to go to college, start a career, and attend graduate school. My husband and I began to plan a family when we were ready.

And then I miscarried. The staff at Equality Health Center held my hand during the D&C – the same procedure used for my abortion.

Fortunately, I was able to get pregnant shortly thereafter. I was elected to office, earned my master’s degree, and welcomed my first daughter into the world–after 42 long hours of labor and severe hemorrhaging. My second daughter was born three years later–luckily, her labor was easier.

My life, my career, and my family are possible because I had access to the full spectrum of reproductive health care. That access is now in jeopardy for more than half of American women of reproductive age because the Supreme Court gave state politicians permission to control our bodies and power to decide our futures.

For twelve years, I have fought to protect and expand access to safe, legal abortion. My master’s thesis was an oral history of New Hampshire women’s abortion stories. My job involves working with people who have made the decision to have an abortion to help them tell their stories and to make their voices heard. It has been my honor and privilege to be entrusted with these stories – of loved ones lost to illegal, pre-Roe back-alley abortions; parents who did not have the resources or capacity to care for additional children; young women not ready to parent; and people escaping abusive relationships.

The power of personal narrative was on full display in New Hampshire this year. Brave women like Michelle, Lisa, and Kelly – and many more who remain anonymous – shared their stories of abortion care later in pregnancy in order to mitigate some of the harm caused by a cruel abortion ban in our state that prohibited access to that critical care, even in cases of fatal fetal anomalies. Their stories have illustrated the complexities of pregnancy and the thoughtful, compassionate decisions people make, changed legislative outcomes, and built a community.

Our culture fetishizes pregnancy but discourages us from discussing reproductive health out loud. From a young age, periods are taboo and shameful. We’re advised not to tell people early on about wanted pregnancies in case we miscarry.

As someone who has had both a miscarriage and an abortion, it is heartbreaking that people with these experiences often feel we must be quiet about them despite the fact that 1 in 4 pregnancies end in miscarriage and 1 in 4 women will have an abortion in their lifetime.

Everyone loves someone who has had an abortion – even if you don’t know it.

Not talking about reproductive health is clearly not working. Shame, stigma, and silence have allowed extreme politicians control over the narrative, public policy, and now our bodies. It’s time to break that cycle.

While we grapple with the emotional impact of losing constitutional protections for abortion rights and the decimation of abortion access across the country, we must hold space for one another and be willing to hear each other’s experiences.

The Supreme Court decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization signals a dark time for our country and a need to change the script. If we are going to build a movement that values people, respects bodily autonomy, and ensures every person who needs an abortion has access to that care – regardless of zip code, income level, or immigration status – we must center our stories.

The key to our power and our liberation are our stories. It’s time to raise our voices. It’s time for our elected leaders to listen. And it is time for all of us to act, together.

Sara Persechino lives in Hopkinton with her family; she is the Campaigns and Communications Director at Planned Parenthood of Northern New England and Planned Parenthood New Hampshire Action Fund.

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