Commentary

On Roe v. Wade’s anniversary, an open letter to my past self | Signe Espinoza

Roe was never the inspiring solution so many of us annually paraded it as: it was only ever a ladder to which the poor – a classification that so often coincided with communities of color – were denied access

Abortion rights supporters rally at the Pa. State Capitol on Tuesday, 5/21/19, as part of a national day of action (Capital-Star photo by John L. Micek)

By Signe Espinoza

Tonight you will attend a college party, feeling less excited than usual.

Tired all day and nauseated by scents you normally enjoy, you tell yourself it could just mean your period is coming late because of all the stress that’s come with this quarter’s classes. You’ll leave the party early and run over to the nearest grocery store to buy a couple of surprisingly expensive pregnancy tests.

At check out, you’ll feel paranoid because it seems like everybody there knows. You’re convinced you feel their eyes. A million thoughts will be running through your head and you’ll stall, finally realizing that the cashier is already waiting for you to pay. 

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You’ll chug water just as some of your friends had been downing warm beer earlier. Finally, you will feel your bladder tingle and as much of a relief that will be, the faint but definitely still visible lines on the third and fourth tests will plunge you onto the couch.

Near tears, you will realize you have a solitary goal that begins with typing Planned Parenthood into Google. In the next few hours, you’ll learn that your Medicaid doesn’t cover abortion care, and even if it did, you can’t risk Ma knowing. So you’ll scrounge for cash. You’ll have to wait until your boyfriend’s next pay so he can cover the remaining cost with what little he has left after rent. You’ll opt-out of anesthesia because you cannot afford it. Despite what protesters say, you’ll walk out of there feeling grateful, elated. You should never look back, but you will. 

Nine years later, on a less hurried trip to the nearest pharmacy you will again be surprised at the price of the tests. You still elect to use the second test, and this time you will have a smile that widens with each materializing line.

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You run down the stairs and hug the love of your life. The look on his face is one you wish you had in your camera roll to look back on if it were ever to unetch itself from your mind’s eye. You’ll dance in the kitchen and immediately start making a list of all the people you want to tell. 

As the weeks go by, you feel nauseous and exhausted and think to yourself: no one should ever have to go through this if they don’t want to.

You’ll be the happiest you’ve ever been, but you’ll still stress about giving birth, and think to yourself that the last time you were pregnant you took the safest option. You’ll constantly think about the people who don’t want kids now but may want them later — and you will hope they navigate the obstacle course to access reproductive health care and walk away feeling as whole as you do.

You’ll post your pregnancy announcement and add “To those who have lost, are trying and/or waiting, or are struggling to access reproductive health care, my heart is with you.” 

You’ll have a hard time processing that your child will learn about Roe through a paragraph or maybe just a footnote in a history class. Perhaps that is the way it should be.

Roe was never the inspiring solution so many of us annually paraded it as: it was only ever a ladder to which the poor – a classification that so often coincided with communities of color – were denied access. 

Signe Espinoza (she/her/ella) is the executive director of  Planned Parenthood Pennsylvania Advocates.

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