Why I'm Still Fighting For Abortion Rights, Four Decades After My Own Abortion

Photo: Courtesy of Getty Images.
It was the 1970s, and I was 21-years-old. My partner wanted the baby, but it was a very clear and unambiguous decision to me. I went alone to Planned Parenthood in New York City and had an abortion.
Making the right choice for me — for my life — did not make the abortion carefree. It was not a reductive experience. The staff was professional and gracious. Although I was strong in my decision, I received lots of counselling: The providers made sure it was the choice I wanted.
I went to Planned Parenthood for healthcare and that’s what I received; that’s what any sexual and reproductive medical service is — nothing more, nothing less. This month marks the 46th anniversary of Roe v Wade, the US Supreme Court decision that legalised abortion access. And it sickens me to my core that the healthcare I deserve is now a tool of political gamesmanship. We should not be fighting, as we have been under the Trump-Pence administration, for gains made generations ago — rights to control our bodies and futures. But fight we must. Now more than ever.
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In December, some people saw a glimmer of hope when the US Supreme Court allowed two lower court rulings to stand in Medicaid “defunding” cases — protecting people who are insured by Medicaid and rely on Planned Parenthood for birth control, cancer screenings, and STI testing from losing these services.
But I am not encouraged. The cases were not about abortion rights, but rather about whether individuals can sue to challenge states’ decisions to block access to Planned Parenthood health centres. The cases were also about curbing women’s rights to their bodily autonomy; conservatives will stop at nothing to overturn Roe and dial back women’s rights. Rest assured conservatives, whether on the courts’ benches or in the Trump-Pence administration, will stop at nothing to take overturn Roe v Wade at their first opportunity.
By the end of 2017, legislators and governors passed 17 anti-abortion restrictions in states throughout the country. And any day now, Ohio is expected to try to pass a ban on abortion at six weeks into pregnancy, before most women even know they’re pregnant.
Sure, some restrictions will likely be challenged in court. But more than a dozen abortion cases are just one step away from the Supreme Court — where there’s an undeniably conservative bent. And that’s just the beginning. More pivotal cases will follow. Since 2011, politicians have passed more than 400 abortion restrictions that attempt to punish or pressure women who decide to terminate a pregnancy.
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Back when I had that abortion, I was one of millions of women emerging out of the ‘60s who saw women as having equal self autonomy as men. Abortion was my right. The laws and the freedoms that made this the United States of America meant I obviously had agency.
Looking back now, however, I realise I was lucky. And in hindsight, naive. Who would think we’d see a return to the Dark Ages? Right-wing elected officials are wielding control over women’s bodies and sexual health in scary new ways.
I have no regrets about my abortion and studies show very few women do. I would have been a terrible mother. I didn't want to carry and raise a baby. I was just starting my career as a filmmaker. And I already knew the life I wanted for myself didn’t look anything like the lives of women who came before me.
None of the rulings will stop women like me. I have the money and geographical access to get an abortion. But I worry about the women who don’t.
These undue restrictions will be most harmful to women who aren’t like me — who don’t make much money and live in communities where the barriers to access are just too great. I had a lightbulb moment years ago, when I was making a film and interviewing women around the world about their sexual experiences. The film wasn’t about abuse or abortion. But what I realised from talking to so many women is that regardless of class or race — all of us, as women, have a shared narrative.
I will never stop fighting for women to have access to care. Good health is not a luxury. No-copay birth control is not a work perk. Early cancer detection is not an exclusive club for the rich. I will never stop advocating for Planned Parenthood, because it is all about health care. And health care is a human right.
Jennifer Fox is a film producer, director, cinematographer, and writer. Her movie The Tale, starring Laura Dern, was a breakout hit at Sundance in 2018.
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