01.22.2018

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Why Roe v. Wade Matters

Forty-five years ago, in the Roe v. Wade decision, the nation’s highest court affirmed that a woman’s right to safe and legal abortion is protected by the Constitution.

We cannot go back to the days before Roe, when some women put their lives on the line when they needed to end a pregnancy. That’s why the Center for Reproductive Rights defends the constitutional rights of all women and will continue to do so in the battles to come.

Together with We Testify, we recorded the following personal stories of women whose health and future have depended on the rights made possible by Roe.

Kenya, Texas

At 39 years old, I found out I was pregnant. I knew immediately I wanted an abortion, so I called a clinic I knew and trusted to schedule an appointment with the doctor who delivered my daughter and has provided gynecological and abortion services to me as well.

On the day of my appointment, I woke up feeling completely certain about my decision. As I sat in the lobby completing the required forms, I suddenly felt the most excruciating pain hit me out of nowhere. I felt faint, could barely speak, and found it difficult to get up from my seat. The pain was concentrated in the right side of my uterus&mdash,it was brutal and relentless. The receptionist took me in immediately for an ultrasound. Read more

The sonogram technician told me that she couldn\'t see the pregnancy, but could see fluid in my uterus. A nurse took me to a procedure room and held my hand to comfort me because I was crying. She told me that I might have an ectopic pregnancy&mdash,and it could possibly rupture one of my fallopian tubes. She told me that my life was in danger, and I needed to go the emergency room immediately. I left and drove myself to the hospital, in pain, and crying the whole way. I was so afraid and alone, but didn\'t want to call my mom because I was ashamed.

After waiting eight long hours at the emergency room, I was finally called in for an ultrasound. I was taken to a room where a doctor rushed in to tell me that my right fallopian tube had ruptured and I was bleeding internally. I felt like my world was ending. I had expected to have an abortion and return to life as normal. I had emergency surgery to remove the ruptured tube, which also terminated the pregnancy.

Two weeks after the surgery, I went to my regular OB/GYN office for my follow up. I was seen by the doctor’s wife who is a nurse practitioner. I mentioned I didn\'t have insurance to cover the visit, that I had been out of work for 6 months, and was in need of a job. She asked me about my work experience and I told her about my medical background&mdash,that I have a degree in business management and have over 10 years of medical insurance and billing experience. She appeared pleasantly surprised and pleased. She told me to go to the abortion clinic and tell them that she had referred me. This was the clinic that saved my life&mdash,I couldn\'t be more excited for a chance to work there. I interviewed with the clinic director and knew almost instantly I had found my new place of employment, a place that had changed my life and continues to impact me every time I show up to work. Now I’m part of a team of abortion providers who are saving lives every day.

I became employed in 2015 by the very clinic that saved my life. I am now a patient counselor, and am so grateful for the opportunity to help people make important life decisions for themselves and their families, just as I was able to make the same decision for myself.

Why protect Roe? People deserve access to safe, legal abortion&mdash,we can’t turn back the clock on essential healthcare.

Robin, Missouri

My husband Jim and I desperately wanted to have a baby. We tried to get pregnant for four years&mdash,enduring two in-vitro procedures, a miscarriage, and multiple failed embryo transfers. We were thrilled when our most recent in-vitro fertilization proved successful. When I found out I was pregnant, I was just ecstatic. I remember being at the window in our house with my husband, both of us squinting at the pregnancy test in disbelief and excitement.

Unfortunately, we discovered after my 21-week anatomy scan that our daughter, Grace Pearl, had bilateral multicystic dysplastic kidney disease. Her kidneys were not functioning, she had no amniotic fluid and her lungs would never develop properly. Three doctors told us our daughter’s condition was 100 percent fatal. She would either be stillborn or would die a painful death shortly after birth. Read more

My own risk would increase sevenfold if I continued to carry her. So we made the excruciating decision to terminate the pregnancy at 21 weeks and five days&mdash,nearly six months.

But the process to get an abortion in Missouri, where we live, was one of the most heartbreaking experiences we have ever endured.

The laws in our state required Jim and I to wait 72 hours after consenting to the abortion so we could “consider what we were doing.” I had to sign a statement saying that I had heard my child's heartbeat, which I had heard multiple times and had a home Doppler with which to hear it electively as often as I wanted (which was every few days). I had to confirm that I had seen an ultrasound, as if I hadn\'t asked for an extra one to comfort myself that everything was going okay. We had over two hours\' worth of ultrasounds just the day before to confirm the diagnosis so that we didn\'t make a hasty decision. We were given a packet explaining that we were terminating “the life of a separate, unique, living human being.” There are no exceptions to these protocols, even for people terminating for fetal anomaly.

We made our decision out of love for our daughter. Ending the pregnancy was the most humane thing we could do for her. I don’t regret my decision&mdash,it was the right choice for our family.

Why protect Roe? Because fetal anomalies, like my daughter's, are not going anywhere. Women who face the same tragic situation that I did need to be able to make the best healthcare decisions for themselves and their families without government interference.

Stephanie, Florida

Nine years ago I became Jane Doe when I was denied the opportunity to decide my own fate and access an abortion. Because of my age, the government wouldn’t allow me to decide what to do with my own body.

When I was 17, I needed an abortion. I was unable to tell my parents, and because of parental involvement laws in the state of Florida, I was not able to get an abortion without them being notified and present. Though Florida law only requires parental notification, the only way the clinic could prove the person they were notifying was my parent would be by reviewing my birth certificate and my parents’ identification in person. My only option was to obtain a judicial bypass, which meant going to court and having a judge&mdash,a stranger&mdash,decide whether or not I could access an abortion. The judge had to determine if I was capable of making my own decision to have an abortion, and I had to prove that I was in significant danger if I told my parents. Read more

After sex that resulted in a broken condom, my partner tried to purchase emergency contraception but was denied by a pharmacist, because state law does not allow minors to purchase it without a prescription. Meanwhile, I worked as a waitress earning $6 an hour plus tips. To save up the $500 for my abortion, I picked up as many shifts as I could. Waiting to have my abortion was exhausting. In addition to waiting three weeks for the judicial bypass and working to save enough money for the procedure, I also had to gather evidence for my case&mdash,which included undergoing an ultrasound that cost $100 and revealed I was two and a half weeks pregnant.

The judicial bypass process was long and difficult. I met with my pro-bono attorney several times, wrote a five page essay about why I needed the abortion and what my future plans were, presented my school records showing my dual enrollment class schedule, and finally had my plea directly to the judge in chambers. As challenging as this experience was, it was only possible because I had access to consistent transportation, a job that allowed me to afford the abortion, the ability to navigate a confusing, complicated legal system, and a pro-bono attorney, a true advocate, who supported my decision.

As a Latina, I never felt like the owner of my body. Because of Roe I reclaimed my bodily autonomy and agency. To my fellow Jane Does, I hope you know I fight for you every day. I see you. I feel you. You are not alone and you deserve better than what this system is giving you. Everyone deserves abortion access, regardless of their immigration status, their age, or their gender identity.