This is Men Yell at Me, a newsletter about the places our politics and personhood meet. This newsletter is about my life growing up in an anti-choice household and the breaking news about the end of Roe. I also wrote an entire book about Christianity, motherhood, and the cultural forces that got us to this place. If you like this newsletter and want more, you can always subscribe.
I grew up one of eight children. We were washed, dressed in coordinating jumpers and shirts, and trotted out on stage at church on Right to Life Sunday, where our mother would testify that we were an example of always choosing life.
We went to rallies, too. Bows in our hair, marching beneath the angry shouts and the ghostly, whale-like images of aborted fetuses that would haunt me at night as I tried to sleep
My whole life, I knew the plan. Vote for politicians who’d nominate justices who would overturn Roe v. Wade. Abortion was murder. I heard this preached in churches; at Sunday dinners over brisket. I heard the plan at rallies for homeschoolers in D.C., where we’d lobby our senators for more rights for families — or so I was told.
I heard about the plan when, as a teen, I read fundraising fliers for Christian schools that would turn out a whole new generation of lawyers, lawyers with a Godly worldview, who’d overturn Roe v. Wade.
I heard about it again in 2016, when a nice lady from church smiled at me at school drop-off the day after Trump was elected. “I didn’t want to vote for him,” she whispered to me. I was hung over, and sick. “But he will put good judges in place to overturn Roe v. Wade.”
Later, when I wrote a book about Christianity and the Midwest, and then another about mythology and motherhood, people at book events, journalists in interviews and editors looking for a hot take would all ask me why people would vote for a candidate like Trump. “To overturn Roe,” I’d say. And they’d scoff. No, no. That can’t be it.
But it is. It’s always been the plan. And it’s never been a secret. The plan has been shouted at rallies. Held up on signs. It’s been plotted and spoken of and written about over and over.
The Circus on Showtime @SHO_TheCircus.@AlexWagner and @JHeil met with @SenatorCollins from Maine to discuss the Supreme Court nomination of Brett Kavanaugh and the role of gender amid the allegations of Christine Blasey Ford. #SHOCircus #TheCircus #Showtime https://t.co/C3PFkqJZAb
But later, when feminists and activists warned against appointing Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, Sen. Lisa Murkowski and writers on the New York Times op-ed page assured us that a Justice Barrett wouldn’t vote to overturn Roe.
While these reassurances were given, the right to an abortion was already being eroded in many American states. While people smiled and assured hysterical feminists that Roe was the law of the land, Roe was being kneecapped. And reproductive justice was already being denied to trans people, Black people, Native Americans, the incarcerated. Abortion clinics were being forced to close. Health care providers were threatened and pushed out of business.
On May 2, as social media was awash in glamorous images of celebrities dressed up for the Met Gala, whose theme was the “Gilded Age,” Politico published a leak of a draft of the Supreme Court’s majority decision striking down Roe. "We hold that Roe and Casey must be overruled," Justice Alito wrote in the draft. That decision is not final and could still be amended, but it’s not likely.
Whoever leaked the draft, they weren’t trying to pressure the court. The court is going to engage in political warfare over women’s bodily autonomy. The leak was to signal to our elected leaders that this day, this day, they need to codify reproductive rights into law. The day we were assured would never happen is here.
Pearl-grabbers want to hem and haw about the loss of respectability over a leak. But what matters is the court’s intention to erode people’s right to choose their own health care, their own future, their own path in life.
While people smiled and assured hysterical feminists that Roe was the law of the land, Roe was being kneecapped. And reproductive justice was already being denied to trans people, Black people, Native Americans, the incarcerated. Abortion clinics were being forced to close. Health care providers were threatened and pushed out of business.
There has to be another plan. And there is still time. Congress can codify Roe into law. The ERA could be turned into law. These are promises the current administration ran on. And for all the game-day quarterbacking of the reality of those possibilities, it’s about more than elections, it’s about human life. And I wish our elected leaders would start acting like it was people’s lives at stake — not just the midterm elections.
My siblings and I were parading around those church stages, models of Christian values and ethics, along with so many other families. And we smiled and waved and dreamed of those ghost babies. But we also grew up. One woman I knew as a child called me last year to tell me about her abortion, which she had after her birth control failed. Having a baby could kill her. She’d been in an accident as a girl and the injuries she sustained meant that giving birth might well end her life.
I once found myself in a Planned Parenthood in a college town, the morning after I was assaulted. This is not an abortion story, but it it’s a story about choice. I was in that town to present a paper at a conference. It was an honor, back when I thought I could be a PhD. And I had gone to the conference and gotten drinks with my fellow students only to find myself alone in a room with two men. And not able to leave not until it was over. And I ran to my room and stayed there until it was light and I could get a cab to Planned Parenthood. The one place I’d been told my entire life was evil. But that day, they saved my life. My life. My life. Because “pro-life” only means pro a potential life. Not mine. Not the actualities of me, my hopes and my dreams. It was clear to me, in that waiting room, that the moment I stopped being a fetus, I had become a problem, a real problem. A problem that could only be controlled.
I got a checkup that day and I got the morning-after pill. I went back to the campus. I washed my face and put on makeup and presented my paper on a stage, smiling, as the two men from the night before sat in the back row.
The night the story leaked on Politico, about the end of Roe, I was dancing in the living room with my small son to a Janis Joplin record. I knew this had been the plan. I knew the end of Roe was exactly what was going to happen. I’d written about it for years. But I knew that all the life in my living room that night was better and fuller and more complicated than any plan could ever envision. I put down my phone and swallowed my fear and we danced and danced, until it was a little past his bedtime. We danced because he was there, and I was there, and we were happy, because once when I was scared, I’d been given a choice.
(I’ll be updating the links all day today.)
I literally wrote a book about this shit. Also, last year I wrote about this for Time. And also about Amy Coney Barrett. Also, here is an excerpt from my book where I talk about my past and my assault. I assume we will all be awash in takes, but definitely read Moira Donegan, always.
Also, I think a lot about this essay I edited during my time as the managing editor of The Rumpus. It’s an essay about faith and a late term abortion.
And this essay “This Is a Story About Abortion, No One Will Read It” about the difficulty of writing about abortion rights because it was like shouting into a void.