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As a historian of the antiabortion movement, I feel a little obligated to say something in light of the Supreme Court’s ruling to overturn Roe v. Wade. I confess I’ve been avoiding the news on this one. It’s a lot to see hot takes about your area of expertise all over the news and social media, especially when the stakes are so high.
My research in grad school focused on the lead up to Roe and the antiabortion movement’s response to it. I spent six years studying the antiabortion movement (and decades growing up in a community where everyone I knew opposed reproductive rights). Six years reading thousands of sources — books, newspaper and magazine articles, letters, flyers, meeting minutes, legislative records — all tracing the ins and outs of a movement increasingly set on banning abortion.
Despite my six years of deep research on the movement, I find myself at a loss as to what to say. I’m tired and demoralized, overwhelmed by the amount of work we need to do, and scared of what happens next for women in this country. And my patience for explaining that this wasn’t a surprise but just one part of a decades-long crusade and that we should have always taken Republicans at their word is wearing thin.
But I’m trying to stay at least a little hopeful because I know it’s possible to change your mind on reproductive rights. I know it’s possible because I changed my mind. I grew up pro-life. For years, I didn’t know anyone who wasn’t. I can remember writing antiabortion letters to legislators in a seventh-grade class and a high school teacher telling his students, all close to turning 18 and registering to vote, that the only issue we needed to consider when deciding who to vote for was abortion. I felt so strongly about abortion that I volunteered for a year after college with an organization that supported pregnant women and their babies.
Changing my mind was a slow process. First, I was all-in, ban-all-abortions pro-life. Then, I was pro-life but also convinced that we needed to actually help women and their children if we wanted people to not have abortions, that we should support comprehensive sex education and make it easier to access contraception, and that we should be consistent on all life issues.
Next, I was personally pro-life but not really interested at all in criminalizing abortion or supporting any sort of ban on abortions. And finally, I’ve reached a point where I strongly support reproductive rights and believe the decision to have an abortion should be left to women and women alone.
What helped change my mind? It was a variety of things. Reading deeply on the history of feminism, doing research for my dissertation, and learning how views on abortion and its morality have changed over time and how rich and diverse these views are across religious traditions. Listening to my friends who are pro-choice and hearing the stories of women who’ve chosen abortion. Learning about the ramifications for banning abortions and what things were like before Roe. Reflecting on my own experience and thinking about how I would respond in various situations. I’m now unapologetically pro-choice. Women deserve a choice, and women deserve to have autonomy over their bodies.
If I can change my mind, maybe others can too.