• Rhyena Halpern

Seventeen and Pregnant One Year After Roe v. Wade Became the Law of the Land



I had graduated a year early from high school and was just a few months into college. I had a new, older boyfriend and a diaphragm. I used the spermicide, but I got pregnant anyway.

I found out I was pregnant at a building that I only later realized was actually run by a religious organization trying to talk women out of abortions. I missed out on this at the time because to her credit, the kind woman who took my urine to be tested was decent. She meekly suggested one time that continuing the pregnancy and adopting the child out was an option. She backed off when I cut her off with a killer glare and adamant words that that was not at all a viable (sic) option for me.

I hope I was fearless and intimidating in her eyes. I hope she switched sides after witnessing the many women who needed real options when faced with an unwanted pregnancy.

That was 1974. One year after Roe v. Wade became the law of the land. I was 17 years old.

Many times since then I have stopped in my tracks and stood still in utter gratitude that I had the right to a legal abortion. My mom had had an illegal abortion at some point after I was born. I was the baby of three daughters and she had not planned for me, let alone a fourth child, with her battering spouse, my father. She told me she had to have sex with him to get money for the groceries.

I have wept many tears for women who have been mutilated and even killed by deranged butchers who performed unclean, demeaning ‘back alley abortions’, as well as for the imprisoned women who boldly helped women get safe abortions, at great risk to themselves.

What would have happened to me if I — if we- did not have access to safe and legal abortions?

The religious right has worked hard and long to get to this political tipping point of SCOTUS’s pending overturning of the 1973 law. We have known it was coming and that is why we have diligently supported abortion rights, nonprofits like Planned Parenthood, and the availability of abortion pills.

In the 1970’s and 1980’s women’s health emerged as a bold response to historically misogynistic health care. We were taking our bodies back from the patriarchy! The publishing of “Our Bodies Our Selves” signaled the arrival of feminist health care; what was once considered radical is now accepted as mainstream healthcare.

In those years, many of us knew of ‘menstrual extractions as a safe and common underground alternative to traditional abortions. Adversity is the mother of invention.

Now we will use our smarts, our outrage, and our convictions to find new ways to subvert the backlash against women’s reproductive rights and keep moving forward!

We are not going backwards.


We will not cede control of our bodies.


After forty-nine years of legal abortions, we know our rights.


We will not back down!



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