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Our Last Hope Is Our Vote

For years after the 2000 election, I wondered what life in the US would have been like if Al Gore hadn’t conceded to George W. Bush. Perhaps we wouldn’t be facing climate collapse because he would have implemented policies to halt the use of fossil fuels. Maybe he could have persuaded other world leaders to join him. Would the terror attacks of 911 happened? If so, I imagine his response would have differed greatly from that of President Bush. How many lives might have been spared? It’s a dangerous rabbit hole to go down, yet since 2016 I have done it again and again. What if our electoral college wasn’t so broken and Hillary Clinton had been elected president? After all, she won the popular vote by 2.9 million. Imagine. There would have been no Donald Trump presidency. No Neil Gorsuch. No Brett Kavanaugh. No Amy Coney Barrett. No dismantling of a woman’s right to safe and legal abortion. No women dying when they can’t get treated for emergency reproductive health issues. No dismantling of environmental protections. No criminalizing of the unhoused. No granting of immunity to presidents. No second Trump term. No dictatorship. No loss of human and civil rights for anyone who isn’t a straight, white, wealthy, Christian male.

A dangerous rabbit hole.

Yet it’s a better choice than sticking my head in the sand, hoping that it all goes away. The November election is not about choosing the lesser of two evils. There is only one evil, and we appear poised to choose him. If we do, most of us will lose basic human and civil rights. He has said as much. We have already seen what he can do. Are we ready to live in a country that gives up democracy for dictatorship? Women are already living that nightmare–again.

As the US celebrates 248 years of independence, my thoughts return to the fact that more women in more states have been denied bodily autonomy and access to reproductive healthcare. Women have lost one of the most basic human rights—the right to control their own bodies. Without that, there is no independence—no freedom—no country to celebrate. Without that there is only fear and anger and loss of control over our lives, which is what Trump and Republicans want. They want to put women ‘back’ in their place.

We can’t sit back and let that happen.

Fourteen states now have near total abortion bans. Here is how that is playing out in one of them.

Tennessee:

 

“Katy Dulong was diagnosed with cervical insufficiency early in her second trimester and told that she would inevitably lose the pregnancy. Though she asked to receive abortion medication to expel the pregnancy, she was instead sent home. Katy did not receive the abortion care she needed until 10 days later—when her cervix was fully dilated, all amniotic fluid had drained, and most of the fetus’ body was in her vaginal canal. Katy’s doctors told her she was extremely lucky to have survived; without the abortion medication, she could have died within days”  (msmagazine)

Nicole Blackmon discovered she was pregnant just months after the murder of her teenage son. But at 15 weeks, her baby was diagnosed with a condition that made it unlikely her baby would survive the pregnancy. In addition to suffering from depression and anxiety, Nicole had health conditions that put her at high risk of having a stroke during labor and delivery. Without resources to travel to another state for an abortion, Nicole was forced to continue the pregnancy against her will until, at 31 weeks, she gave birth to a stillborn baby”  (msmagazine).  

 What sane, compassionate human being would argue that these women should have had to endure this level of trauma? Who would want them to risk death by carrying an unviable fetus? Donald Trump, many members of Congress, those who make up the religious right—they all would. They do. (for more harrowing and heartbreaking accounts of women who have come close to death since the dismantling of Roe, visit abcnews.com.  

Destiny Lopez, Acting Co-CEO of Guttmacher Institute, a leading research and policy organization committed to advancing sexual and reproductive health and rights worldwide, recently testified before the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, where she stated: “Overturning Roe did not resolve the debates on abortion that have characterized US politics for the past 50 years. Instead, it enabled policies that have significantly worsened the harms faced by individuals who are most marginalized in our health care system. Still, despite these immense hardships and many people being denied care, there were more than one million clinician-provided abortions in 2023—a 10% increase from 2020. This is a testament to the heroic efforts of providers, abortion funds and other support networks, to the resilience and determination of people seeking care, and to the centrality of abortion in peoples’ lives. And it explains why the anti-abortion movement and their political allies are doubling down on even more repressive policies” (guttmacher.org). 

Outlawing abortion won’t stop women from seeking abortions. It does prevent countless women from accessing safe and legal abortion, putting their lives in danger. “Banning abortion does not stop the need for abortion access. Which is why many people seeking abortions post-Dobbs must overcome huge financial and logistical barriers to get care, especially those in states with total or early gestational bans. The number of Americans traveling out of state for abortions doubled from 81,000 in 2020 to more than 170,000 in 2023” (guttmacher.org). 

Since the fall of Roe I have been frustrated by what I have perceived to be the lack of action—in Congress, by the President, by women in general. Yet the research I have recently done has revealed a tremendous amount of action. It just isn’t picked up by the media. It should be. For instance, Senator Patty Murray chaired a committee hearing titled “The Assault on Women’s Freedoms: How Abortion Bans Have Created a Health Care Nightmare Across America.” Her opening remarks should serve as our battle cry:

The issue here is simple, and it cuts to the core of American values: freedom. Many women, every day, experience the joy of becoming pregnant and raising a family. They were able to make that decision for themselves. But no woman—no one—should be dragged through pregnancy against their will. But right now in America, more than a third of women of reproductive age live in states where they essentially don’t have the choice to end a pregnancy if they need to. Instead, Republicans have made the choice for them with extreme abortion bans and cruel restrictions on access to care. With these policies, they have told women, in no uncertain terms: you don’t control your body—we do. That is horrifying. Think about what it means—what it really means—to be told someone else can decide you have to stay pregnant. Think about how little power that gives a woman over her own life and her own health? And think about how much power that gives not just politicians, but any man who knows he can get a woman pregnant—force her to stay pregnant—so he can have control over her, or even get revenge, for the rest of her life? To every Republican who hopes this issue will go away or is hoping the post-Dobbs reality will become a settled status quo: listen, you never forget, and you never just get used to, someone else taking control of your body, your medical decisions, your plans for your family—your future. You never forget a politician rescinding your right to make decisions about something as personal as your own pregnancy—and imposing his will instead, especially when you live with the consequences every day. And the consequences of the post-Dobbs abortion bans are so much broader, and so much more devastating, than any one story—or hearing—can ever do justice. There are stories that get a lot of attention—that are shocking almost beyond belief. Stories of women denied care for a miscarriage, because of abortion bans, women turned away from hospitals because their doctors’ hands were tied until they lost over half of their blood, until their husband found them unconscious, until the only option was an emergency hysterectomy, or tragically, until it was simply too late. Or stories of children who can’t get abortion care after being raped. Some kids may be able to get across state lines to get the care they need. Other children have been forced into motherhood by Republican politicians. One teenager delivered a baby while clutching a teddy bear. These nightmares are happening across the country as a direct result of Republican abortion bans.” (murray.senate.gov). 

Our last hope is our vote. This could very well be the final free election this country experiences. If we want to celebrate 249 years of democracy a year from now, we can’t let evil win.

(Photos courtesy of Wikimedia).

Diane DeBella

As a writer, teacher, and speaker Diane has spent over twenty years examining women’s issues. She is the author of the collective memoir *I Am Subject: Sharing Our Truths to Reclaim Our Selves*, and editor of the anthology *I Am Subject Stories: Women Awakening*. As a long-time faculty member at the University of Colorado, she received the CU Women Who Make a Difference Award and the CU-LEAD Alliance Faculty Appreciation Award. Through her organization I Am Subject, Diane helps us understand how we—as women—are impacted by the society in which we live. By claiming ourselves as subjects of our own lives, we become empowered and also provide strong role models for other women and girls. In healing ourselves we help others—a beautiful way for women to create nurturing, supportive communities.

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