Roe v. Wade: Letter to My Granddaughters
Dian Greenwood weighs in on the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade through a letter she wrote to her granddaughters marking the occasion of this grave injustice.
June 24, 2022
Dear Susan & Lucy,
Whether you agree with me or not, I have to write to you on this infamous morning when five men and one very right-leaning Roman Catholic woman overturned Roe v. Wade. Overturned the most precious right you have ever had and maybe didn’t even know it was precious—the right to own your own body.
You already know my story … an unwanted pregnancy with a reluctant partner wherein it was suggested that I go to Mexico and have an abortion. How would you know that you have a great grandmother (at least one I know of) who was aborted with knitting needles by her sister in the basement of their family home? She was lucky to live. Or my grandmother, who stood pregnant and unknown outside her new in-laws’ house, parents who didn’t know she existed, parents whose son had quickly married her before shipping out to Europe in WWI? Or an aunt who did go to a back-alley Mexican abortionist and has lived her entire life in the shame of that decision? Because it was illegal and a secret.
It’s not the “pro” or “con” of abortion that is at issue here: it is THE RIGHT TO CHOOSE.
Countless generations of women fought for that right, starting with Women’s Suffrage in the early 20th Century. Your great-great Aunt Mabel, childless as far as I know, demure and petite as she was, marched in those parades a hundred years ago. We’ll never know the whole story of why Aunt Mabel was so opposed to the oppression of women. But for a woman like her to take to the streets was significant. I always respected her for that.
My own mother became pregnant with her second child a mere two months after I was born. She had no options … partly due to both ignorance and the 1940s notion of “family.” My “Irish twin,” a sickly and highly anxious child, simply preceded another three children that my mother and my father were incapable of raising in a healthy manner due to addiction and financial hardship.
This day is anything but ordinary. This day represents over a hundred years of women fighting for the right of determination.
This day is anything but ordinary. This day represents over a hundred years of women fighting for the right of determination—to choose whether or not they are desirous of or ready, willing, and able to have children.
Yes, women like you who want an abortion will be able to go to a state where it’s still legal. You will have the money to choose, even if you have to leave the country. But poor women, women who clean our houses or work in the kitchen of the restaurants we love or make beds in hotel rooms for someone who can afford to pay $300 a night, won’t have that option. Those women will continue to live in forced poverty until one of their sons becomes angry enough to open fire with a weapon of war in a school classroom like what happened in Uvalde recently. He was one of their own. But this is how it can happen.
There is the other piece. You may find yourself pregnant because a man you love, someone you care about, wants/insists on having children and you have to put your career, your life passion, your own dreams on the back burner or tuck them away in a closet never to be seen again. You know my story. Not that I would ever NOT have wanted your Uncle Bert or your own dear father … but because of my own ignorance and immaturity and need to escape my family, I bought into that desire, that dream.
I’m one of the lucky ones. Through sheer determination and the immensity of my own soul’s longing, I’m sitting here realizing my big dream to publish my debut novel. But I’m 80 years old and not 40 years old—which is where I should have been.
I have no regrets. But that is because of immense emotional support from other women and therapists for the past 50 years while I tried to understand my part in the decision to go through with marrying your grandfather that September day in 1960 in Vermillion, South Dakota, when, even then, my wiser self knew I was making a mistake. I was 18 and pregnant and refused to go to Mexico. It was illegal and dangerous and I feared being hurt more deeply than I already was. More than anything, I wanted to believe in “the dream.”
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Men have very particular ideas about what a woman’s body means, especially in relation to them. Women started out being nothing more than chattel when this country began. In other words, chattel, as in livestock the white men (yes, white men) counted along with the acreage they held. Now, because of the decision by five men and an evangelical Roman Catholic woman, we’re considered no more than chattel again.
That may seem like an extreme statement on the surface, but you have time to wait and see. Women are easily persuaded by our own romantic ideas of what a home and family should look like. Trust me, maybe I’m jaded by my work as a therapist these past thirty years, but I’ve NEVER seen that dream match the original romantic notion. My point is that women, by nature, will forgo their own dreams in order to serve some ideal of home and family that isn’t always clear-eyed.
I’m a grandmother of two granddaughters I adore. I watch your independent spirits and hard work, your immense capacity to dream and realize your own dreams. The tremendous support you’ve had from your father and mother. I’m also aware of your future plans and your capability of accomplishing those plans.
My fear is that this is just the beginning. That the next target to come under fire will be birth control methods. That reproductive clinics like you work in, Susan, will disappear into history. Because we’ve just moved back into the Dark Ages as far as women determining their own bodies is concerned.
I’ll leave it there. But I had to speak out from my eighty years of experience as I watch you blossom into your own lives. Because I love you and want only the best for you and all women.