As she stood fierce, pitched forward atop the Hamilton County Courthouse steps, arms high with her hand painted sign pressing toward the crowd, I wondered which women in her life helped her carefully paint that poster covered in red handprints made to look bloody. I imagined the kitchen floor covered in paper so as not to mess the linoleum, and I wondered which of her matriarchs added their bold, precise black sharpie handwriting to the message, “Keep Your Laws Off My Body”. I wondered if this girl, barely old enough to menstruate, knew how empowered, impactful, and appropriately enraged she appeared for a cause she could barely experience and still understood to be fundamental to her future. The fervor in the air heightening her protest cries, I sensed generational conversations carried across paint covered hands and sharpie stains, careful not to leave a mark anywhere it was not intended.
Repeatedly screaming “My Body, My Choice!” “Abort the Court!” And “F — Mike DeWine!”, she couldn’t have been more than ten or eleven years old.
Sweating profusely in the early July sun surrounded by a crowd from all walks of life, mid civic duty, I watched this girl. Her ferocity, her age, her emboldened stance, struck me as I wondered under what circumstances I would have encouraged or allowed my youngest child, now 21, to use profanity for such a cause. Turning to my right, where a young woman, my daughter stood, I didn’t need to wonder. She held a sign reading “If I wanted the government in my uterus I’d f — a Senator!”, and “Respect my existence or expect my Resistance!”.
Knowing my parental instincts could no longer include considerations for maybe, her future was more limited and therefore her stake was larger than mine. In the wake of the recent SCOTUS decision overturning Roe v. Wade, restricting women’s bodily autonomy, I realized that the time for niceties was behind us, and that our manners and polite language had taken us backwards. Young girls will rightfully use profanity. Being civil has not helped me hold onto my rights, and it certainly has not and will not help her.
Today my city passionately stood up to this decision, calling out those who deem our lives to be less valuable than belief or men’s choices and actions. I do not and will not recognize authority on my bodily autonomy. Our nation is young, we have survived a mere and messy 245 years riddled with wrongdoing and errant lawmaking, from slavery and bigotry to misogyny. We have seen the wrong side of history and we are on it.
Playing by the rules won’t help that young girl screaming fervently on her own behalf on those courthouse steps, and it won’t help her children years after. We have set women on an even more precarious path, allowing states to criminalize seeking abortion despite health concern, forcing women, especially those at financial disadvantage, to see unwanted or dangerous pregnancies to term. Despite a child’s age, or cases of rape or incest, states have determined forced birth for girls and women, as if we were livestock.
Surreal to those of us fighting for progress and equality and to be reversing course, slipping into such medieval thinking where women are made to once again obey their masters and overlords. The saddest part is that this decision won’t stop abortions, it will only stop safe abortions, it will stop important healthcare procedures being performed for myriad reasons and women will be irreparably damaged and die as a result.
This extremely complex, private decision, has been made into a battle between life and choice as if the two were divisible in a democracy. Stripping this right has never had anything to do with faith and babies, it has always had to do with control. These people standing shoulder to shoulder at the back of this young woman taught me the coming war will now more decisively be waged to gain it back.