Commentary: Texas law highlights urgency of rights fight

By Elana Rabinowitz

Up the creaky wooden staircase, past the dried Indian corn, was where it was hung. It stuck out like a sore thumb, completely out of place. It was a thin barbed-wire hanger balanced on our antique doors — resting above the skeleton key and shocking our conservative neighbors.

At 8 years old, I had no idea why it was there or what it represented, so I plucked it off the rim and brought it inside, placing it back in the closet. Later, I would learn it was my mother’s way of protesting the pregnancy-termination options available to women before Roe v. Wade.

“That’s what women had to use for abortions before it was legal,” she told me. So it’s important.” Women’s rights 101, right there on Stratford Road, in the Ditmas Park section of Brooklyn.

As I got older and learned more about the horrific danger that women went through for abortions, I became angry. A hanger? A rusty old hanger? Death. Loss. Infection. This seemed barbaric. Preposterous. Surely the government would not force victims of rape or incest to carry a child.

Yet this was the harsh reality my mother and many before her grew up in. People had to go to back alleys to perform this operation, often resulting in infection and sometimes death. I was relieved to know that people in my lifetime would have better choices.

Today, many people still choose not to have an abortion and that’s OK too. I always felt lucky that I was born in a world where I could make safe choices about my own body. My choices.

Yet, all these years later, it frightens me to think that today this rusty hanger may again come into use in America by desperate women who have no other options for terminating a pregnancy. With the draconian abortion law that just took effect in Texas after the Supreme Court narrowly voted not to block its passage, this horrific treatment of pregnant people may now actually be something I witness in my lifetime. How is that possible?

I am not alone in wanting to stop this harmful law. Rideshare companies Lyft and Uber say they will fully cover any fees subject to drivers seeking to aid people getting abortions. Attorney General Merrick Garland said that the Justice Department would continue to protect people who seek an abortion in Texas.

I’m tired of people, especially men, making decisions for pregnant people. Decisions over what we do with and to our bodies ought to be ours to make. These are after all our bodies. Like the ones that brought us all into this world.

Perhaps everyone does not have to learn about abortion the way I did. But it does need to be taught. I am not advocating it as a form of birth control, but it should be an option available to everyone. And those who assist should not face legal action.

I no longer have the option to bear children. This is not a fight for me. This is not a fight for pregnant people. This is a fight for basic human rights and dignity.

To the brave people who lost their lives to seedy alleys and rusty hangers, I’m sorry your choices were so limited. Abortion in the United States need to remain safe and available.

Maybe we all need to place a hanger outside of our homes, along with the words “never again.”



Elana Rabinowitz is a freelance writer and English as a second language teacher in Brooklyn, New York. This column was produced for The Progressive magazine and distributed by Tribune News Service.

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