In 1921 when my mother was 4, her mother died of a self-induced abortion. I never learned exactly what she did that ended her pregnancy and her life. Perhaps my mother never knew. For days, mother said when she told me about this, she and her little sister could hear their mother screaming, but they were not allowed to go into her bedroom. And then she was dead.
When the Supreme Court decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization came down, ending a woman’s right to an abortion at the federal level, I had a very personal, visceral response. Many of us did. There was a collective gasp from women in the U.S. and other countries and a stream of questions. What did it mean? What were we going to do about it?
Why do women have abortions? Why did my grandmother, a solidly middle-class married woman, feel so strongly about her third pregnancy that she destroyed herself to end it? There are, of course, as many reasons as there are women who seek abortions, whether they ultimately have the abortion or not.
The commentary I read after the Dobbs decision centered around legal issues: What could be appealed? What were the chances of a successful appeal? What were the flaws and historical inaccuracies in Justice Samuel Alito’s opinion?