No Choice: What the US Would Be Like Without “Roe v. Wade”

Although 59 percent of US adults say that abortion should be legal in all or most cases, it remains one of the most divisive issues in America: Not a week passes without headlines chronicling attempts at every level of government to deny or defend women’s reproductive rights.

Over the past five years, hundreds of incremental changes in state laws have slowly chipped away at women’s reproductive rights. And with the election of Donald Trump and the appointment of Neil Gorsuch to the US Supreme Court, we are closer than ever to the reversal of Roe v. Wade.

Yet in the months since Trump was elected and Republicans took control of all three branches of government, women (and men) have stepped up to be heard, from the very day after the inauguration, when millions marched in protest, to the current #MeToo moment, in which thousands are breaking their silence and speaking out about sexual harassment and abuse.

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So, too, have women vehemently demonstrated against the latest attempts by conservatives to cut funding for Planned Parenthood and legislate further restrictions. Which is why we’re posting a new video series, NO CHOICE, to remind us just what the United States was like before abortion was legal, when abortions were dangerous, traumatic and often deadly, and how Roe v. Wade made a difference. Here, women share their personal stories. They’re speaking up to combat the stigma that still surrounds their choice, to remind people of the way things used to be and to bring awareness to the barriers that still exist, especially for poor women and women of color.

Listen to these brave women — and one male doctor — tell their stories, and think about what America would be like for men and women if Roe v. Wade were no longer the law of the land: if there were NO CHOICE.

Gaylon Alcaraz grew up on the South Side of Chicago and attended a Catholic girls school where she didn’t receive comprehensive sex education. She was 17 years old when she first became pregnant. She knew she was not ready to become a mother, so she had an abortion. Today Gaylon, a mother of two, is a reproductive justice activist fighting for the women in her community. This is her story.

In the 1950s, Dr. Waldo Fielding was an obstetrician working at Harlem Hospital in Manhattan. He remembers women from the community coming to him — many terrified they would be reported — with complications from backroom abortions. After Roe, he remembers the protestors at his Boston clinic and the harassment women endured just to access medical care. This is his story.

When Lynne Hanley was studying English at Cornell, she fell in love. When she tried to get contraception, she was told she had to be married to get it. After she realized she was pregnant, she went to a local doctor who lectured her, telling her she would be punished if she tried to end her pregnancy. This is her story.

Today, Danielle Lang is a voting-rights attorney. But at the age of 22, when she was studying for law school, she became pregnant because of a contraception failure. She and her partner felt they were not ready to be parents. After her abortion, Danielle found herself confronting the stigma surrounding her choice. This is her story.

When Valerie Peterson became pregnant with her third child, her doctor told her the child wasn’t developing properly. The grim diagnosis meant Valerie had a choice to make. She could carry the pregnancy to term and deliver a stillborn baby, or she could have an abortion. Living in Texas, Valerie faced access and scheduling restrictions that made her decision to end the pregnancy much more difficult than she anticipated. This is her story.

Marge Piercy is 81 years old. She grew up in a working-class neighborhood in Detroit. In 1953, during her freshman year of college, she fell in love. In those days, contraception was illegal in most states, and it was certainly illegal for unmarried women. She had dreams of becoming a writer. She didn’t want to have a baby. This is her story.

Today, Holly Alvarado is a proud US military veteran. But in 2009, as she was getting ready to leave for a tour of duty in Iraq, she realized she was pregnant. She wanted to end the pregnancy and deploy with her team, but she couldn’t get an abortion from a military doctor because of a federal law restricting military abortions. This is her story.

Liz Young was the first person in her family to go to Berkeley. While there during the free speech movement of the early 1960s, she experienced new freedoms and political ideas that she had not encountered in her sheltered traditional Chinese upbringing. At the age of 22 she accidentally became pregnant, and found herself in the underground world to get an abortion. This is her story.