Roe v. Wade stood for 49 years and has now been shelved for one year.
This story is a part of Selves, a newsletter about gender and identity by PublicSource.
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The U.S. Supreme Court decision enshrining the right to abortion on a national level has been replaced by Dobbs v. Jackson, which gave states the authority to ban or severely restrict abortion. Some have done so, while Pennsylvania has kept abortion legal, but restricted.
While Dobbs hasn’t changed the legal landscape governing the clinics in Pittsburgh, it has catalyzed a year of discussion over the country’s direction and government’s authority over individual decisions.
We asked PublicSource readers: What has that decision changed about your life or your impression of our country’s direction? This is what we heard.
(Editor’s note: People who submitted responses had the opportunity to choose how they would like to be identified.)
It scares me that the governor is the only thing keeping abortion access in Pennsylvania. I’m at an age where I’m considering motherhood, but I don’t value having biological kids more than I value my own life.
— 31-year-old white cis woman, Pittsburgh
The reversal was long overdue. Tens of thousands of children have been saved in places like Texas. Many women are actually relieved they don’t have to choose (or be forced to abort by others).
— Chris Humphrey, Orthodox Christian, Stanton Heights
I think clearly the decision is a sign of waning checks and balances, which is not good for the country. It made the outcome of the upcoming gubernatorial race feel so important, and I anxiously awaited election results. I had conversations with my 8-year-old daughter about abortion, what it is and why someone might want one because those are her rights under attack as much as they are mine. Within a couple of weeks of the decision, I had an IUD inserted. I wanted long-term birth control, just in case abortion rights were undermined here in Pennsylvania. My gynecologist said she’d seen an uptick since the decision and supported my rationale for getting one. I couldn’t help but think that I’m someone with the means to go elsewhere if I needed an abortion, but it would be inconvenient. There are others for whom it is not possible. I hope they are able to get IUDs or make plans should they end up in need of an abortion.
— Jennifer, 40, bisexual woman living in Edgewood
Before overturn, my conservative Catholic mom said she’d help me get an abortion if [I had an] unwanted pregnancy. After overturn, she believes that regardless of what happens, I’d keep the pregnancy.
— 23-year-old Asian resident in Pittsburgh
It has not changed my life at all. People overdramatize things way too much. (Remember when the end of net neutrality was going to cause the end of the world?)
— 30-year-old man living in Brookline
In 1989, I was eight months pregnant with an anencephalic baby that the doctor concluded I could just carry to term and hope it died during birth. My baby had perfectly formed lungs, heart, eyes, kidneys, you get the picture, healthy organs so I said, “I’d like to donate this baby’s organs, since he has no brain, to healthy children with brains that need these vital organs.” I was told, “I’m sorry, because the ‘right to life’ laws have been passed to protect anencephalic babies, you cannot use the organs to save others.” After learning this and suffering for two more weeks, I called the doctor and said, “I have a knife to my stomach and you will be responsible for two deaths, mine and the baby’s.” The doctor swore and told me to come in tomorrow. I walked into Magee-Womens Hospital and a doctor walking by exclaimed, “Oh! We’ll get you a room right away!” and rushed off. I looked like I was ready to pop since I carried a brainless baby plus the fluid used to make the baby’s brain. I could go on with my story but needless to say the baby was aborted, and it took me years to heal. That’s what happens when you don’t allow doctors to do their job. Politicians and political movements are not doctors.
— Anna Lisa Haughwout
The decision has had no effect on my life. The country’s direction is moving more rapidly in the direction of focus on social issues and away from economic issues.
I bought as many Plan Bs (levonorgestrel) as I could afford. I have told my daughters, nieces, sisters and friends that I have a store in case someone needs it. It isn’t a medical abortion exactly, but it is something I could shore up. I drive women from Ohio to Pennsylvania abortion sites.
— 50-year-old woman from Upper St. Clair
A year later, I’m still speechless. Having friends who have experienced ectopic pregnancies, being denied health care because “our hands are tied.” Having to endure natural miscarriages that led to complications including hospitalizations. Hearing my friends’ firsthand accounts of why abortion is health care, and knowing the majority wants to ban our bodily autonomy scares me. For the first time in my adult life, I’m more worried about getting pregnant than I am about being sexually assaulted. Without the government protecting its people, denying services for our basic human rights and overall health and wellbeing is a sign of some really horrible shit that I hope I never see in my lifetime. Life in the United States as we knew it, pre-COVID, is gone.
— MC, 34-year-old white female resident in Pittsburgh area
After Roe, I knew for sure this is not a country for me as a woman and for my girls as future women. My family and I are actively looking to move out of the country.
— 32-year-old bisexual mom of daughters in the East End
I have never been pregnant and have no plans to ever become pregnant. Still, the day Roe v. Wade was overturned, my body shook; I was terrified, devastated. Honestly, though? My terror and devastation are not new. This country has long been careening toward being uninhabitable for marginalized folks. Hateful rhetoric and hate-fueled violence — sometimes deadly — have become normalized; both permeate our daily existence. As a transgender person, I am expected to be grateful for the people who only passively wish me dead. These days, to be queer is to have your own joy routinely weaponized against you. It’s why I don’t even feel safe being joyful or proud at Pride. Instead, I remain in constant fear of someone stripping me of my joy, of my life. I wonder: What will be the tipping point? How many more human rights will we lose before the law begins to protect us? How many more people will be forced to endure unwanted or unsafe pregnancies?
— 30-something-year-old trans masculine individual living in the East End of Pittsburgh
Everything I love about my life — my marriage, my career, my ability to support those I love — is possible because of my abortion in 2003. I grieve for the people who won’t be able to say the same.
— 41-year-old queer person, eastern Pittsburgh suburbs
Forced gestation and childbearing would be unsafe for me due to a medical condition, so my husband and I made the decision to get sterilized last year.
— 33-year-old woman living in Arizona
Editor’s note: Reader submissions were gently edited for grammar and length.
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We don't have paywalls — but your support helps us bridge crucial information gaps.
Readers tell us they can't find the information they get from our reporting anywhere else, and we're glad to provide this important service for our community. We work hard to produce accurate, timely, impactful journalism without paywalls that keeps our region informed and moving forward.
However, only about .1% of the people who read our stories contribute to our work financially. Our newsroom depends on the generosity of readers like yourself to make our high-quality local journalism possible, and the costs of the resources it takes to produce it have been rising, so each member means a lot to us.
Your donation to our nonprofit newsroom helps ensure everyone in Allegheny County can stay up-to-date about decisions and events that affect them. Please make your gift of support now.