It’s hard to think of a subject that stokes more passion than abortion. And like so much in our culture, it is the people on the extremes who hog the megaphones. So on this issue, as with so many others—guns leap to mind—those in the middle, those with nuanced views about this morally fraught subject, keep quiet.
I’ve come to think of that broad middle—the place where most Americans actually are—as the country’s self-silencing majority.
In his opinion in Dobbs, I think Justice Alito correctly described the variety of views Americans hold on abortion:
Abortion presents a profound moral issue on which Americans hold sharply conflicting views. Some believe fervently that a human person comes into being at conception and that abortion ends an innocent life. Others feel just as strongly that any regulation of abortion provides a woman’s right to control her own body and prevents women from achieving full equality. Still others in a third group think that abortion should be allowed under some but not all circumstances, and those within this group hold a variety of views about the particular restrictions that should be imposed.
My fervent hope is that if we were sitting around a table talking about the Court’s decision it would sound a lot like the latest episode of Honestly. It’s a conversation between two mothers: Bethany Mandel, the pro-life editor of the children’s book series “Heroes of Liberty,” and Katherine Mangu-Ward, the pro-choice editor-in-chief of Reason Magazine. They are joined by the head of the National Constitution Center, Jeffrey Rosen.
Listen to their debate here:
And for today, a moving essay by Suzy Weiss about two women living in two very different realities in post-Roe America. — BW
Three weeks ago, I was sitting in a chair across from a physician’s assistant named Bianca in a deluxe fertility clinic next to an Aritzia and a Japanese bakery in a fancy outdoor shopping mall in Los Angeles. The waiting room was done up in muted pinks and mid-century dupes and macrame wall hangings. The nurse handed me a pamphlet that said “Own Your Future” on the front of it.
Then she took out a pen and started writing out numbers over a diagram of a uterus.
“I like to compare an ovary to a chocolate chip cookie,” she tells me. “The chocolate chips are the follicles.”
I turn 27 next week; I haven’t had a period in five years since I got an IUD put in at a Planned Parenthood in Pittsburgh. I was at that California mall because I wanted to check in on that crucial bit of my body that I’d effectively told “Shhh, be quiet” while I went along with the rest of my life. The pill is 99 percent effective if used correctly and IUDs are more than 99 percent effective, so for about a decade I have never once worried about getting pregnant.
Around the time I was getting my womb explored with an internal ultrasound, Kaitlyn, a mom of two who lives in Shreveport, Louisiana found that she was pregnant. We are the same age: She is also 27, born in 1995.
Kaitlyn, who only wanted me to use her first name to protect her privacy, already has two kids and she knows what her body feels like when she’s pregnant: sore breasts, bloating. But she was confused since the guy—a friend that she’d started hooking up with about three months ago—told her that he’d had a vasectomy. But the little blue line on the at-home pregnancy test was unmistakable. She guesses that she’s about seven weeks along.
She considered just getting an abortion and not telling him. “We really don’t know each other that well,” she said. But then she felt bad. She didn’t want to do that behind his back. So she texted him.
First, he insisted he had a vasectomy. Then he said he thought he’d had a vasectomy during another surgical procedure. Then he started telling her that he was so excited to have a baby with her.
When I was 18 years old, during my senior year of high school, my doctor prescribed me the pill. My mom came with me to the appointment. I was in a long-term relationship with my boyfriend and I wanted to be safe. I remember picking up the three-month supply from CVS and the thin purple cardboard sheath that held the month of pills.
When Kaitlyn was 18, she had her first child. She wasn't planning on it, but she was also not not planning on it. She tells me that she and her then-boyfriend, the father of both of her children, didn’t have a lot going on. “We didn’t have direction. We wanted to feel loved,” she says. Over the years, she’s tried two different IUDs, the pill, a patch, and the Nuvaring. Some were covered by Medicaid; others just partially. The IUDs, which she got after each of her kids was born, were painful and she didn’t like how they made her feel emotionally. The last form she tried, the patch, was too expensive to keep up, so she stopped it in May of last year.
Both of her children—a daughter and then a son—were born via C-section. After the second birth, Kaitlyn had a bad case of postpartum depression. “I never want to feel like that again.” Now, her son, who has autism, is five. Her daughter is eight. And Kaitlyn’s hands are full. “I am done having children,” she says.
Then, this past Friday, the Supreme Court handed down their decision to overturn Roe vs. Wade.
I live in New York, where abortion is allowed up to 24 weeks. I am in L.A. right now, and have healthcare that travels with me. So I was able to go as easily to a doctor here as I am there. The co-pay at the clinic was $95. The only thing that changed about my life on Friday were the things people were posting about on social media. That, and that I got a text from a guy I went on a date with earlier that week: “Protest happening in weho tonight around 7pm.”
Louisiana, where Kaitlyn lives, transformed overnight. It is one of 13 states with a trigger law—put in place by lawmakers in order to instantaneously ban abortion if Roe was ever reversed. Before last Friday, abortion could be performed in the state up to 22 weeks and had three clinics taking appointments: one in New Orleans, another in Baton Rouge, and a third, called Hope Medical Group, in Shreveport where Kaitlyn lives. But as of Saturday, all the appointments were canceled.
Kaitlyn immediately went onto the r/abortion subreddit, where people traded information and resources the day that Dobbs passed. She found a link for Aid Access, a non-profit that sends abortion pills—mifepristone, to stop the fetus from growing by blocking the hormone progesterone, and misoprostol, to induce labor—to the U.S. by mail through the E.U to avoid restrictions. She submitted an application and got an email back, but it’s unclear when, if ever, the pills would get to her. (They need to arrive within the eleven-week window in order to work.)
So Kaitlyn started looking into back up plans.
The next closest abortion clinic that could help Kaitlyn is in Jackson, Mississippi, about four hours away from her house. It’s the Jackson Women's Health Organization—as in the clinic, the one at the center of the Dobbs case. It’s also the only one in the state.
Mississippi’s own trigger law didn't go into effect until 10 days after the Dobbs decision is certified by the state, giving Kaitlyn until July 7 to get an abortion there. She was able to score an appointment for this Friday. But that’s just the initial consultation, where they’ll give her an ultrasound, do a short counseling session and go over the financing of what would be one of the last legal abortions performed in the state. That is, if the subsequent appointment to actually go through with the abortion can be scheduled before the state’s deadline and after the mandatory 24-hour waiting period.
That initial appointment will cost Kaitlyn $150 dollars. The actual abortion will cost about $600. And gas is very expensive right now. Kaitlyn works a retail job, at a cosmetics store, and can’t take the time off. She doesn’t have money for a sitter, let alone funds to stay in a hotel in Mississippi between the two appointments. Money is “low, low,” she tells me.
While Kaitlyn weighs her diminishing options, I get to “own my future.”
This past Saturday night, things came to a head between Kaitlyn and the man who had gotten her pregnant. They had a blow out about all the lies and they haven’t spoken since. Since then, she’s deactivated her Facebook and blocked his number so that he can’t get in touch. Still, she’s worried that he’ll share nude photos that she’d sent him. She’s been double checking her locks at night.
Kaitlyn posted in r/abortion on Sunday night that she was in “panic mode.” “Is there ANYONE that has info about the Jackson, MS clinic?” she wrote, “Or has any helpful info about help with travel expenses to get somewhere farther away if needed...” But then, the next day, another twist: On Monday, a judge temporarily halted the trigger law. A judge in Utah did the same.
So Kaitlyn called the Hope clinic, the one near her, to schedule an appointment on Monday. They told her to call back this Friday, since they weren't taking on new appointments until they had more clarification about the new laws coming down. They said they hope to know more then.
Kaitlyn wants to become an esthetician, someone who does waxings and other skin treatments. She works at the makeup store now, but eventually she doesn’t want to be beholden to a corporation. She wants to work for herself.
Today, Kaitlyn is crossing her fingers that the Hope Clinic will pull through, though she’s kept the appointment in Mississippi. She also ordered teas on Amazon that she’d read could possibly induce an abortion. “I want to get this done before they overturn something else or change the law again,” she says.
Because of the circumstances of my life—where I happened to be born in this country, and where I live in it now—I was able to take an Uber 15 minutes away to have my IUD removed at a high-end shopping mall. I didn’t think for a moment about the price of the appointment or the time off work.
Kaitlyn has kids and bills and gas prices to consider. She is one of millions of working-class women who live on a very short timeline—month to month, paycheck to paycheck. She lacks the kind of personal support and the entitlement to demand that the system works for her and not the other way around. Because this woman who could be me lacks the few hundred dollars for transport, childcare, and the abortion itself, she may end up having a child she doesn’t want and doesn’t feel she can care for.
I asked Kaitlyn what women in blue states are missing about what women in red states, women like her, are going through.
“I’ve always been in the South, so it’s hard for me to say what’s different,” says Kaitlyn. “But I feel a little resentful and jealous that they don’t have to feel so helpless, like I do now.”