I remember the glow and excitement of finding out my husband and I were expecting a second child. My first few months proceeded typically. We told our family members and friends, who shared our family’s joy for expanding (and my young son’s first sibling).
At 20 weeks, unknown prenatal complications placed my life at risk — a diagnosis I refused to believe. We consulted many doctors and researched every option. Suddenly having to choose between my life and pregnancy shocked me — but my mother’s guidance helped me realize the true shame would be making the wrong decision for my health and my living family.
The decision to terminate my pregnancy was not one I took lightly. I had a child to whom I was already a loving parent to consider. This was a decision that only I could make, with the support and expertise of my doctor. I am lucky that I got to make the decision that was right for me when so many people today cannot. We deserve to live in a nation that respects our right to decide our own futures and honors our ability to know what’s right for us.
While we have long expected this, the leaked SCOTUS opinion overturning Roe v. Wade still stings and represents a devastating blow to our freedoms — and an attack on reproductive freedom constitutes an attack on democracy itself. Our constitutional system exists to defend each person’s right and liberty to decide their fate, choose their faith, and build families as we see fit. In a democracy, citizens are actively engaged in the political sphere, leading and shaping our society.
Ostensibly, functioning democracies value and uphold personal freedoms like free speech, freedom of assembly, religious autonomy, and our right to fair trials. In democracies, people actively engage, lead, and shape the political sphere and society we share.
Of course, many people know that democracy in the U.S. has long been in grave peril. We recently experienced a stolen election threat, and our political institutions cater to a conservative white minority that remains drastically overrepresented in the Electoral College, Congress, and gerrymandered legislative districts. Republicans actively suppress voters of color. Banning abortion represents another egregious step in their coordinated assault on our freedoms and a prime example of the ideals of racial capitalism upon which this nation was built.
We know that attacks on abortion harm Black, Brown, and poor people chiefly. Those who can afford to travel can always access needed health care — people who can’t function at the mercy of systems that neither see nor care for their well-being. There’s no gender equality without reproductive freedom and the right to dictate our futures. We cannot overstate what’s at stake presently.
Roe secured my right to supervise my body years before my birth, a right neither my mother, grandmother, nor enslaved women I descend from were afforded. My ancestors likely experienced forced birth to supply enslavers with cheap labor — one of many long-standing tactics utilized to uphold and enforce white supremacy historically.
There’s no time to waste. We must abolish the filibuster now and pass the Judiciary Act to expand SCOTUS, or face the ramifications of this broad, cruel, and devastating ruling. Please make no mistake: Ending Roe could mean ending countless critical, hard-won civil liberties. In Roe, the Court held “liberty” within the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment, including our right to privacy. By rejecting this holding, Justice Samuel Alito makes way for future decisions to eliminate privacy, marriage equality, contraceptive access, trans rights, and more.
Democrats use abortion rights as a campaign issue repeatedly, then fail to deliver on their promises to protect and expand our right to reproductive freedom. We deserve leadership that represents the full population, fulfills their promises, secures abortion access for future generations, and understands our right to reproductive freedom as central to any functional democracy.
I’m grateful for the opportunity to have done many meaningful things in my life. I’ve helped drive a presidential campaign, led the fight for earned sick days plus the fight for $15 an hour, served as the deputy director of the Women’s Bureau, and currently co-direct the Center for Popular Democracy and CPD Action, which is the country’s largest multi-racial organizing network. Most importantly, I’ve known the gift of raising two sons (whom I seek daily to instill a sense of justice and power). I couldn’t do any of these things without the protected right to exercise choice over my body and future seven years ago.
Advocates have protested, organized, and struggled over decades to demand a more expansive, inclusive, and transformational definition of liberty than the white men who founded this country were capable of imagining. We must move forward towards a new vision of our democracy that honors our inalienable rights to our bodies, lest we remain trapped in our nation’s worst traditions.
Analilia Mejia is the Co-Executive Director of the Center for Popular Democracy Action (CPDA), an organization that works to create equity, opportunity and a dynamic democracy in partnership with high-impact, base-building organizations. CPDA works on campaigns that promote a pro-worker, pro-immigrant, racial and economic justice agenda and win victories to improve people’s lives.