It’s Tuesday in Highlands, N.J., and I’m taking Frank the contractor to lunch. He’s been such a great guy. He will rebuild my mother’s little house on the Jersey shore that was awash in the waters of Hurricane Sandy last October. Newly gutted, the house reveals the faded layers of lives that once made the place a home, one pattern atop the last, atop the last, atop the last. As I exited the rental car to meet Frank by his pickup, to attach a face to the phone voice I’ve come to find comforting, we were greeted by an exhibit of a neighbor’s sodden refuse, installed along my mother’s front fence, and a code enforcement officer with an envelope in extended hand. I reached for the letter and asked him if it were common for folks to lay their waste at another’s door. He said, “No worries, just remove it,” and tucked the letter back into his pocket. We laughed at human foibles. Frank offered to haul it all away. So now we’re having lunch, in the less damaged town up the coast, lingering while the counters are wiped down and chairs are stacked on tables. We are challenging and sharing, finding our way around common themes and conflicting perspectives—gun control and the difference between deficit and debt, corporate taxes and small town politics—and I wonder: Would he care that I’ve had an abortion? Would I care if he opposed it? Would we still enjoy the conversation?
Wednesday, a tire on the rental car goes flat. Too bad. The car’s been kind of fun until now. The fellow at Enterprise had said, “I’m going to upgrade you. How about the Prius?” ”I’ve never driven one,” I admitted. “Anything I should know?” “No, no, it’s easy.” Turns out, there are things to know, like how to start the car, but I wasn’t hit with the stupid stick, so I figure them out. Oh, and that hybrids get flat tires, too. I call AAA, and the gal says it’ll be 45 minutes before the tow truck arrives. I whine about the weather—36 degrees!—and then I apologize for whining, explain that I might have grown up with chilly winters, but Southern California has lowered my tolerance for the cold, for the cold and for working with idiots. We chat about the sleet, the number of calls they’re receiving, the gal’s wish to fly back to the warmth of California with me—she says it three times. And she promises to shorten my wait, if she possibly can. I feel like a shmuck for complaining. The tow truck shows up in 25 minutes, although it’s not a truck, but a battered and primered sedan with a paperclip instead of a door lock and a driver who looks twelve and has nothing but a windbreaker between him and the frigid air. His frost-chapped hands do quick work. I give him $10. And I wonder: If he impregnates his girlfriend, will they understand that abortion is an option?
Thursday, I’m flying home. The plane is packed. A father is incensed that no one will swap seats so that he can sit with his family. I suspect what’s really bugging him is being stuck next to the window. The flight attendants push the snack and beverage carts up and down the aisle several times, attempting to calm passengers’ restlessness with consumable distractions. But the irate father hounds a woman into giving up her aisle seat, and my suspicion is confirmed. One of the attendants is an older man, slim and stately, a handsome black face, and the most graceful of hands. I ask for ice water, twice, just so I can touch them, despite my stash of bottled water. The other attendant is telling a story, but the engine’s roar muffles most of it. She looks concerned, wears a large button with the face of a young Marine on it. I hope he’s still alive, and it occurs to me that she’s hoping the same thing. She hands a passenger a soda and pushes the cart a few steps closer. I hear her say, “I leaned over to ask what she wanted to drink, and it was a guy pretending to be a girl.” She looks disgusted. And I wonder: Is she similarly ignorant about why women need access to legal, safe abortions?
Friday, I’m home, contemplating the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade on January 22, and reading a list of state laws limiting women’s reproductive freedom and a report of a study on the use of anti-abortion measures to deprive pregnant women of their rights. Reproductive justice is in a sorry state across the country, and I hope that the people whose paths I cross would vote to protect women’s access to legal abortion, that they understand the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, that they can comprehend the repercussions of overturning it. I hope they would be, at worst, passive defenders and, at best, ardent activists for women’s right to make private personal decisions about their reproductive lives. As I’ve written before, I’ve exercised my right to choose several times, and I live at peace with the full range of consequences, including my daughter. I hope she is able to exercise the same right. And I wonder: Will Roe v. Wade be here for her?
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Visit Planned Parenthood’s 40th Roe v. Wade Anniversary webpage to read and watch and learn what good Roe has done for so many of the women we love.
Kit-Bacon Gressitt's commentary and political fiction can be read on her blog Excuse Me, I'm Writing and have been published by San Diego Gay & Lesbian News, The Ocean Beach Rag, The Progressive Post and San Diego Free Press. She formerly worked for the North County Times. She is also host of Fallbrook's monthly Writers Read open mic and can be reached at email@example.com.