Looking back a couple of decades to shades of a post-Roe world

Abortion rights supporters gather in front of the U.S. Supreme Court in the morning on Tuesday, May 3, 2022. (Photo by Jane Norman / States Newsroom)

I’ve gotten a chance, a couple of times, to tell the story of my entry into journalism. The first time I told it was at a talk in response to a high school student’s question — maybe an obligatory one asked to earn participation points that day.

I was an adolescent when I started what I called an “underground newspaper.” A rejected story pitch inspired it: I had come to my school’s newspaper club with an idea for an article about a baby shower we were trying to hold for a friend, a student, during a school lunch.

I usually quickly blow past this point because I think it makes a listener wince or shift in their seat.

But today, in a United States where reproductive health care access is on the precipice of becoming even more restricted, I don’t feel much like glossing over the middle school lunch-hour baby shower so everyone can sit a little more comfortably.

At age 12, it was blowing my mind that someone I knew — a normal student who was a grade ahead of me and 13-years-old — was going to really have an actual baby. But as I shift my focus to her and try to interrogate my own memory, I’m not sure she knew much more about birthing or what, if anything, had been explained to her about parenting.

Because a lot of adults were shocked and angry about her pregnancy, her day-to-day became more dreary. My guess is that the experience of suddenly being so talked-about and so taboo, on top of being pregnant was awful. I thought my mind was blown. With an empathy that comes with age now, I’m sure hers was, too, even more so.

And that’s way more significant.

As a culture, we don’t make it easy for anyone to deliver and raise a child, no matter the parent’s age. The scene is much worse for young people, especially from neighborhoods without a lot of money. I know this for certain now. I was learning it then.

We have to consider Roe v. Wade and abortion rights in the full context of a public education system. When it comes to: a) sex and consent; b) birth control; c) reproductive rights; or d) parenting, public education systems have historically failed to give young people much of a picture of e) all of the above.

My friend had a boyfriend who was in high school and not much older than us. I can’t imagine he was a lot of help when it came to unearthing good information about what was in front of them in a pre-internet era.

As young, ignorant kids, we navigated the sudden reality of all of this in a childish way, mimicking what we thought older people did when someone was going to have a baby. Read more