In the time following the Supreme Court’s official overturn of Roe v. Wade, I have reflected on what it means to be a teenage girl in a nation that fails to respect women’s rights.
It was a frightening day for every girl around me. We huddled together, heads buried in our phones, endlessly scrolling through headlines. No longer concerned with final exams or the most recent TikTok trends, we instead were engrossed in the leaked Supreme Court opinion that set our rights in peril.
“You don’t have any control over the decision,” I told myself. “Just try not to dwell on it.”
I intended to comfort myself, but I had said those words all too many times before: at the advent of the pandemic, amid the onslaught of mass shootings, and now, standing in my high school hallway, in disbelief at the news that my right to choose was under attack. What value does comfort hold to a generation that has been let down time after time?
As a young woman with neither the power to vote nor the ability to participate in public office, I am too often treated as a second-class citizen. Others make decisions pertaining to my body without any regard for my opinion. Thousands of news articles have been published on the fall of Roe v. Wade, yet few give voice to those whom the lack of access to abortion may impact most—teenage girls.
In the time following the Supreme Court’s official overturn of Roe, I have reflected on what it means to be a girl in a nation that fails to respect women’s rights. I am a hardworking student, but if I were to become pregnant where abortion is unattainable, everything I have done to secure a better future would be upended.
The obstacles of pregnancy at 16 are obvious. If I were responsible for a child’s food and other necessities, it would result in significant financial stress, forcing me to secure a full-time job instead of attending college. While Justice Amy Coney Barrett argues that the ability to pursue adoption eliminates the need for an abortion, no one on the Supreme Court is a girl in high school. Even if I decided not to raise my unborn child myself, continuing school while visibly pregnant would bring irreparable damage to my self-esteem. Teachers would mortify me with questions, boys would call me cruel names and—though it is disappointing to admit—other girls would ridicule me for my changing body.
If I experienced morning sickness or other pains from pregnancy during important exams, I would be unable to perform to my full potential, hindering my opportunities for college acceptances and scholarships. If I continued competing on the track team, my pregnancy would eventually advance too far along for me to participate. I would always worry about how my classmates might perceive me: that no boy would want to ask me to the school dance and that no girl would want to be seen within ten feet of me in the cafeteria. People would gossip as to whether I was raped or promiscuous, all of which should remain private, while the father of my child could continue his life virtually unchanged.
Challenges would extend beyond school as well. I tutor younger children and work part-time to save money for college tuition. If I needed to find more work, employers might scrutinize me for being pregnant, limiting my access to job opportunities. My ability to continue my education, to find a fulfilling career, and to determine when I am ready for motherhood are all under threat as the Supreme Court disregards my perspective. How many other millions of unheard young women must feel the same?
I am a hardworking student, but if I were to become pregnant where abortion is unattainable, everything I have done to secure a better future would be upended.
I am angered to witness the overturn of Roe. But perhaps more so than I feel outraged, I feel degraded. It is clear that women do not have equal rights to men.
States with trigger bans have already begun to outlaw abortion. Countless young women my age, especially those from low-income backgrounds unable to travel for medical care, will suffer. Victims of rape forced to carry their pregnancies to term will endure unimaginable recurring trauma. My friends, my loved ones, the girls I see in school every day, are all demeaned in a nation that allows its representatives to dismiss a woman’s bodily autonomy.
Perhaps I am naive to think that my voice might inspire progress— that, at some point in the future, our nation will respect my right to choose. For now, I only hope that everyone privileged to vote will consider my perspective. I do not want empty words of comfort. I want choice.
Sign and share Ms.’s relaunched “We Have Had Abortions” petition—whether you yourself have had an abortion, or simply stand in solidarity with those who have—to let the Supreme Court, Congress and the White House know: We will not give up the right to safe, legal, accessible abortion.