I’m Not Old Enough to Vote, but My State Thinks I’m Old Enough to Be a Mother

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Culture & Conversation Human Rights

I’m Not Old Enough to Vote, but My State Thinks I’m Old Enough to Be a Mother

Eve Thompson-Brown

Overturning Roe v. Wade could force minors to become mothers before they get their driver's licenses. We can't let it happen.

I’m not old enough to vote. I can’t drive. But according to my home state, I can be forced to be a mother.

My parents have two menstruating teenagers now. They worry more about the Supreme Court decision that could reverse Roe v. Wade than a pregnancy scare, because in our house, for our bodies, they’re intrinsically linked.

My family raised me to be a feminist; I’ve said “my rights, my body, my choice” for as long as I can remember. Looking back, I didn’t have the slightest idea how much that meant.

I can’t imagine a life where I could be a teenager the way I was supposed to be—sneaking out past curfew or spending a day at the movies. My friends are stocking up on Plan B; normal anxiety about going to Planned Parenthood is overshadowed by the implications of inaccessible birth control. Instead, I’m a warm body (or cold—it’s not clear that politicians care) whose rights can be debated over. My humanity is politicized in the United States. Here, my life is up for grabs. Living in Utah, my life is at stake.

Roe is gone. The chaos is just beginning.

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The day after the Supreme Court draft opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization was leaked in May, I had two back-to-back AP tests. I spent the morning trading off between worrying about my right to my body, and whether I would pass my AP Psychology exam.

The following day, I stayed up until 1 a.m. studying for AP Environmental Science and making flyers about an emergency protest that I co-organized.

The next day, I posted the flyers around school an hour before my test. After I finished the two-hour exam, I finished writing my speech for the protest, and went straight from school to the Utah state capitol. I spoke in front of over 1,500 people—many of them my age—candidly about the terror that I held, the terror that I still hold, and the terror I knew that they held, too.

I am a 16-year-old girl with a uterus in Utah. If Roe falls, my life is unprotected for the sake of a potential life that won’t be protected either, once it’s out of the womb.

I don’t want to be fighting for my right to my body or my right to health care. I’m tired, a to-the-bone exhaustion that nearly everyone with a uterus has experienced more acutely since the draft opinion leak.

Growing up, the right to abortion was a given thanks to Roe. My mother and grandmother watched as abortion rights were secured, as they were granted their bare minimum rights. Over the past few years, however, I’ve watched as states passed increasingly restrictive abortion legislation, despite the protections of Roe. Then, I watched with my mother and my grandmother as the Supreme Court indicated that Roe would fall— and the bare minimum was suddenly ripped from my hands.

Abortion is never going away. Safe abortion is being restricted. Children will die, and it won’t be from abortion—it will be girls like me, children from low-income communities, Black and Indigenous girls who already have the highest maternal mortality rates.

In 1965, nearly a decade before Roe v. Wade was decided, about 17 percent of all pregnancy and childbirth-related deaths were due to illegal abortions. As of 2018, it’s estimated that globally, at least 22,000 pregnant people die from an unsafe abortion every year. Overturning Roe v. Wade, and implementing restrictions on fundamental human rights, puts the lives of millions of people at stake—and the blood of thousands upon thousands on the Supreme Court’s hands. The hands of the conservative supermajority: none of whom will be personally affected, and one of whom is a rapist.

That’s my life, too. The lives of my mother and grandmother, my younger sibling, my cousins, my friends.

The most horrific part is that all of this terror comes as I hold an immense amount of privilege as a cisgender, upper-middle class, white citizen. It could be so much worse—it is so much worse. We were fighting long before 1973, and long after.

We don’t need to go back—we’re already there: Immigrants allege that Immigrations and Customs Enforcement performs involuntary hysterectomies. One in six U.S. women have survived a rape or rape attempt. Parental involvement in a minor’s abortion is required in 37 states, some with exceptions in case of medical emergency, neglect, abuse, incest, or assault (because a person’s choice over their body must be violated before granted). Sex education throughout the country is severely lacking, and in Utah, abstinence seems to be the full extent of our curriculum—my parents have to sign a waiver each time that I learn about the word “vagina.”

People in the United States do not have universal health care or accessible mental health care. The health care that we do have is largely inaccessible to low-income communities. The country also has the highest maternal mortality rate out of all high-income countries. We are in the midst of a baby formula shortage. The communities who have been able to access safe abortion are facing increased restrictions each year. That’s not pro-life—that’s anti-choice. An agenda against women, trans people, and especially women and trans people of color, knows no bounds.

They are not stopping with Roe.

We are not stopping, either.

On May 14, people across the country attended the hundreds of rallies held around the United States.

There have been weekly rallies and protests, often more, in Salt Lake City—the capital of one of the most conservative states in the country, a state with a trigger ban that will make most abortions illegal with few exceptions.

Support for abortion care is also wildly popular—61 percent of adults support abortion in all or most cases, according to the Pew Research Center poll. Young people—who will be the most affected for the longest time—are most supportive of abortion, with nearly three-quarters of adults under 30 saying it should be legal in all cases or with some exceptions, the poll found. We are the majority. Our justice system has failed us, and our representatives don’t represent us. It’s infuriating, and it’s inspiring. We are the majority.

We are fighting tooth and nail not only for health care, but for our right to choose. We are fighting for ourselves, our families, and for our collective siblings across the country who refuse to be pushed to back alleys, bleach, and coat hangers. We are fighting for the strangers in the grocery store and on the street who are having their basic human rights forcibly removed as you’re reading this. This fight is for us, and we are not stopping.

I don’t want to be a mother yet. I’m an older sister, a student, an activist. I’m applying to university next year. I want to learn three more languages and get my driver’s license. My life is worth fighting for. I deserve autonomy over my own body. I deserve better, and I deserve better than having to say that I deserve better.

You’re almost certainly affected by abortion restrictions—if you don’t have a uterus, then you love someone who does. From an unprotected girl: Please protect us. Please protect each other.

You can start by familiarizing yourself with your local Black and Indigenous femme activists; they are at the frontlines of everything, and will be the first to die. If abortion doesn’t affect you personally, or you have structurally protected or empowered identities, you need to have difficult conversations in your community. Continue educating yourself about abortion laws in your area and how to help your local unprotected communities. Donate to your local abortion funds.

Remember that we are here for you, and we are here for each other. Stay in the streets. Invite your friends to protests or organize a rally yourself. Keep up the momentum.

I am not a statistic of people who are at risk of signing a birth or death certificate if I get pregnant. My name is Eve. My life matters. I am not going to stop fighting for my life. None of us are.

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