By Eleanor J. Bader, cross-posted from On The Issues Magazine.

Defend Roe V Wade stencil

Abortion rights are endangered, forty years after Roe V Wade.

Ramona, 32, mother of a four-year-old daughter, is dropped off at the Summit Women’s Center in Bridgeport, Connecticut at 8 a.m. on a frigid December Saturday. As she gets out of the car to walk the thirty feet to the clinic, she notices a dozen people holding weathered pictures of mangled babies bearing the words “abortion kills.” The protesters can’t trespass on clinic property or enter the fenced-in parking lot, but plastic bullhorns amplify their voices. “The Lord loves you,” they shout. “He has a purpose for every life. You don’t need to go in there and murder your child.”

“I didn’t want to be rude so I approached them when they called out to me,” says Ramona, once inside the clinic. (All quotes are verbatim; name has been changed to protect privacy). “They bombarded me. They said that if I go through with the abortion I’ll become so depressed that I’ll start to drink and do drugs and will think about suicide.

“I was dropped off this morning by my mom,” she continued. “My little girl was also in the car and I don’t know what she understood or heard. These people say they want to help me, but how does traumatizing my child help me? They’ve made my life harder because now I have to worry about whether she heard them, saw the pictures they were carrying, or is scared because she heard people yelling at her mommy.”

As she speaks, Ramona’s voice rises with indignation and fury. “I know that this is not the right time for me to have a second child. I’ve discussed the pregnancy with my family and with my personal physician and I know I’m doing the right thing, the best thing, for all of us. How can these strangers think they know better?”

Good question. Forty years after the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision was issued, the idea that abortion may at times be the best option for women and families remains contentious. True, great advances in the availability of safe abortion care have been made since 1973. But the vigilance of anti-abortion protests has also ramped up.

Members of the Connecticut chapter of the North Carolina-based Operation to Save America (OSA) are a frequent presence outside the Summit Women’s Center in Bridgeport. And while regular picket lines, like this one, are fewer and farther between than they were 25 years ago, OSA continues to conduct “sidewalk counseling” in many cities throughout the United States. Ringleader Marilyn Carroll, the head of the state’s OSA chapter, is at the Summit Women’s Center when Ramona is accosted.

Fortunately, once Ramon is inside Summit the atmosphere changes. The Center, which opened in 1975 and is now owned by David Lipton, is located on Bridgeport’s Main Street. Its ambiance is pleasant and inspiring signs decorate the walls:

“The staff in this office does sacred work and though you may hope to never come back, we return each day to hear your stories, hold your hands, and ease your fears. Our lives are consumed with caring for yours. In these walls and in our hearts you are forever valued, treasured, respected and safe.”

TARGETING POOR WOMEN AND MINORS

Despite being rattled by the antis, Ramona’s decision to have an abortion is ironclad. Indeed, the presence of the antis has done little stop women from terminating unwanted pregnancies. According to the Guttmacher Institute [guttmacher.org] nearly one-third of U.S. women will have an abortion by the time they turn 45. Ninety per cent will end these unwanted pregnancies—either medically or surgically—during the first trimester. Like Ramona, 61 percent already have at least one child at the time of their abortion.

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Photo by Steve Rhodes released under a Creative Commons No Derivatives license.