When I was Moved to Tears Hearing Sarah Weddington Who Fought for ‘Jane Roe’
- As reproductive freedom in America hangs in the balance, I am reminded that this is not a new battle and that old wounds have been ripped open.
During graduate school, I was a foreign student and a leader in the SUNY Stony Brook chapter of the Society of Women Engineers. Along with a coalition of women’s organizations, our chapter hosted Sarah Weddington as a speaker for a women’s rights event in 1989. Weddington was the attorney who won the landmark Roe v. Wade case, in which she argued that Texas’ abortion ban was unconstitutional. Her argument relied on the Court’s previous decision in Griswold v. Connecticut, which legalized the sale of contraceptives based on the right of privacy, and the 1st, 4th, 5th, 8th, 9th, and 14th Amendments. In January 1973, the Court’s decision was handed down, overturning abortion law by a 7-2 majority and legalizing abortion throughout the United States. As I heard Weddington speak, I was among the many people in the audience moved to tears, and I remember her narrative about how she fought for “Jane Roe” to this day.
This month, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. Just as I remember where I was and how I felt when 9/11 happened, the morning of June 24 will remain etched in my mind. My first call was to my daughter, who is studying to be an ObGyn. Next, I connected with a colleague at the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, where I am a board member. I have been going back to Executive Director Rev. Katey Zeh’s statementdaily since then, which provides an alternative vision on abortion access:
This is a devastating setback for human rights and religious freedom in this country, and we at the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (RCRC) are heartbroken, furious, and more resolved in our work for reproductive freedom.
I sent an email to Jewish theology student Ranana Dine who authored this history of abortion access in America over a decade ago, which provides immigrants like me a window into our current culture wars over what is really a private medical issue. I connected with another immigrant, a Muslim woman, to figure out how to get our fellow Muslim and Hindu Americans to become activists on the issue, particularly because our respective theologies focus on the life of the mother and have nuanced interpretations that call for compassion and care. I called a political mentor and physician, who said “abortion is not a political issue.” But unfortunately, it has been turned into one, and it’s only getting worse, particularly for those who are impoverished, who are in rural areas, who are BIPOC or LGBTQ+, and who do not have sufficient access to healthcare.
With the overturning of Roe, Michigan’s 1931 abortion ban would go into effect — fortunately, our Governor is fighting like hell to protect women’s rights in our state. The anti-abortion legislation being introduced at the state level is alarming and disturbing. Michiganders who believe in medical science are lucky that we have a Governor who will veto such legislation. Not so in neighboring Ohio, where their Governor Mike DeWine, signed the ‘heartbeat bill’ in April 2019 – one of the nation’s toughest abortion bans. When I share that in the Ohio legislature, a bill was introduced to require doctors to replant an ectopic pregnancy into the uterus or be considered guilty of “abortion murder,” most physicians are horrified as ectopic pregnancies are not viable by definition. These laws simply aim to punish those seeking abortions or experiencing a miscarriage, and those providing them the appropriate medical care.
But America’s history tells me to hold onto hope. People have been inspired to rally across the country, coming together to rise up and right a wrong. Allies in the fight include Planned Parenthood, which provides healthcare to people locally and globally; Emily’s List, a force for ensuring women candidates like me have the resources to win our races; NARAL, which has been fighting for reproductive freedom for all since 1969. There are also many local organizations that are raising funds to help women get to states where they can access safe medical care. And then there is a democratic solution: enacting laws at the state level to guarantee access to safe and legal abortion and ensure privacy in medical decisions. Michigan is one of several states where legislative control will be decided in the midterms. My Michigan Senate campaign is vital to gaining a majority, ensuring women’s rights and so much more.
With a victory, we will continue to make history and move forward, not return to an ugly past. The stakes could not be higher, and we must win this Senate seat if we want to protect reproductive freedom for over 2.2 million women in Michigan.
Padma Kuppa, the State Representative for Michigan’s 41st House District serving her second term, is the Democratic candidate for the Michigan State Senate in District 9. A mother, an engineer from NIT Warangal, and an automotive and IT professional for over 2 decades, and a civic and interfaith leader for years, she is the first Indian immigrant and Hindu in the Michigan state legislature. You can reach her at email@example.com. Learn more at ElectPadmaKuppa.com or Kuppa.housedems.com.