I brush my 12-year-old daughter’s hair every day. As the demands of my work and her sixth-grade social life often pull us apart, that time has become a special ritual we use to talk about everything from science tests to the latest playground gossip. But there was something different about this morning. As we tried to compromise on a style we could agree was not too babyish and not too grown, the news broke that Roe V. Wade was dead.
I knew it was happening after the opinion leaked. But in the back of my mind, I had hoped that something would change before it was really real. The news of the Supreme Court decision to remove federal protections of a woman’s right to an abortion hit me hard. Not because of the impact it would have on me. At 46, I’m near the end of my viable childbearing years. But as the mother of a 12-year-old Black daughter and a 10-year-old Black son, I know this decision will impact their lives for years to come. It could also be the beginning of even more unraveling of decisions we believe will protect us.
I fumbled through a clumsy explanation for my 12-year-old, who I go out of my way to keep it real with. But sometimes it takes a kid to put complicated grown folks shit in perspective. And as she fired off a series of questions, it dawned on me that this time there was no way I could make it all make sense. “Why are a bunch of men telling women what to do with their bodies?” “How are they going to help women take care of the babies they are forcing them to have?” and “Is this all Trump’s fault?” When I explained that some of the decision makers are using religion as a basis for their decision, she asked a profound follow up question that left me speechless, “How can you use religion as the basis of your laws in a country where not everyone practices the same religion?”
I don’t know if my daughter will ever have to make a decision on whether or not to have an abortion. But I never thought she’d have to live in a world where the choice might not be hers to make. And as I tried to fight back the tears and put the last pin in her hair, I confessed that there were no easy answers to her excellent questions. “This is why elections matter. You’ll just have to make sure you stay engaged,” I told her. And as she shrugged her shoulders and went to check her text messages, I knew that she was questionning the legitimacy of this free country of ours. I am too.