Forcing pregnancy is a form of rape. It will be our reality if Roe v. Wade.

My subconscious registered my first vaginal birth as rape.

Unlike my abortion at age 22, my pregnancy at age 32 was planned. All the paternalistic boxes were checked this time. He was married, healthy, low risk, fully insured and ecstatic. I expected a happy and carefree birth, but as a survivor of sexual assault, my body associated the experience of unceremoniously spreading my legs as I succumbed to the urge and pain beyond my control as a violent act that would culminate. in anguish

Instead of pushing when my cervix was fully dilated, I froze. Over the next three hours, my daughter was crowned. As the top of his baby-sized head protruded two inches from my torn vagina, I vaguely remember the obstetrician, who seemed to be standing at the other end of a distant, dark tunnel, showing me my “beautiful curly hair.” daughter in a mirror that I held between my spread knees. She must have done this a dozen times, and then… “Push, Drew, push,” the attending nurse pleaded. “Don’t you want to meet your daughter with that cute curly hair?” she asked hopefully. But she was gone.

In childbirth classes I took in the months leading up to my daughter’s due date, I was told to imagine I was on a beach when the labor pains became overwhelming. What my childbirth instructor didn’t know, and frankly, what I didn’t fully understand at the time, is that as a survivor of sexual trauma, my ability to dissociate or “check myself out” when under extreme stress could take me much longer. there. an imaginary beach The violent pains of labor terrified me, so I left my body and became catatonic. Not “I imagined I was on a beach”. I dissociated and froze. For more than three hours, I couldn’t move.

It wasn’t until I heard my obstetrician tell someone in the increasingly tense delivery room, “We’re going to have to try a C-section, but since the baby is crowned, we might lose her,” I didn’t say anything. of my trance Something clicked. Although the traumatic birth trauma felt like life or death to me, I realized that this was a life or death moment for my son. In an instant, a different version of myself emerged; the fighter. Game on. let’s do it In a matter of minutes, I removed my daughter from my body. Her beautiful tiny face was red and a little squashed, but she was fine. We both survived.

“I am not entirely surprised by this most recent deprivation of liberty or by the reckless endangerment of women’s lives.”

Two years later, when it was time to give birth to my son, I understood the assignment. This time I was mentally prepared for the commitment required of me as a birthing person, which I describe for those who haven’t experienced it like making a jump shot at the buzzer when you’re injured and exhausted after playing the 48. minutes of a basketball game, or how to find the back of the net in a penalty kick at 90 minutes of a soccer game. Giving birth requires intention and focus. Every cell in your body must participate.

So when it came time to give birth to my son, I summoned the courage of the athlete I used to be in high school (basketball, power forward, ferocious rebounder) and pushed him in 19 minutes. He was almost all neat; my vagina only ripped in one place this time. And again, we both survived, which was not a foregone conclusion. As a black woman, I faced a risk of death from pregnancy that is three times greater than the risk of maternal mortality faced by my white counterparts.

Can you imagine being forced to take such a profound risk? Can you imagine being forced to engage in that kind of gutting work against your will? If the leaked draft opinion written by Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito that would overturn Roe v. Wade becomes definitive, millions of people in a land that has the audacity to call itself free will be forced to do just that. The abolition of abortion is a hijacking of the bodies of millions of women and girls.

This development would be more shocking to me if I were not a descendant of enslaved people in America. I have never deluded myself into believing that I am safe in this country because I occupy a black woman’s body. The history of black women and girls in America does not begin on a pedestal; It begins in a slave auction block.

It didn’t even take a white man to be a sexual predator to rape my ancestors enslaved for centuries in this country. He just had to be an industrious businessman, because for hundreds of years in America, getting black women pregnant through rape was natural; a good business decision.

Therefore, I am not entirely surprised by this most recent deprivation of liberty or the reckless endangerment of women’s lives. Unfortunately, it tracks in a country that was an apartheid state for hundreds of years before becoming a democracy. And yet it was a democracy that included only landowning white men for more than a century. Indeed, the callous disregard for the bodily autonomy of women, especially Black women and girls, is “deeply rooted” in American history that Judge Alito nostalgically invokes in the leaked draft.

To underscore his contempt for my gender, Alito resurrects the views of Sir Matthew Hale in his argument to overturn Roe v. Wade, which is a particularly alarming choice. An English jurist born in 1609, 10 years before the first human cargo ships in the transatlantic slave trade reached America’s shores, Hale was an extreme misogynist even by 17th-century standards.

Hale once sentenced a 13-year-old girl to hang for witchcraft. And, since the rape and incest exceptions to abortion restrictions are in play, it’s worth noting that Hale believed that the “marriage contract” made it impossible for a husband to rape his wife.

So, in his draft decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court cited a man who sanctioned the plundering of all women, including white women, on their marriage pedestals. The message to all people of childbearing age in America is clear: none of us are safe. From rape to reproduction, toxic men seek unfettered dominance over the bodies and lives of women and girls.

As a survivor, I am disgusted by the prospect of forcing people to become pregnant, which I consider to be a form of sexual assault. As a citizen, I am outraged at the notion of forced labor, which is, by definition, slavery. So I am determined to resist this jolt back in time so that my daughter and son will grow up in a country where we are all free.

Need help? Visit Rainn’s National Online Sexual Assault Hotline or the National Sexual Violence Resource Center website.

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