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deland protesters
AIMING TO PRESERVE A RIGHT — Protesters take to DeLand’s “free speech corner” at Woodland Boulevard and New York Avenue May 6 to rally support for preserving access to safe and legal abortion. From left in front are Desiree Gilmore, Judith Southard and Mara Whitridge. Many signs on the corners had pictures of coat hangers, reminding onlookers of the dangers of abortions performed before the procedure was made legal. BEACON PHOTO/MARSHA MCLAUGHLIN

BY LINDA COLVARD DORIAN

An authentic version of a draft Supreme Court decision has struck down the 49-year precedent of Roe v. Wade.

Roe leaves the choice of abortion to the decision of a woman and her doctor until the age of viability of the fetus outside the womb, generally considered by medical experts to be 23 weeks. This has been understood by the public to be a guaranteed constitutional right, and it has been reaffirmed by subsequent Supreme Court decisions.

There are many political and legal issues raised by the draft decision, but I want to discuss the practical implications. Bear in mind that a woman who is pregnant is 12 times more likely to die from complications of pregnancy or childbirth than from a safe legal abortion. Who has the right to tell a girl or woman to take this significantly greater risk to her life?

I am of an age when girls got pregnant in high school and then married, at 16 or 17, the boyfriend who was the father. It never seemed like a good idea, and the marriage seldom worked.

When I was in my early 20s, married and in Washington, D.C., my husband and I tutored girls at a home for unwed mothers where girls would go when they showed their pregnancy. If tutored, so they could stay on grade level — our students were 14 to 19 — the girls would finish high school. If they did not stay on grade level, they dropped out and faced a future as a high-school dropout.

I assumed the girls were pregnant by their boyfriends. We learned that 70 percent, most from middle-class families in Maryland, were victims of rape or incest. They had no option of a legal abortion because this was the late 1960s, and Roe was not decided until January of 1973.

There are many reasons women have abortions, and whatever the reason, it is valid for that woman. Whether it is the wrong time in her life, an abusive man, being required to drop out of school, or she just can’t afford another child, it is her body, her life and her choice.

In the late 1970s, I went to be with a dear friend while she had a legal abortion. It was a clean medical facility, the staff was professional, and she was given plenty of time to reconsider. I was comforted that I could be there to comfort her and hold her hands during the process.

I was struck when we were in the waiting room that most of those waiting were not young girls. They were middle-aged women, and they had several children. They had to work for their family’s economic viability, and they just could not afford another child. Many had husbands who were with them. This was, for them, a decision made for family economic necessity.

When Roe v. Wade was decided, I was a newly minted lawyer with a 4-month-old daughter. When the decision was announced, I held her up above me and told her that her reproductive rights would be protected by law and so would her children’s; it was a constitutional right guaranteed by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Well, her rights have been protected, but now my granddaughters are in jeopardy. And so are the rights of the girls and women that we all love.

The truth is that a woman has no real control over her life unless she can control whether, and when, she has a child. We all know women who have had abortions for their own valid reasons. And probably all of us love a woman, as a friend or family member, who has had an abortion, whether we know that or not.

If you value women, value them enough to let them control their lives. We must fight … again … for abortion rights.

— Colvard Dorian is a DeLand resident and an attorney.

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