My mother never dreamt that her daughters would have to fight for the right to bodily autonomy. Heck, even my grandmother did not. Both recognized the vitality, the importance, the necessity of reproductive justice in their times and were sure that the populous would grasp it, as well, rendering the struggle invalid and the fight unnecessary by now.
Certainly, they expected better than this. They expected more for their daughters than personhood to fertilized eggs, mandatory ultrasounds, forced waiting periods, and laws designed for the sole purpose of shutting down abortion clinics. Certainly, in the United States of America, the land of the free. Certainly in 2013. These common sense, yet still deeply progressive thoughts, came out of two women working, living, dreaming in what we now call the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Prior to the Iranian Revolution in 1979, the now-deposed Shah, Reza Pahlavi, instated several family planning programs and legalized (with restriction) abortion in 1976, just three years after the United States landmark decision in Roe v. Wade. However, abortion was quickly made illegal again after the Shah was overthrown in the 1979 revolution that imposed Islamic Sharia law upon the nation. Yet, even the new Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, held the view that abortion is necessary to save the life of the woman.
I am a first-generation natural-born American citizen. My mother and my grandmother came to this nation, escaping a revolution, in pursuit of freedom and equality. For me, the right to an abortion has always been just that: a right. A recognized, clear, inalienable right. I stand in awe at attempts to cut back on the right to choose. My stomach turns at the thought of vulnerable women (and I use "women" very loosely because trans folk obtain abortions too) being put in a situation where they are made to choose between rent, groceries, or an abortion because of politics, misunderstanding, and, yes, misogyny. That is not a "choice." That is a shame and a dangerous one at that. A shame that we cannot stand to ignore any longer because, news flash, people are dying. Roe was a beginning but we need to recognize that we are dealing with rights that are absolute. Absolute. We must learn from the fight for marriage equality that we will not accept the language of the right. "Civil unions" are not the same as marriages. "Partial-birth abortions" do not exist. Safe, legal, and "rare" is based upon anti-choice abortion stigma. We must learn not to concede on such things and to give praise where praise is due. Forty years after Roe, I am disappointed. Disappointed in what my sisters nationwide and worldwide are faced with – our very livelihood called into question, disappointed in lawmakers who look at unemployment numbers and choose to draft bills that come between a woman and her conviction, disappointed in the media for choosing not to report on violence against abortion clinics and abortion providers, and disappointed in our movement for where we stand today. In 40 years, who knows where we will be as a people or as a movement? What matters now is where we go from here. There are a lot of people counting on us. I won't let them down.
Note: The image accompanying this article reads "Men" on the left and "Women" on the right with an equal sign connecting the two, signifying equality among genders, in Farsi.