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Reflecting on my rights

DURING the first month of 2020, I remember seeing lighthearted tweets hoping for a return to the glitz, glamour, and supposed “freedom” of the 1920s. Twitter fashionistas were expressing their wishes to see certain style trends from the 1920s make a comeback, such as the low and sensible heel and the drop waist. Though many joked about what the return of the ‘20s would bring, I’m certain no one would have ever expected they would bring back the oppression and depression of the decade that many choose not to focus on when it comes to nostalgia for decades never lived. I know I certainly didn’t.

Each passing year since 2020 has been a metaphorical slap in the face: COVID-19 unleashed death and destruction upon the world; later during the spring and summer murders of innocent black people by police officers in power caused a national uproar, as did the nail-biting presidential election that fall during which many people were glued to their televisions awaiting the results with bated breath. In 2021, President Donald Trump and his supporters mounted the January 6th Capitol insurrection, hoping to stop the certification of the election results.

Now, as we move through 2022 , the U.S. Supreme Court has handed down a ruling that overturns Roe v. Wade, a landmark decision that secured women’s right to choose to have an abortion. It is the latest thing to give the country pause.

When I heard the news that rocked the nation, unlike the many female democratic leaders and protesters who took to the streets, voicing their disapproval from the hills while conservatives high-fived one another for what they think is a victory, I found myself eerily calm. I must’ve scrolled through over forty-five minutes worth of articles, angry Tweets, and Reddit posts about what the overturning of Roe v. Wade meant for women and calling for nationwide strikes that I knew could not happen due to employment and familial obligations. Still, not once did I catch the spark that seemed to set the rest of the nation ablaze.

It wasn’t that I wasn’t seething; I was. Miscarriages—something that mothers-to-be have absolutely no control over—could be and were already being treated as a criminal offense akin to taking out a gun and shooting an innocent in cold blood. Girls as young as 10 years old could be forced to carry out pregnancies to delivery, even if their bodies could not successfully do so without endangering their own lives. Rape victims who found themselves pregnant could be forced to live with the psychological torment of carrying and raising a baby they’ll undoubtedly resent. Low-income individuals would have to bring up children in unstable and possibly dangerous environments, denying those children the right to grow up without worrying about whether they’ll be food on the table when they come home from school.

While I live in DC—an extremely liberal city—if I were to ever find myself unlucky enough to be pregnant, it would be significantly difficult for me to get an abortion because Congress has control over District laws and budgets and has regularly restricted access to abortion care. The Dorman Amendment actively restricts Medicaid funds from being spent on abortions. So yeah, I wasn’t happy at all with this futile decision.

But what can I do? Cry and leave myself not only angry, but dry-eyed? Send off a slew of profane tweets to conservative politicians that they’ll most likely never even read? Take to the streets with signs and bullhorns and risk facing the full wrath of the police as a young Black girl in America?

No, thank you.

So, I have done the only thing I can do: I thought up ways to protect myself.

I find myself an anomaly amongst teenage girls. I have not caught the seemingly inescapable bug that is raging sexual hormones and romantic feelings towards the opposite sex. I find myself immune to willingly engaging in any activity that could land me at a drugstore at 1:00 am buying a pregnancy test. Given this recent news, I wouldn’t mind if it remained that way for the rest of my life.

Unfortunately, however, not all sex is consensual; if a man ever wants to test my limits, he’ll be met by the full force of my pointy-toed shoe and a can of mace. That’s the best I can do—though I know it may not be enough.

Within the context of myself, what’s most disheartening about this all is how much time I’ve spent thinking up ways to defend myself if someone ever did attempt to rape me. Should I start fashioning my hair sticks into something akin to a blade? Should I pack my purse every day with the knowledge that any man could assault me at any given time? Should I learn to wield a gun and attempt to get a permit to open carry when I become of legal adult age? These are all thoughts I’ve entertained for hours on end–-at the ripe age of sixteen.

It's amazing that me, a person who can’t even pay any real bills, has to worry about whether she'll ever be forced to raise a child she’ll never want.

It’s ridiculous that in this so-called ‘age of progressiveness’, basic human rights are still up for debate. And no one, not even the people we put in power who promise to change this, seems to be doing a thing about it. And so, as I write this on July 4th, 2022, a day where American customs dictate I praise the flag and shoot fireworks up into the sky, I will instead be taking this time to ponder one question: How much harder do we have to fall as a country for us to finally pick ourselves up?

Alycea Gayle is a 12-grade student and freelance writer based in Washington, DC

Photo Credit: ACLU


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