Dahlia Breslow, Northampton Youth Commission columnist: Freedom of choice

As teenagers, my peers and I focus our eyes on the future of life beyond high school. This period is a period of transition and mult...



As teenagers, my peers and I focus our eyes on the future of life beyond high school. This period is a period of transition and multiple choices: What are we going to pursue after leaving high school? Who do we want to become?

Although we are young, we deserve the chance to make our own choices and determine for ourselves the people we will become. Recently, however, this optimistic view of the future was threatened when a draft of the Supreme Court’s majority opinion in Women’s Health Organization v. Dobbs was leaked. If adopted as official court opinion, this decision would overturn the landmark decision in Roe v. Wade and eliminate the constitutional right to obtain an abortion, enshrined for nearly 50 years. As a young woman, I felt my choices slipping away.

The Supreme Court’s decision in Roe has communicated to generations of women like me that our bodies are valued, that we are valued – rare in the face of a Constitution that never mentions women. In establishing the right to abortion, Roe developed a bigger and broader concept: freedom of choice. This freedom means that those with a womb can choose when and if they want to have a child.

In examining the rights established by Roe v. Wade in the context of planning for this next adult phase of my life, I finally understood the immense impact this choice has on my future. I realized that while Roe cements freedom of choice when it comes to pregnancy, her influence extends far beyond bodily autonomy.

Through control of my body, I am free to live the life I want. In this way, Roe promises that the hopes I have for my future can come true. It would be naive to assume that as we grow, the choices we make and our reasons for making them won’t change. Nevertheless, it is important that we have the opportunity to choose. Freedom of choice means being able to change your mind. I retain the power to change the trajectory of my future. I, and only I, hold this complex, life-changing choice in my hands.

If the Supreme Court’s final decision in Dobbs overturns Roe and eliminates the constitutional right to choose an abortion, it will hardly be a watershed moment in the fight for freedom of choice. Because this freedom has never been perfectly clear or universally protected, the Dobbs decision will not mark a distinct before and after. On the contrary, the struggle for women’s rights began long before Roe and will continue long after Dobbs, and consists of moments big and small leading up to today, in state houses and courthouses and , yes, our own homes.

The conversations, arguments, and struggles we engage in around this issue will continue to change the world as we know it. For example, in 2020 Massachusetts lawmakers succeeded in passing the Roe Act, which removes the parental consent requirement for 16 and 17 year olds to have an abortion and allows abortions after 24 weeks of pregnancy if abnormal. fatal fetal injury and where a physician considers it necessary “to preserve the physical or mental health of the patient”.

Meanwhile, the Texas State Legislature passed Senate Bill 8 in 2021, which bans all abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected, which is usually at six weeks, and n does not include any exemptions for rape or incest. It was these actions taken by state legislatures that took a constitutional right and reduced it to a privilege dependent on financial status and state of residence.

In fact, if adopted as the opinion of the court, the draft opinion disclosed in Dobbs will have little real consequence in my own life. I am privileged to both live in a state that respects and protects freedom of choice, and to live in a household in which I could easily obtain an abortion, in terms of finances, transportation and pro-choice values shared. For this reason, my personal rights would remain intact until those protections inevitably disappear.

But it’s not a universal experience. Abortion access in the United States is clearly variable and inconsistent, largely dependent on race and class, and was long before the leaked draft advisory threatened Roe vs. Wade. This is in direct opposition to what a right should be. If abortion is only accessible by privilege, it is not a right. A right must be fundamental, universally guaranteed to all, independent of privileges, and not in a constant state of vulnerability, as the right to abortion is and has been.

Freedom of choice – over our bodies and our future – must be extended universally.

Dahlia Breslow is an NHS junior and co-chair of the Northampton Youth Commission.



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