Image under microscope of aborted matter from a six-week pregnancy.

Microscope image of aborted matter from a six-week pregnancy.

Photo from My Abortion Network

We Are Not Going Gently

On Sunday, women across America marched to declare "We Will Never Stop Fighting" after a cabal of (mostly male) Christian extremists stripped them of bodily autonomy and equality under the law. As the post-Roe landscape veers ever further dystopian, activists are moving past Roe's "medical patriarchy" to "write ourselves back into the Constitution." Also reality: A network of clinicians are fighting decades of bloody propaganda with images of just what an abortion removes. Hint: not an "innocent baby."

Marking the 50th anniversary of (former) Roe v. Wade, the #BiggerThanRoe marches ranged from their home base in Madison, Wisconsin to over 150 sister marches across the country. They featured the fed-up, furious messages of too many marches before them - "We Will Never Shut Up... Bans Off My Body...This Is Not Over...You Are Right To Fear Our Rage....Abort the Court" - and exasperated women insisting they refuse to let Republican men in suits or black robes "drag us back to the 1970s - I'm just as pissed now as I was then." The day before, so-called pro-lifers - with one troll saying the quiet part out loud - marched in D.C. to rage about "politicians who are pushing to allow abortion up to nine months and beyond," which is not true; their frenzied signs shrieked, "Obey Jesus or Hellfire...Feminists Support Pedophilia...Kill Baby-Killing Whores." They seem nice, but we'll take the other group thanks. Still, 50 years after the Supreme Court under (Republican) Chief Justice Warren Burger, in a decision written by (Republican) Lewis Blackmun, ruled that during the first trimester an "attending physician, in consultation with his (sic) patient, is free to determine, without regulation by the State, that, in his medical judgment, the patient's pregnancy should be terminated," the chasm still yawns, more bitter than ever.

Today, many activists cite the flaws of a ruling that, while historic, "left a lot of people behind..We got what the Court wrote, not the legislation activists wanted." While Roe became a symbol for women's equality in 1973 - "Our Bodies, Ourselves" - it was never reallygrounded in equality, rendering women's ability to get an abortion "dependent on their zip code and bank account." It codified the power of doctors - at the time, overwhelmingly white men - to be "the gatekeeper" ruling women's fate. It allowed abortion care to be singled out from other medical care - declaring it a medical right to people with lady parts, not a universal right of equality under the law - which is why states have long made their own rules about abortion, but not, say, heart transplants. Above all, in a lethal nod to the Phyliss Schlafly's of America proclaiming “the right of innocent human beings to life is sacred," it cited "the State's important and legitimate interest in potential life," opening up decades of impassioned debates about just what is "life." The sorry result: the U.S. has the worst maternal mortality of any developed nation - two spots below Romania, and ranging wildly by state - we rank 33 out of 36 on infant mortality, and women today have fewer reproductive rights than their parents or grandparents.

While Dobbs was the final nail in a sloppily built coffin - "a dog catching a car it was chasing" - it quickly ushered in a long-gestating, post-Roe, dystopian landscape of laws about pills, bans, "medical necessity," and "fetal personhood," with right-wing zealots stubbornly seeking to overturn public will. Despite the fact solid majorities support the right to safe abortion and no state is even 30% for a national abortion ban, half the country has passed abortion bans. Today, says the head of Planned Parenthood,, "We can do better." In an op-ed, Alexis McGill Johnson wrote she was "letting go of Roe," which was "the floor"; now, "We can advocate for the ceiling as we write ourselves back into the Constitution.” Toward that goal, three female primary care doctors and co-founders of My Abortion Network launched a multi-media project offering accurate information about abortion to counter rabid, decades-long, anti-abortion propaganda and the shame it's sparked - "pre-natal child," "killing babies," the bloody fetuses waved at protests, which do not show what's removed during an abortion. The images they've posted - at 5, 6, 7, 8 weeks, when there's still no visible embryo, the gestational sac is under half an inch, and it's just "something that's in your body" - do. Doctors know "the pregnancy tissue we remove does not look like what most people expect," they note; now, it's time to show the truth, declare abortion access essential to medical care, and "focus on our patient needs."

"I will follow that system of regimen which, according to my ability and judgment, I consider for the benefit of my patients, and abstain from whatever is deleterious and mischievous." - from one translation of the Hippocratic Oath.

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