A Letter to My Daughter

My dearest daughter,

On July 4th, 2022, you will turn 18 years old. You will become an official, adult woman. And I am terrified.

I used to always think it was so cool that you shared your birthday with America. Fireworks every year on your birthday? How cool is that, right? But on the eve of this, your 18th birthday, all I wish is that I never had to mention America and your birthday in the same sentence ever again. Oh the irony, of celebrating your turning into an adult while also watching people celebrate a country that just made you a second-class citizen. It’s almost more than I can bear.

Since you are an adult now, and about to make your way out into the world of real, adult issues and responsibilities, I now have to prepare you for more caution and responsibility than is fair. Because a few days ago, our Supreme Court overturned a landmark case guaranteeing your right to bodily autonomy. But first, I have to apologize.

I’m sorry. I’m sorry that every time I attempt to talk to you about this, I can’t find the words, because my eyes well up, and my chest tightens, and I feel real terror for you and your future. I’m sorry I’m not stronger.

I’m sorry that your country has betrayed you. That the powers that be in the nation you call home have stripped away your basic human right to bodily autonomy. That they have eliminated your ability to choose what to do with your own body. I’m sorry you have been brought up to believe that you live in a country that is the greatest, most powerful, and most free in the world. That has long been an illusion, and the freedom part is now a bold-faced lie.

I’m sorry I wasn’t stronger. I wasn’t strong enough to fight harder for you, and your rights. I wasn’t strong enough to use my voice every moment of every day, to burn the whole world to the ground to prevent this from happening. It may not have made a difference, but I know I could have fought harder. If there was anything I could have done, anything at all, to change what has happened, I would gladly go back in time and do it.

I’m sorry that on this huge milestone of a birthday, it will be impossible for us to also celebrate America. I’m sorry that the ones who will be celebrating, are doing so for all of the wrong reasons. They will be celebrating under the ruse of “saving lives,” when the result of this will be anything but that.

What they’re celebrating is actually more death. They’re celebrating women taking their own lives because they don’t have the healthcare or resources to be a mother, and have no way out.  They’re celebrating women being murdered by partners who don’t want babies.  In our “great” country, the number one cause of death in pregnant women is homicide. 

They’re celebrating women accidentally dying from self-induced abortions. And women dying from pregnancy or childbirth. The United States has the highest maternal mortality rate of all developed countries. They’re celebrating women dying from a miscarriage because they’re too scared to seek care, for fear of prosecution for an abortion.  They’re celebrating more children dying in poverty.  More children born to abusive households.  More children born addicted to drugs.  More children in foster care. Higher infant mortality rates because the babies born don’t have parents with resources to protect them.

They’re celebrating forced-birth in a nation with high maternal and infant mortality rates, no guaranteed paid maternity leave, no subsidized childcare, a broken healthcare system, and an almost non-existent mental health care system.

I’m sorry that a country founded on freedom of religion, and separation of church and state, are now using Christianity to decide the fate of everyone, regardless of whether or not those people practice the same faith.

I’m sorry that this is what you are now facing as you make your way into adulthood. I’m sorry that if you get pregnant and need or want an abortion, it won’t be accessible to you. I’m sorry that if you are raped at gunpoint, the most protected thing in that scenario is the gun. I’m sorry that if you have an ectopic pregnancy or septic uterus, or a miscarriage that doesn’t fully expel, the healthcare options you need may be considered murder in the eyes of the law.

I’m sorry that this burden is being added on top of all the other burdens you must endure as a woman. As a woman, you will already be faced with a multitude of other issues. Gender inequality, pay inequality, sexual harassment, having to be in a state of constant awareness of your surroundings. Always having to work smarter and harder than your male counterparts. And now, in addition to all of that, you may be forced to birth a child you don’t want or can’t carry so that people who say they are pro-life, but are really anything but, can sleep at night.

I am also sorrier than you can even imagine, that this is just the beginning. They’ve come for your bodily autonomy, but it won’t stop there. Next they will be coming for your right to contraception. You know, the thing that would help prevent you from ever needing an abortion? And they’re coming for your right to love and marry who you want. The land of the free is quickly becoming the opposite of that.

I am so terribly sorry.

I know this feels insurmountable. But it’s not. We have a choice. We can lay down and accept our lot as second-class citizens, or we can fight. I, for one, will always choose to fight. For both you, and myself. As long as there is air in my lungs, I will fight for your basic human rights to be upheld. I will never, ever stop.

As soon as you turn 18, we will get you registered to vote. We must always vote, whenever we can. You will hear many people say “Oh I don’t vote, my vote doesn’t matter.” If everyone that said that had actually voted in 2016, we’d be in a very different place right now. So, we will vote. We will tell others how to vote. We will help them learn their rights and how they can make their voice heard. We will be a voice, and share all the resources we can find to help others.

I will make sure you have all of the tools possible to protect yourself. I will make sure you are educated. And prepared. And have an army of people around you, ready to protect you and take you camping if the need ever arises. And we’ll get you a passport, just to be extra safe.

As dire as this situation is, I refuse to give up hope. And I hope you won’t either. You have more strength and power inside you than you know. And I will always be beside you to make sure you know that. Today, we grieve. Tomorrow, we fight.

Happy 18th birthday my precious girl. Know that you have all the love and support in the world on your journey into adulthood. We can change the world, if we do it together.

RESOURCES:

More in-depth version: https://www.guttmacher.org/state-policy

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