The Right to Choose

Posted on 21 January 2010

Roe v Wade Rally

In writing this article, I am inviting bushels of rotten tomatoes to be hurled at me through cyberspace.   Having had the real-life versions, and worse, tossed at me because I chose to voice my convictions peacefully and legally, I can deal with Internet insults from strangers.


I am a longtime proponent of Roe versus Wade.  I am also a woman who struggled to have a child of my own and who, despite state of the art medical intervention via renowned experts, remains childless.  My perspective on this topic, therefore, is not driven by religious zealotry or a myopic brand of feminism.  It is driven by logic.  When men can conceive and bear children, then and only then might they (underline “might”) be allowed to legislate what takes place within a woman’s body.


Freedom, however, always has a price.


In the late 1980’s, more than ten years after its much-publicized adjudication, Roe v. Wade came under serious attack by its opponents.  It appeared that the bill would be overturned.  A group of Episcopalian priests, whom I knew peripherally through a third party, was mounting participation in a march on Washington to stay the course of the bill.  The priests were part of a nationwide protest well organized by NOW (National Organization for Women).  I decided to march with them.  I marched for Debbie and I marched for Maria, whose names have been changed to protect their privacy, and who could not have been more diametrically opposed in mindset and lifestyle.


Debbie was the dimwitted assistant who’d been foisted upon me in the name of nepotism.  Maria was an elderly, devout Catholic with whom I’d struck up a friendship.  Their names have been changed here to protect their privacy.  A few years after Roe v. Wade was approved in 1973, Debbie ended her pregnancy legally, under anesthesia and in safe and sanitary surroundings.  She did so to be free of the physically abusive philandering husband who had stolen money that was hers alone, through inheritance, and had left her virtually penniless.  Freed from the financial and emotional burden of caring for a child begotten by a rat bastard, Debbie ended her marriage, got stronger, and a little wiser.


Maria, by contrast, had been born strong and smart.  During the Great Depression, as the sole support of her children and disabled husband, Maria had self-aborted two fetuses.  Choosing to keep the roof over her head and food in her family’s bellies, she did the unthinkable.  She did it in fear and pain and silence.  She did it in grief for the two babies she would never meet, in order to keep the four she already had, and her husband, alive. 


And so, I marched for Debbie and Maria.  I marched for every other woman I did not wish to become a Maria.  I marched for my sister, my friends, my co-workers — none of whom were pregnant or planning to be.  I marched for those who could not march, and I marched for my two nieces who were not yet twinkles in their fathers’ eyes.


I paid for a seat on a bus going from The Big Apple to DC, took a day off from work without pay, and lined up for two hours in the freezing pre-dawn of an early spring day.  The unannounced drizzle that had begun earlier became a downpour.  Soaked to the skin, none of us got off the line or abandoned our cause.


Five hours later, we arrived in DC, deposited unceremoniously near the city’s then newly-renovated underground for a quick trip to the capital proper.  Climbing up from the dark bowels of the earth, I beheld the dome of our nation’s capital in the distance and the breath caught in my throat.  I had participated in organized protests before, for causes I’d deemed justifiable, but not at this level.  And I had visited DC thrice before, but never for anything like this.


As far as my eye could see beneath a sun that had finally blossomed, there flowed rivers of humanity, men and women, young and not so young, black, white, yellow, and brown.  They had come to ensure the freedom afforded us by Roe v. Wade.  As I watched, the rivers converged in an orderly manner, proceeding quietly, like a ballet without music, toward the White House.  Later, my husband, who’d been watching the news back home, informed me that 2 million of us had marched that day under NOW’s auspices.


Passersby caught sight of the flapping brown robes on the Episcopalian priests and inquired if we were there for the march.  When we said, “Yes”, the strangers rallied with, “We’re here for the Right to Life!”  One of the priests snapped, “We’re here for the right to life, too: women’s lives!”   This declaration earned us vile curses, for starters.


Those who professed to protect human life and who’d sanctioned and/or engineered the bombing of abortion clinics stood on the sidelines, barely held in check by the police.  But there were more of them than there were police.   We endured insults, death threats, rabid screams, and a few who broke through the barricades to attack us physically.  They spit on us and threw things at us.  Rocks, unopened cans of soda, which are heavy and dangerous at those speeds, and broken bottles.


Not one of us got off the lines.  Not one of us did violence to our attackers or detractors.  Our cause was too important for distractions.  Almost silently, we merged and moved inexorably toward the structure housing the Oval Office.


Because 2 million of us showed up that day, I did not get as close to the White House as I’d wished.  Instead, I saw Bela Abzug, feisty in one of her signature hats, but she did not phase me for I was a New Yorker, as was the Congresswoman-activist.   Jesse Jackson did phase me, for I had never seen him in person before and he was about to throw his hat into the Presidential race.  The crowd was like an immense sound barrier, so I only caught snatches of phrases from both Abzug and the future Senator.  But my sense of being a part of something larger than myself, a sense of carving a moment in history, was acute.  That day is like a fly caught in amber. Burned into my memory, that day will live forever in my mind and heart.   Never have I been more proud and humbled to be an American citizen.


The Constitution of the United States afforded me the freedom to speak out, by my very presence, against those who would rob me and every other woman of what I saw then, and what I still see, as our unalienable right to choose.  In the end, I was one voice among the 2 million who made a lasting difference.  Roe v. Wade was not overturned.  Women did not return in fear to the back alleys and the butchers with dirty coat hangers.  If that law is ever threatened again, and if I am alive and well enough to do so, I will march once more upon our nation’s capital and exercise my right to free speech. 

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27 Responses to “The Right to Choose”

  1. Editor says:

    Kathleen, I too believe in Freedom of Speech (even when that means that someone is saying something that is anathema to me). Evidence of my belief in this Constitutional Freedom is the fact that I published this article. And so, here’s your first tomato. I believe that life begins at conception. Thus, when a woman “chooses” to have an abortion, I believe that there are two lives at stake – that of the mother and of her unborn child. And, in fact, many state legislatures agree with me in the sense that murderers of pregnant women often face charges of double homicide. The Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v Wade appears to determine life’s beginning at the point of viability (i.e., when the baby can survive out of the womb). Viability, however, is a highly dubious standard. Prematurely born children frequently need extraordinary measures to be performed on their behalf to sustain their lives. Aborted children, however, receive no medical treatment – even when that medical treatment would sustain and ensure life. While I fully understand that this is a complex issue, I believe that someone needs to stand for those who cannot stand for themselves – the unborn victims of abortion. An interesting aside is that Norma McCorvey – the Jane Roe of this case – never did have her abortion. Her baby was born and adopted out. One wonders where that child (now an adult) is today and what contribution that individual is making to society. Also, in the mid-90’s, Ms. McCorvey had an epiphany and now considers herself a pro-life advocate. The bottom line is that the Roe v Wade decision was made by an activist Supreme Court and is really public policy masquerading as law.

  2. macon says:

    Roe v Wade was another case of judicial activism. I, personally, do not support unfettered abortion used as a means of birth control. When it should be allowed to be used is another conversation and a very narrow one. In fact that is what the majority of the public said back during the issues visit to the Supreme Court. They had local referendum after local referendum that came down not supporting the idea of legalizing Abortion. The people spoke and the activist federal courts trumped us and decided that they knew more then us silly unwashed masses. Set the abortion argument aside and we know what the Supreme Court did was wrong. They on a number of occasions since then have set themselves up as the legislative branch rather than the judicial branch and have impacted things that they should not have impacted. This is exactly why when a justice is up for conformation, there is so much noise about Roe v Wade. How it became law was unconstitutional and illegal and pro abortion forces are well aware of it. They want to ensure they keep activist justices such as Ginsberg on the bench to ensure they can continue to ignore the wishes of the people when they don’t have enough liberal legislators in office. The problem with the court is that the justices are life time appointees with no real oversight. It is also evidence that they need to have a review process to remove justices that overstep their constitutional authority or just do stupid things.

  3. Tina says:

    I am pro Life and I also went to Washington DC a few years ago. I did not see any tomato throwing. It was very quiet and peaceful march where I was. People are passtionate about this issue. Women think Men are telling them what to do with their bodies or are telling them what they can’t do. If you take the passion out of it and think about what it really is. It is murder and why is it that only women can murder. If the baby wasen’t alive you wouldn’t have to kill it. I am glad my mother did not kill me I am one of 18 children and things were tough growing up but it made us the people we are today, we appreciate what we have and the close relationships we share. My parents did not get assistance so no one had to complain we were taking money from their pockets. We were taught respect so we would never throw tomatoes and imagine this none of us curse. If women chose to have sex they must accept the responsibility of the life they made and if not then give the baby to a couple that would adopt. Life is precious and it is a gift from God and only God has the right to take a life. The Blessed Mother is apearing all over the world giving messages to the people of the world and people are not listening so you will see more and more natural disasters. Open your eyes and look around the world thru the internet. The messages are this, return to God and prayer and Love your neighbor as yourself. She is saying that God is angry that we are killing his children and unless we stop we will see more and more natural disasters. Look it up online. You will never see anything about God on channels 3, 6, 10! one web site is I hope and pray the world will return to God because when we die we will meet our maker and have to explain what we did in our lives or didn’t do whether you believe in God or not. So throw the tomatoes I will turn the other cheek. Oh and I also believe that it should have never went to the supreme court. It should have never been an issue. Look at all of the freedom we are losing due to liberalism. Where do you think this country is going or for that fact the world! This is a very sad subject for me!

  4. Kathleen Felleca says:

    It is, and may it always remain, a woman’s right to abort a fetus. I do not and never have advocated late pregnancy abortions. Both of the women of which I spoke in this article were real people (and not late month pregnancies0, as was the fact that the Right to Lifers were violent on the day that I marched. A woman’s body belongs to no one but herself: not the government, not the religious zealots, and the man with whom she may conceive life. What she does with her body, particularly in the case of an unwanted pregnancy, is between herself and God.

    The ideal situation, of course, is education, supported with contraception free of charge, such as Planned Parenthood provides — but often, too late. Teens are going to experiment with sex, period. That is the reality, unless chastity belts come back into style (and if they do, I will protest those as well). Uneducated women in lower socioeconomic strata are going to wind up pregnant and not wanting to be, as are women more educated and fortunate in their life circumstances. Of these three groups, which one represents the lowest statistic? Start looking at the demographics and you’ll see which groups produce most of these unwanted babies. So much for equality.

    Then begin to research adoption laws in this country and you’ll weep, and quite possibly take to DC to protest those. My rather extensive research, done over the course of six years, has uncovered that this country, by and large, views unwanted (i.e. “adoptable”) children as disposable, and our laws support it. There is no Federal legislation governing adoptions; it is a State by State matter. And the law is on the side of the birth parents: both fathers and mothers. This holds true for drug addicted, alcoholic, and otherwise abusive birth parents. Aside from the abuse, there are completely inane reasons that the government returns children who might otherwise be adopted into loving families into the wrong hands and into very bad situations. This is fact, not fiction: I invite you to research this horrific practice.

    And let’s be frank here. The majority of children adopted in this country are white babies. Since there is a paucity of adoptable (healthy) white babies, as compared to other races, most people who have the means to adopt are white, and go overseas to do it. It is easier there (not State restrictions and insanities). One suitcase of money for the foreign government, one suitcase under the table, and you walk away with a white baby. Which American babies get left behind to fall between the cracks, and why?

    Roe v. Wade must stay the course. It is the right thing to do on many levels. I see I’ve written another article in my reply, and have commandeered my husband’s computer to do so (it’s not yet 7 AM). I don’t think I have anything else to say on this subject, so for any further tomatoes that come my way, I stand firm. And dear Editor, yes. Thank you for allowing me to post this article. I knew that your point of view on this subject was 180 degrees removed from my own.

  5. macon says:

    Kathleen, you implied this issue is between a woman and God. That being said, and knowing God’s word, how do you justify it? I am not trying to get into a theological debate with you. My first response to your article had more to do with the Supreme Court overstepping their authority, and that was my only focus on the subject. I just found what you said in your last response to be a bit of a contradiction. Most social progressives don’t want God injected into any subject, especially that create moral crisis of conscience such as this subject.

  6. Kathleen Felleca says:

    Well, macon, that just goes to prove that you can’t fit me into any particular box. I aim for logical solutions to admittedly complex issues. Logic itself dictates that God exists. When man can create even a one-celled creature in a lab — not clone it, but create it — then we can begin to logically debate the existence of something greater than ourselves.

    You may be surprised to find that I am also spiritual.

    Jesus came to institute a new order: one of forgivness, peace, and brotherly/sisterly love. If a woman so chooses to invoke Roe v. Wade, again, that is between her and God. According to the Bible, human beings were created with free will and Jesus himself spoke of this. If God did not mean us to use our free will, why give it in the first place? Why not simply make us slaves to His command instead of inviting us to establish a truly spiritual connection with Him? And under justifiable and very personal circumstances, I firmly believe that the God that Jesus taught me exists will understand and forgive a woman’s right to choose.

  7. Kathleen Felleca says:

    I’m sorry, macon, but I meant to add something. This is not a moral crisis to be solved by the State. This is a crisis to be solved on an individual (personal) basis. If the State steps into something of this nature to regulare our right to choose, then we have created a system that is other than democratic with socialist leanings.

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  10. Michael Barnett says:

    Roe V Wade is…
    1. The sad result of men wanting to use women as purely sexual objects.
    2. Ignoring the question of whether or not human beings have rights from the moment they are created.
    3. One of the worst legal decisions in history.
    4. Founded upon lies perpetrated by Bernard Nathanson that he later recanted.
    5. Evidence that our culture has failed to love and support women, mothers, and families.

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  13. Katheen Felleca says:

    Thank you all for your comments.

    James, I assume your questions are directed to our editor; I will alert him to that. On the off chance that you are directing them to me, the article stands as fact; meaning, I drew from my own experience in marching on Washington, prompted by what I had learned from the two women I mention in the article and what I’d researched on Roe v. Wade.

    As for my responses above concerning adoption laws in the U.S., or rather, the lack thereof of Federal guidelines, as well as practices prevalent in overseas adoptions, that information was gleaned from approximately 6-1/2 years of rather extensive research on my part, stemming from myriad sources. These included representatives of several divisions of a national organization called Resolve, health care providers in private practice and major health care institutions, couples who had successfully adopted children, and couples who’d had their well-planned, “approved” adoptions cancelled at the last minute because of the absence of regulations as well as our country’s genuine concern for the children in question.

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