In the late 1960s, a woman I dated attended what was then called Radford College and talked about another student at the then all-women’s school who was put on “social probation” after she answered the phone in the Pocahantas dorm with “Pokey Abortion Center. Your rape ’em, we scrape ’em.”
Nowadays, a student uttering that questionable prose on a front desk phone would probably face expulsion. I later found out the phrase emerged after a student raped at Virginia Tech had to travel to another state to get an abortion to terminate the pregnancy that came from the rape.
Back in the sixties, abortion was against the law in Virginia, but not so in some other states. Young women facing an unwanted pregnancy still found those who would perform the procedure. At the Roanoke Times, I wrote a column about a 16-year-old Patrick Henry High School student who got pregnant from the night she lost her virginity in an encounter that would not be called “date rape.” She sought an abortion but lost her ability to have children in the future at the hands of an illegal, and incompetent, abortionist.
Letters to the editor at the Times declared the unnamed teenager “a Jezebel” or “whore” and claimed her loss of a future ability to have children as “God’s righteous judgment.” Several criticized the Times for publishing the story and called me “a sinner” for writing it.
The Virginia Press Association disagreed. They awarded the column First Place in the features category of their annual news writing competition. It would be the first of several awards in a career of writing and photographing the news.
The high school student later became a high school teacher. She and her husband adopted four kids and now have great-grandchildren.
Most polls today show a majority of Americans support a woman’s right to choose whether or not to end a pregnancy with an abortion. As with too many extreme views of a minority of Americans, the radical right screams “abortion is murder,” ignoring the fact that the law of the land does not declare an early, legal right to end a pregnancy any such thing.
“It’s God’s law,” muttered one man recently at Blue Ridge Diner in Floyd. “Disobey God’s law and you will burn in hell.”
Really? When I ask a dispassionate expert in Constitutional law where I can find any reference to “God’s law,” he or she will shake their head and say: “No such law exists in the American justice system.” Most add that “no such law should be part of our legal system.”
President Thomas Jefferson agreed when he argued about a clear separation of church and state as he help write the Declaration of Independence and the American Constitution. He also had a hand in the Virginia Constitution, which predates the American one and also declares a clear need for churches of any denomination to not be part of the laws that govern our Commonwealth.
Thanks to a former corrupt president who stacked the Supreme Court with strident right-wingers with the help of a complacent Senate that placed party above patriotism, the landmark Roe v. Wade faces reversal.
Unless that extremist, and dishonest, minority gets its way, the final decision on many abortions will be left to the states, even if Roe v. Wade is scrapped. Some states have already declared they will be safe havens for those who seek the procedure.
If Rowe v. Wade is scrapped, America will take a step backward in a world where tolerance and diversity apply. Others wonder if the rapid right will succeed to reverse another Supreme Court decision — one that extended the rights of gays, including the right to marry a loved one of their gender.
Let’s hope the pendulum that is always swinging in America stars arcing back towards sanity, freedom, and tolerance. Let’s hope the racism, bigotry, and White Supremacists who have infiltrated our government will be sent backing by Americans who have had enough of their hate and dishonesty.
Let’s hope…and act…to make sure sanity returns.