Our girl Jane just finished a four-year degree program, graduating with honors in front of beaming parents who proudly watched their only daughter receive her diploma. Unfortunately, the day after graduation, Jane discovered that all of her fears were right and she was, indeed, pregnant.
Her boyfriend of the past several months had accepted a job on the other side of the country. He shouted promises that they’d stay in touch over his shoulder as he ran to catch his flight. Jane was pretty sure they wouldn’t, just like she was pretty sure her parents wouldn’t continue beaming if she told them the news.
Jane looked at the three letters of interest from companies she longed to work for, lined in a row on her desk. They had made her jubilant about her future just a week ago, before she began to suspect the truth. She wondered how much interest any of these potential employers would garner if she arrived, breathless with enthusiasm and obviously pregnant.
Jane twirled a wrinkled, white card between her fingers, memorizing the number scrawled on one side.
She was twelve months too late for a legal abortion in her state, but a friend had recommended the number on the card, telling Jane that everyone called him “the doctor.” Jane wasn’t sure that she could scrape the money from graduation cards to pay for the procedure, but she knew she didn’t have enough money to travel to a state where an abortion was legal. “The doctor” was her only choice.
She was more afraid than she had ever been in her life and pretty much all alone. Death from a botched abortion might not be so bad after all, she thought. She grabbed her cell phone, took a deep breath, and dialed.
Jane is a fictitious character, but the countless women whose lives have been upended by an unexpected pregnancy are not. In more than half of the states in this country, a woman’s right to choose continues to erode, thanks to right-wing zealots.
Women of means will always have a choice, even if abortion becomes completely illegal in the U.S. Enough money allows access to a country in Europe or South America where legal abortions exist.
However, women like Jane - those with few financial assets - are most likely to be impacted by the loss of abortion rights. As more and more scrutiny is given to access of abortion pills, once a cost effective method, surgical abortions are now a more likely choice. Unfortunately for many women, the cost is prohibitive because those seeking an abortion in a red state must now travel to another and incur the cost of gas and lodging, as well as medical expenses. As most women who opt for abortions are already mothers, child care is another expense, coupled with loss of work for the travel, procedure, and recovery time.
Virginia abortion laws didn’t change in the 2023 General Assembly. Despite rigorous restrictions proposed by the right to limit time or restrict abortions entirely, the state still allows abortions up to the 3rd trimester and later, if the life of the mother is at stake. But there is still much work to do. If a few more Republicans are elected to the state senate, abortion rights will begin to disappear. If a few more Democrats are elected to the house of delegates, abortion rights, along with all rights protecting women’s health, could be secured for the near future.
If you are a woman, are related to a woman, or even know a woman, get involved. The next state election cycle is beginning and the outcome will be vital to a woman’s right to choose. Keep our girl Jane a fictitious character in the Commonwealth.