Guest commentary: Respond to Roe v. Wade through organizing, hard work

Annalise Grueter/Guest Commentary

A cartoon has been floating around: “Are women people? A nation debates.”
Much of what has been happening, however, is less debate and more reactive arguing and polarized posturing. A few patterns seem to be underemphasized in conversations among individuals, groups and media.

Meeting others with messaging that resonates to them. For anyone reacting with sadness, fear or similar feelings over the SCOTUS reversal of Roe v Wade, take a breath. Arguing the points that resonate with you may not change the minds of anti-choice folks who feel neutral or in favor, nor will airing past sexual trauma. Cold? Yes.

Inviting your conversation partner to share specific points or theoretical outcomes they support is a better approach. After listening, then raise points such as: a) the economic burden to society that would result from an uptick in infants despite lacking social infrastructure and from an increasing maternal death rate due to conditions that doctors would no longer be allowed to treat (ectopic pregnancies chief among them).
b) the sanctity of the First Amendment. A judicial ruling that forces members of any given religion to act counter to their faith (especially when said ruling is based on an alternative religious perspective) violates the First Amendment. The Torah and the Old Testament of the Bible explicitly define life as beginning at first breath and explicitly say that when a pregnancy threatens the life of a mother, her life should be prioritized over the unborn. c) social fabric. While different communities have varying visions of what their ideal social fabric looks like, all communities prefer an intact one. When the economy and individual freedoms are strained or fettered by avoidable medical expenses and governmental overreach, communities become much more fragile.

The implications of this ruling go quite far. While Colorado legislation explicitly protects the right of families to make their own decisions in consultation with their doctor, many states differ. Some have existing laws or trigger laws that legally define life as the moment of fertilization. This doesn’t just make it possible for IUDs or miscarriages to be defined as a form of abortion.

The Roaring Fork Valley has the disproportionate privilege of owing many of its families’ existence to fertility treatments. In the majority of fertility treatment cases, that involves retrieving mature eggs, fertilizing them in a controlled medical environment and conducting testing to ascertain which fertilized eggs are most likely to actually implant and result in a full pregnancy. Eggs not strong enough are discarded. 

By the definition of life at fertilization, every discarded egg is an abortion, every person involved (intended parents, sperm donor, egg donor, nurses, doctors) is liable for a crime, and countless families are the result of said criminal act. The implications for couples with fertility challenges and non-hetero couples are quite bleak, even eugenic.

Many people are emphasizing voting as the answer. Voting is not nearly enough. People are tired, cynical, divided, demotivated — ideal conditions for minority rule to take hold. This ruling is the result of decades of work, strategy and messaging by a small group which does not define the entire party within which it sits. It is the result of grassroots organizing and networking.

If the majority of the nation disagrees with the ruling, achieving results will require work, organization, networking, hard conversations, much better messaging and voting. It will require an end to broad-brush finger-pointing. There are far more political parties than just two, and a multitude of views within the big two. Instead of passively blaming others, it is time to act and relearn how to actually converse and demonstrate. That doesn’t have to be everyone, every day. 

When you do have the energy, lean into difficult conversations. Make it a habit. It was commonplace less than two decades ago; it can become so again. Learn which values resonate with others. Offer your perspective as it relates to their values. 

Organize with those who share your values. Real hope is not naive optimism. Real hope is acknowledging adversity, making a plan to overcome it, taking some ownership of the outcome and showing up consistently to bring it to reality. Let’s re-engage in the Aspen ideal of leading by example. Let’s have a real debate rather than a caricature of one. Failing that, let’s take real action.

Annalise Gruete lives in Carbondale.