Tears of Joy and Hope Turn to Tears of Despair

by | Jun 24, 2022 | Commentary, Featured

Nearly 30 years ago, I was in the kitchen on the phone with my obstetrician.  

My husband, Tim, on the other side of the house, heard me scream with joy. Life-altering news made me cry. I was going to be a mom to a daughter. And the baby, yes, at that point it was my baby, was healthy.

After two miscarriages — one while alone in my Atlanta apartment — this news was overwhelming.

As I thought about our daughter and what her life would be like, I envisioned cuddling, baking, reading, laughing, playing, vacationing, celebrating holidays, and yes, even arguing and hearing a door slam.

I imagined her dating, learning to drive, going to college, and perhaps getting married. I concluded her life would be filled with love, laughter, fun, opportunities, and most importantly, choices she would make for the life she wanted to lead.

As Tim and I talked about her future, I remarked on more than one occasion that Roe was the law of the land for which I am grateful, and I pray she never is in a position where she needs to make that choice.

I am thankful that one of the most difficult intimate choices would be hers, but I also wished harder than I thought possible that she would never need to make that choice.

I was so happy that my daughter’s reproductive choices were to be made not in the world of “The Janes” but the world of Roe.

As our daughter has aged into the stage of life where she makes reproductive choices, and I into the stage where reproductive decisions are in the rearview mirror, we have seen chipping away at Roe, but it was still the settled law of the land.

At least until today.

Millions of us are feeling indescribable horror and fear.

But at the same time, many educated and economically secure women or those living in blue or purple states like mine, Illinois, are telling themselves choice is still there for them and theirs. They will fight for all and give money to ensure women in red states can travel to secure needed reproductive services, but many are taking comfort in their ability to still choose.

Regardless of which state one lives in, access to safe, legal abortions is at best tenuous.

To have safe, legal abortions, you need physicians trained to do abortion procedures.

Yesterday, about 64% of obstetrics/gynecology residency programs provided routine scheduled abortion training, 31% of residencies reported optional training, and 5% reported no such training available.

After today’s ruling, those numbers will dramatically decline as about 50% of obstetrics/gynecology residency programs are in states with restrictive abortion laws. Those programs will no longer be able to train residents to provide abortions safely and effectively.

The comfort I took long ago that my daughter’s and all our daughters’ choices would be theirs and theirs alone is gone.

And there is only slight and fragile comfort that I and others can take in our privileged social and economic condition and current state laws protecting a woman’s right to choose.

As was the case almost thirty years ago, I screamed and cried for my daughter, only this time it was out of fear and anger that this country does not value her rights or her choices, and ultimately her life.


Noreen M. Sugrue is the President (2021–22) of the Society for the Study of Social Problems.   

She was a professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, with appointments in the Women and Gender in Global Perspective Program, LAS Global Studies, the Center for Global Studies, the Center for African Studies, and the College of Engineering. Her international and domestic research focuses on issues related to immigration, immigrants, gender, health care, and the workforce centered on inequity, inequality, and distributive justice. She analyzes and evaluates the construction and implementation of social policies as a means of both addressing and redressing inequities. She has published widely on these topics. 

Image by Gayatri Malhotra on Unsplash.


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