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After the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June, I took my rage and grief to downtown Brattleboro, protesting on the street corner by the co-op with 100 other supporters of reproductive freedom. We understood it was a symbolic action. Roe was gone and would not be coming back; Christian extremists had worked tirelessly for this day for 50 years.

But we knew it was essential to gather in solidarity and community, to show we would not go meekly into a post-Roe future. We would resist the decimation of our rights at the hands of six pro-religion justices.

Two white-haired gentlemen held a giant banner proclaiming, “I will aid and abet abortion.” A teenage girl sat solemnly with a black and white sign reading: “Heartbroken.” There were mothers with babies in strollers, fathers with kids on their shoulders, old people, young people, queer people, straight people, Black people, white people, Jews, Christians, and agnostics — some chanting, some standing in silence, as if at a memorial service.

I bumped into an old friend in the crowd, and we hugged each other in disbelief, tears welling up for our teenage daughters, who now lived in a country that did not protect their bodily autonomy.

At 19, I took for granted my right to choose whether to continue an unplanned pregnancy. I hadn’t realized I’d left my diaphragm back in my dorm room until my boyfriend came to visit over winter break. It was late and snowing heavily; we decided not to drive 7 miles to the drugstore for condoms. It was only once — what could happen?

Now some Republican lawmakers say that if a woman consents to sex, she is consenting to get pregnant. This is deeply misogynist logic, rooted in a system aimed at controlling reproduction, as is apparent if you reverse the genders. As Gloria Steinem quipped, “If men could get pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament.”

My teenage pregnancy was a traumatic ordeal, especially because I’d been sent to a crisis pregnancy center by my college. Waiting with my boyfriend in a tiny exam room wall-papered with photos of plump infants, I prayed there had been a mistake even while I knew in my body — my flushed skin, tender nipples, strange scent — that it was all too real. The young nurse returned with my lab results and a smile: “Congratulations! It’s positive,” she said, handing me a yellow folder with a star on it. Inside the star, she’d written “September 10.”

My brain scrambled to make sense of her words. Positive? That meant good news — did she mean I wasn’t actually pregnant?

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Relief flooded through me until her voice continued. “Your baby is due September 10. Here’s everything you need to know about prenatal vitamins, nutrition and care. You can make appointments for your check-ups at the front.”

“Wait,” my boyfriend interrupted. “We’re in college. Diana’s 19. Can you give us any information about abortion options?”

The nurse’s smile evaporated. “No,” she said, her voice brisk and cold. “We offer prenatal care here. Please read your folder and learn about your baby.”

We were ushered out into the bitter January air. I sobbed in the passenger side of Dan’s car as he drove back to campus. “This is my first big f- up,” I said, burning with shame and regret. I regretted the diaphragm and the snowstorm, the lack of condoms and my sense of invincibility, but I never regretted the abortion, which I was lucky to access with parental support and the care of compassionate, skilled providers. That decision allowed me to stay in college, go to graduate school and become a mother by choice, happily, 13 years later. I’d always loved children and known I wanted a family, but at a time when I was ready to parent, not a forced birth imposed by legislators.

My own sign protesting the Dobbs decision was a pun from the movie “Grease.” In the words of Rizzo, an unapologetic, sex-positive rebel who braved her own teenage pregnancy scare: “Keep your filthy laws off my silky drawers.”

In our post-Roe reality, at least 15 states have enacted harsh abortion bans, many without exceptions for rape or incest. Antichoice lawmakers have been emboldened to restrict reproductive rights and legislate medical decisions that belong between patients and their providers. Routine pregnancy care has been curtailed, and women, girls and pregnant people are suffering devastating consequences.

Now, here in Vermont, we have a historic opportunity to lead the country and protect reproductive freedom. By passing the Reproductive Liberty Amendment (Article 22), we can safeguard access to abortion and set a national example. Rather than depending on politicians in office, we can enshrine reproductive rights in our state constitution by voting yes on Article 22.

There is no universal abortion experience. One in four women, transgender and nonbinary people will have abortions in their lifetimes. Sixty percent of American women seeking abortions are already mothers. Each of us should be free to make the reproductive decisions that impact our bodies, our lives and our futures. Together, in November, we can vote for that freedom.

Diana Whitney writes across the genres in Brattleboro with a focus on feminism, motherhood and sexuality. The opinions expressed by columnists do not necessarily reflect the views of Vermont News & Media.