It’s time for flower geezers and feminist grannies to speak out about life before the birth control pill and Roe v. Wade. Young people today either take their reproductive rights for granted or are too busy trying to find a job and pay their college loans to consider the issue. Before the supremes march us back to the Dark Ages, we should educate the young about what sex was like before access to birth control and safe abortion.
Young gay men and women can go online today and hear countless people of all backgrounds tell them how “it gets better.” If you’re older than a certain age, you might remember when people didn’t openly discuss cancer. In a world of pink ribbons and three-day marches, we no longer need the euphemism of “dying after a long illness.” We are bombarded with commercials for erectile dysfunction, yet we still haven’t normalized the open discussion of birth control and abortion.
We aging boomers have spent too much time sharing tales of sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll, and not enough talking about life before reliable birth control and legal abortion. How many young people of today know the story of Sherri Finkbine? She was unwittingly exposed to Thalidomide while pregnant in 1962 and was unable to obtain an abortion in the United States. She traveled to Sweden for one but lost her job as the TV host of Romper Room as a result.
Those of us in our 60s, 70s and 80s have stories of searching for a back-alley abortion, of friends who died of septicemia afterwards, or who were forced into marriage or homes for unwed mothers, or who were unable to pursue careers or education because of the inability to control pregnancy while still having a sexual life.
Don’t let this shameful history repeat itself. Help reduce the stigma around this conversation. Sit down with your grandchildren and watch the excellent documentary When Abortion Was Illegal: Untold Stories. If you’re a young person, ask your grandparents about birth control in their day.
Grandparents, give the gift of your own history. Go to Storycorps.org and record your story. Don’t focus on politics; your personal testimony is more powerful. If you can’t say it out loud, at least write it down. Don’t let your story be forgotten; bear witness instead.
Cynthia Tuttelman is a retired physician living in Petaluma.
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