If your mom, aunts, or grandmothers grew up in the United States, chances are they had very different experiences accessing birth control than you have.
Lena Dunham and Jenni Konner, who write and produce the HBO show Girls, want to get more people thinking about what reproductive healthcare was like for women in generations before them, which is why they are starting the #AskYourMother movement.
In a preview piece for their new digital newsletter Lenny, Dunham and Konner encourage women to ask their mothers if they ever had an abortion, especially if they did so before abortion was legalized in the United States in 1973. In doing so, they hope to help people appreciate how dangerous threats to safe abortion providers are to women's health.
The stories they've uncovered so far paint a scary portrait of life before Roe.
In the piece, Jenni Konner's mother Ronnie shares her experience driving down into Mexico to get an abortion at the age of 19. She describes how she knew nothing about her abortion provider's qualifications and, while the procedure itself went well, the experience of getting there "was a nightmare."
Ronnie Konner's friend Leah Appet also shared a story about her abortion before Roe v. Wade. Hers was performed by a doctor in New Jersey, and all she knew about him was that her friend had used the same doctor for an abortion. She describes how scary and isolating the experience was, especially since abortion was criminally illegal at the time.
Appet goes on to describe how she had a second abortion, this time after its legalization. The contrast was stark:
"Once again I got pregnant because of failed contraception. But it was after Roe vs. Wade and the difference was palpable. I was able to be open about the pregnancy and the abortion, which I had at Planned Parenthood. The thing that struck me the most was the camaraderie everybody felt in that room where you waited before the abortion and also after."
Both women had to spend a huge amount of money — over $300 and $700 each — to cover their procedures and the necessary travel. Neither woman said she regretted the procedure, and they expressed horror at current legislation targeting reproductive healthcare providers like Planned Parenthood. Women in many parts of the country have virtually no access to safe, legal abortions, and the results can be scary.
As Appet says, "I was so happy when Roe vs. Wade came through, and I am so miserable about the way that choice is losing this battle."