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Opinion >  Guest Opinion

Becky Tallent: I remember before Roe v. Wade. We don’t want to go back.

By Becky Tallent

From a human rights point of view, the Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe makes little sense.

Thirteen states have trigger laws to outlaw abortion. Unfortunately, most of these are poor states (including Idaho), places where women are underpaid and underemployed. Add in the fact most of these laws have a zero tolerance for any abortion, not even to save the mother’s life.

I remember what it was like to be a young woman before Roe v. Wade. The fear, the issues we would be confronted with if we were to get pregnant, the shame on our families, no matter if we had the child or chose to get a back-alley abortion. Worse, the high number of young women who died unnecessarily either by using a “home remedy” to cure their pregnancy or by suicide.

Many of those issues will immediately return with this ruling. I was not at all surprised to see several of my friends posting on social media they were stocking up on the morning after pill before the products were taken off the shelves and made unavailable.

Now that the court has taken many states back to an abortion ban, poor women in states with strict abortion laws will find themselves in that old untenable position: Do they bring the fetus to term and either give it up for adoption or keep it, or do they try the old “cures” of drain cleaner or knitting needles, further endangering their lives?

One thing many of these new state laws do is ignore the allowance of an abortion for medical reasons, a miscarriage or an entopic pregnancy. An entopic pregnancy can kill the woman if the fallopian tube bursts, but some states will not permit a physician to remove the embryo from the tube and save the woman’s life. I am old enough to remember when a woman was forced to carry a dead fetus to “term” because any abortion was outlawed. The psychological damage was real.

Also real was the physical damage self-induced abortions cause to women. I recall several women who administered a self-abortion when they were young only to find they were no longer able to get pregnant when they wanted to start a family. There was physical scar damage as well as psychological damage.

There is very real pain as a woman, faced with an unplanned or difficult pregnancy, must make decisions. These should be a personal decision between the woman and her physician. A state has no business making restrictions on such a personal decision.

When abortion is legal, no one is telling a woman she must get one, but it is available as a viable medical practice when it is necessary. Legal abortion removes the back alleys and home “cures” which create more damage than necessary.

With states deciding whether the medical practice is legal, it also puts the status of women in danger. By removing their reproductive rights while placing no such reproductive limits on men, it reclassifies women as second-class citizens. Again, I am old enough to remember when women were not only second class, they were considered the property of their husbands or fathers. Oklahoma did not change that law until the mid-1980s. Do we really want to return to that America?

I guess what astounds me more than anything is seeing this reversal when most other countries – including conservative, Catholic Ireland where it is permitted on socioeconomic grounds – have abortion rights. Rather than acting as a first world country, America is retreating to the same ranks of the Republic of Congo, Haiti and Senegal in their treatment of women.

Reversal of Roe v. Wade is just the start. After the ruling, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas commented the door is now open to revisit the issues contraceptives and marriage as well as LGBTQA issues. Is this really where we as a nation want to be, reversing human rights and denying women and the LGBTQA community their full rights as citizens? As someone who remembers, I don’t think so.

An award-winning journalist and public relation professional, Rebecca “Becky” Tallent was a journalism faculty member at the University of Idaho for 13 years before her retirement in 2019. She is of Cherokee descent and is a member of the Native American Journalists Association and the Society of Professional Journalists. She and her husband, Roger Saunders, live in Moscow, Idaho with their two cats. This column was originally published online at

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