My Speech to Pro-Choice Rally 35 Years After Roe vs. Wade
Speech to Pro-Choice Rally for Women's Right to Choose - 35 Years After Roe vs. Wade (delivered 1/19/08, San Francisco, CA)
35 years ago the fog was so thick on the valley floor I couldn't see my face. I couldn't see the cars on the road or the bus as it pulled up out of the fog to take me to the east side hospital where, at 16 years old, I became the 6th woman in the state of California to receive a legal abortion. Three years before, at age 13, the fog was the same ornery stew as when someone grabbed me on the way to school, threw me to the ground in the empty lot left over from the freeway construction and raped me at knifepoint. At 15, I tried to heal by making sweet love to my boyfriend, a gentle baby-faced boy.
35 years ago a whiteness gripped my life and held me in its decisive grasp. I couldn't get away from the mass that held me down: the oppressive poverty, the ignorant faces that ignored me and what I could become, the fog that clogged my brain whenever I looked at the books I loved and thought I would have to leave behind forever, my mother, passed out on the floor every day when I came home from school, the days which seemed like another shovel of dirt burying me under a muddy future — at best. 35 years ago, my life was over before it had begun — just like every other girl I knew. I was pregnant.
35 years ago, there was no one to tell. No one, I felt, who could save me from my fate. My nights were blasted by the beatings my mother received from the men she met in bars. My nights were sirens and broken bottles and locks on the door against the male heaviness I felt outside. My nights were jobless, hopeless, futureless, a black hole, a darkening suction pulling me from my dreams. I wanted to study. I wanted to attend college. I wanted to "make something out of myself." I wanted to become an university professor. At that time, it was as if I wanted to visit Mars, or Venus, where I imagined all the women are small like me, but free. 35 years ago, my life was over — I was pregnant.
35 years ago I tried to end my life. I took my mother's extra long knitting needles and a bottle of alcohol under the bed and inserted the point into my womb. The pain was nothing compared to the inner pain I lived with during those dark misty days. I wanted to die, rather than live my living death. At the hospital, a nurse told me about a new program. I was sent to a bright office where a psychiatrist asked me one single question: "Do you want to terminate this pregnancy?" "Yes," I answered, without hesitation. And, like a dream, my boyfriend appeared in another office, and together we answered the same question: "I do." Yes. I wanted to live.
I will never ever forget that first waking, that first coming out of the fog of anesthesia. I will never ever forget this day, 35 years ago, when I gave birth to myself by aborting — a decision I have always felt I had to live up to — to honor that postponed being by being all I could become. I will never ever forget that feeling of extreme relief or those first words that came to me out of the mist that was my mind: "It's over." It was as if the enemy had lifted the gate to the underground cave and I was free. "Free at last! Free at last." Thank God, Almighty, I was free at last! 35 years ago I made a choice, for life. I made a change.
At 17, I moved out from the foggy alcohol fumes that was my mother's house, into a place where I could study. I graduated from high school with high honors, and followed my vocational counselor's advice — the counselor who believed that all Mexicans were stupid and "not college material" — and so I attended San Jose City College where I graduated with high honors and transferred to San Jose State where I graduated with the highest honors. Then I attended the University of California at Santa Cruz for my doctoral study, just as I had dreamed 35 years ago. And for the past 19 years I have lived my dream as an Associate Professor of English at a major university. Today I am an internationally recognized and critically acclaimed author. My poetry has been translated into at least six different languages and studied in universities all over the world. At age 40, when I felt I could afford a life that I never lived as a child, I gave birth to my son. My choice. My life. My happiness.
And now, 35 years later, I come back to the city of my birth, San Francisco, out of the fog and into the sun, to pass on that life-force, and to preserve our right, as human beings, to define our own destiny, to pursue our dreams, even through the fog of these dark times, to fight here today — for freedom, for liberty, for justice, for all.
Preserve Roe vs. Wade. Preserve the right of a woman to choose her life. Today I stand here to say:
We make the choice
that is our change.
We make the choice
that is our change.
WE MAKE THE CHOICE
THAT IS OUR CHANGE!
* More about the march and rally with photos and video here