Opinion: Reflecting on the Dobbs decision’s impact

Published: 6/28/2022 6:32:48 PM

Maggie Hassan (D-NH) is a U.S. Senator. She is up for re-election this November.

I come from a line of four generations of women named Margaret.

My grandmother, Margaret Cooke Byers, was born in 1897 and turned 22 on June 4, 1919 — the day Congress passed the 19th Amendment that would secure women the right to vote. My grandmother never saw herself as a “political person,” but for the rest of her life, she voted in every election.

Her daughter, Margaret Byers, married my father in 1952, at a time when women were often required to get their husband’s permission to access contraception. When credit cards were invented, she could not hold one in her own name.

As the third Margaret in my family, my experience was different. I practiced law. I ran for office — and won. I became the second woman in American history elected as both a governor and senator. As my family grew and my career progressed, I saw women across our society take on positions of power as business leaders, as world-renowned athletes, as vice president of the United States, which would have been unimaginable when my mother’s generation was coming of age.

For years, the story of women in America has been one where each generation has made slow, often painfully slow, yet determined progress toward building a country where they enjoyed the same freedoms as men.

With the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe, that story of linear progress has come to an end. My daughter, the fourth Margaret in my family, is now less free than I was at her age. For the first time in our country’s history, a generation of American women has fewer rights than their mothers did.

This is a grave moment for American women and for our democracy. The Supreme Court has taken away the freedom of half the population, freedom that most American women have known for their entire lives.

It seems daunting to contemplate where we go from here. But we have been in similar fights before. Nearly one hundred and two years ago, the 19th Amendment finally made women’s suffrage a reality. That fundamental right to vote was secured thanks to the heroic efforts of countless suffragists over generations.

There were many setbacks and defeats. But the suffragists kept marching. They brought more women into the movement and never stopped making the case to be full and equal citizens. They built support in state legislatures and in Congress. It wasn’t easy. It took far too long, and for Black women, it took another forty-five years, but on my grandmother’s twenty-second birthday, Congress passed the 19th Amendment that would ultimately secure women the freedom to vote.

Inspired by the women of the suffragist movement, we have to keep fighting. We have to organize and create a movement that makes clear that women will not be free unless and until they have full bodily autonomy. That fight starts with the midterm elections, when a woman’s fundamental freedom will be on the ballot.

Anti-choice extremists, including Mitch McConnell, have waited decades for this moment and will move to outlaw abortion nationwide. We must keep these extremists from retaking the Senate majority. In my home state of New Hampshire, Granite Staters across the political spectrum have made clear to me that they expect me to do everything in my power to stand against a nationwide abortion ban.

The Republicans running against me consistently ignore these voices, their own constituents, by making clear that no matter what the vast majority of Granite Staters think, they support the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe and would be a yes vote for Mitch McConnell’s plan to outlaw abortion in every state.

In contrast, I continue to let the people of New Hampshire know that I will never stop working to reclaim the freedoms we lost. We owe it to ourselves and the next generation, to women like my daughter, Margaret number four, to keep fighting. They deserve a world in which they are trusted as capable citizens of conscience and ability and where they too can plan a life and a future on their own terms, bringing out the best in themselves, their families, and their fellow Americans.

Our democracy has grown stronger throughout our history by expanding individual freedoms, with each generation recognizing more and more of its potential as a result. The Supreme Court’s decision to reverse course,  essentially telling women that they cannot be trusted with the same responsibilities and freedoms that men have,  is overwhelmingly wrong and weakens us.

The women of America will never forget this devastating moment in our country’s history and will organize to reclaim the freedoms that are essential to our personal wellbeing, and to the success and strength of our country.

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