Just Barely Free

As I watched the reactions to the Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe v. Wade, I noticed a small group of young women huddled together, gleefully celebrating. And my heart broke. I wrote this open letter to them . . .

“Please forgive this grandmother’s offering to you, but I can’t in good conscience remain silent. Why? Because I can remember what you cannot, and I fear you’re celebrating at your peril. As a teenager, I knew girls, only a little younger than you, who became pregnant and had to sneak away to strange, often dingy, back bedrooms for abortions because telling their parents simply wasn’t an option. Sometimes, the fathers cared deeply and would go along. Sometimes not. But what was clear was that the pregnancy was solely on the girl. Mostly, I remember being so afraid for them, hoping they’d be okay and that the worst wouldn’t happen. These were the years just before Roe v. Wade became law.

Still, even as women were soon discovering and enjoying a new autonomy over their sexuality and reproductive rights with the adoption of Roe and the availability of the pill, there remained a clear resistance to such freedoms particularly from the more fundamentalist Christian communities where there was a strong patriarchy. This resistance is now on full display across our country.   

Think about the recent Texas ruling on abortion which many states are now duplicating. If truly protecting the welfare of the unborn child were the issue, and life begins at conception as Christians strongly believe, then why did the ruling not also require expectant fathers to immediately begin paying child support with the confirmation of a positive pregnancy test? And why weren’t similar vigilante groups legalized to aid in the reporting of any noticed financial delinquencies or, worse, to report any fathers trying to skirt their responsibility? Would not this also have been in the best interest of the unborn child? But, no. No such accountability for the man, now a father, was legislated.   

And over the years, I’ve noticed that the most extreme example of this double standard can happen when there’s sexual abuse occurring within the family. I pray you’ll never be one of those moms (yes, you never imagine it could be you) who discovers that your husband is visiting your daughter’s bed at night and naturally believes that your clergy leader will help and support you. Sadly, it’s not entirely uncommon to find that it is you who are blamed because, of course, the natural solution would be for you to be a better wife.

As very restrictive anti–abortion laws now go into effect around the country, and many don’t allow for exceptions for incest or rape, my dear young women, please pause and consider what will happen to that thirteen–year–old now pregnant with her biological father’s child? She could be your younger sister. And where would you go if, God forbid, you were brutally raped and found yourself pregnant?

Oh, my dear young, beautiful, alive, gleeful women: when a secular democratic society morphs into a theocracy based on one particular religious tradition, or in our case just one part of a tradition, the fundamentalist wing of the Christian faith, a blurring of church and state occurs. And men tend to win as women lose. And this is exactly what’s happening.  

Think I’m being an alarmist? Christian fundamentalists have been laying the foundations for this morphing for quite a while now but, fortunately, other God loving Christians have joined the fight to push back. I urge you to check out former President Jimmy Carter’s article, Losing My Religion for Equality, He talks about severing his six–decade ties with the Southern Baptist Convention after the Convention declared women to be subservient to their husbands and stressed its opposition to women as pastors.

It makes me truly frightened for you to imagine what could be next as Christian fundamentalism, intent on no less than patriarchic theocratic rule, sweeps the country now emboldened by a Supreme Court majority. For example, could women soon be, subtly yet persistently, discouraged or even forbidden from pursuing other leadership roles in our society? If the goal is to largely silence a woman’s voice and curtail her full participation, then is it not a too–far cry to imagine a future time when even a woman’s right to vote could be brought into question? After all, in such an environment, would she ever dare to have a difference of opinion from her husband, or other male figures, and actually make it known? Would she not naturally look to them for guidance on right thought and action? Would not the male voice, and vote, then naturally speak for her, for all women?

Have you read The Handmaid’s Tale? If not, oh my dears, do it now! Wake up before it’s too late! Wake up beautiful, young, gleeful women while you are still . . . just barely . . .  free.”

Image from The Handmaid’s Tale


Filed under Uncategorized

10 responses to “Just Barely Free

  1. Carolyn Tobin

    Thank you for putting into words what so many of us are feeling at this moment in history 🙏

  2. Kathryn

    Stephanie, I just read your article on the ANTS Facebook page. It is thought provoking, and raises many serious issues about what is still wrong with our culture. I cringe, however, at the thought that abortion is a solution to pregnancy resulting from the atrocity of child incest. This kind of trauma should never happen to anyone. However, the idea that having an abortion “helps” the young victim is equally abhorrent to me. It seems to be a form of “enabling” the abuser, who knows his victim can just “get rid of” the pregnancy, if it happens. It also uses one form of trauma to try and make up for the other. The young victim, could very well end up re-traumatized, from the repercussions of an abortion. Two children are now being abused, and one of them is left dead. We need to find better ways to care for women and their unborn children, than simply running to the nearest abortion center or popping a few pills. Kathryn Betournay, D.Min.

    • Rev. Dr. Stephanie Rutt

      Kathryn, thanks so much for offering your thoughts here. I don’t disagree with any of your reflections. I too certainly do not advocate for abortion as an easy or convenient solution to any unwanted pregnancy. My overriding issue is that teens or women facing an unwanted pregnancy once, at least, had a choice to engage is such thoughtful discussion and the opportunity to make prudent decisions based on their unique circumstances. Now it seems that opportunity is not there for some. This is exactly why I asked the question in my blog – to spur people to think about this. Thanks again for adding your voice to this important conversation.

  3. Julie

    As always Stephanie, your words cut right through to my heart, expressing in eloquent ways, how I feel, but don’t have the words for. My wonderful son told us last week he had no desire to have children in a world where they would have LESS rights than his mom. This is a sentiment I am hearing from more and more young people. It’s so challenging to encourage them to think of a hopeful future as these things happen. Rise up Arjuna, this is your call to action!

    • Rev. Dr. Stephanie Rutt

      I love how you related this to being an Arjuna moment! So true!! May we all be fearless in the face of any form of theocratic tyranny!

  4. Lyrion ApTower

    My dear Sister Stephanie, How eloquently and intelligently you write. Your words need to be made available to the greater public. Perhaps an LTE to the major papers, NY Times, Chicago Trib, SF Chronicle, CS Monitor -with your credentials, this letter could hardly be summarily dismissed. I have asked State Rep. Anne Kuster for suggestions on the tools we could use to address the unconscionable rulings from the Justice system. I await her response and pray your words influence a large audience.
    Blessed be, Lyrion ApTower

    • Rev. Dr. Stephanie Rutt

      Dear Lyrion, thank you so much for your kind thoughts about my writing. It means a lot to know that my words are making a difference. The Concord Monitor has published 5 of my blogs as opinion pieces in the recent past and, for that, I’m so very grateful. Let me know what you hear back from Kuster…I’m working on the final draft of my memoir this summer but, come fall, I’ll be ready for full action in preparation for the mid-terms…

  5. Ahjan

    Thank you Stephanie,
    The starkness and anonymity of the subject in the photo is chilling. Light source to her back. I keep wondering what about the male in the situation? A woman, or girl’s, uterus is simply that until seeded by the male. How could this be only a female issue?
    So true as you wrote,
    “My overriding issue is that teens or women facing an unwanted pregnancy once, at least, had a choice to engage is such thoughtful discussion and the opportunity to make prudent decisions based on their unique circumstances.”
    I am irked simply trying to consider this regressive, paternalistic posture. Name calling and judgement, “because you wore shorts”, because you developed as a female, you asked for it? Where is the responsibility of the male? “Shake off this petty faint-heartedness…Arjuna” indeed!

    • Rev. Dr. Stephanie Rutt

      Thank you Ahjan for noting the “light source to her back.” Just noticed that when you said it. Chilling, indeed! May all of us who fear the oppression of our fellow human beings find the courage to shake off that faint-heartedness!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s