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My Grandma, on Reproductive Rights

Written by Kelsey Duchesne and her Grandmother, Jackie

My Grandmother (here forth referred to as 'Nanny,' which is what I call her,) Jackie, has been a nurse for 35 years, but caring for other people has been a lifelong trait and passion. She is my personal nurse, grandmother, and friend, and has been a constant reminder that good health should never be taken for granted, and being kind and compassionate to others is mandatory. Though there are several years (Nanny has been 29 my whole life) and 2 generations between us, Nanny and I see eye to eye on everything. We both love trashy gossip magazines and putting our pajamas on right when we get home. We watch romantic comedies and drink red wine and our favorite feeling is watching each other open presents. When Donald Trump said that he believed women should have to submit to “some form of punishment” if they seek out abortion (if the practice is banned in the United States), we both sat awake and thought about it all night. We worried about the future of women's health and safety in America, and how swiftly we could lose a right that Nanny had worked so hard and long to fight for, a right she always wanted for me.

I spoke to Nanny the next day, and wrote down her story. When I asked if I could publish it, she said “Do it.” When I asked if she wanted me to keep her anonymous, she said, “You can put my name, because I am not afraid for what I believe in. You have to take a stand. That is how strong I feel.”

This is Jackie's relationship with women's rights.

“When I was young, I couldn’t get birth control. I don’t remember any of my friends having it, either. I honestly don’t remember it being around until after your uncle was born, in the early seventies, and even then it was nearly impossible to get my hands on. Some doctors wouldn’t prescribe it because they didn’t believe in it, morally, and if you could get it you had to pay for it out of your own pocket.

I remember women- friends of friends, faces I knew- who would have to find alternatives for abortion procedures. It’s all true. Coat hangers, residents who didn’t have their licenses yet, performing surgeries they didn’t know how to do. Some women bled to death, others would get infected. Some were sterilized, and were no longer able to have children. These women couldn’t have babies later in life, when they were emotionally and financially ready, because they couldn’t get the help they needed when they were younger.

Nursing wasn’t always a respected job, you know, it certainly wasn’t when I started. Your Great-Nanny was a waitress, then I was a waitress, and then I went to school to become a nurse. People looked down at it because you emptied bed pans- you dealt with a lot of bodily fluid. Those tasks were considered demeaning then. But I loved my job, and I still do. It brings me so much happiness, how respected nursing is now- finally. I love the women are getting paid more- hopefully soon they’ll be paid the same amount as men.

I like that colleges pass out free condoms to students, boys and girls- I just love that. It’s so important. No matter what happens in the election, I don’t think students will stop passing out condoms, I really don’t. I love knowing that girls and guys can go to Planned Parenthood. Birth control is a lot cheaper than children, Kelsey. Swallowing a pill once a day takes up a lot less time than caring for another human being.

Every woman should have the right to get an abortion. It’s not about religion, it’s not about politics, it is the woman's right to choose. It is about every woman being respected for their choice, and not receiving any shame for it. Not receiving any punishment for it. I respect any woman who gets an abortion or doesn’t get an abortion.  It is not up for me to decide if their choice is right or wrong- it is not my life. It’s not the political candidate's life, either.

I am so angry. We fought for that right, and we fought hard.  We had to vote for it, and vote for it. It went on and on and on, until Roe vs. Wade, and we were so relieved. I never thought we would be going through this again. Sometimes I watch these debates and feel like we are reverting in time. After all the waiting, all the hard work- we’re going backwards.

I’ll keep working hard to push us forward. I will respect all women and their decisions, whether they want to use birth control or not. I will not vote for a candidate that believes women should be shamed for their bodies and their choices. I will speak out, and use my name. I’m not afraid of my own voice- I never have been. And I’m in good company.”

My advice for Trump? Don’t mess with Nanny.

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