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Motherhood and freedom in the American family

As I write, the news broke of the leak of the first draft of a majority opinion from the Supreme Court on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. The ruling, written by Justice Alito, advocates in no uncertain terms for the overturning of two landmark cases; Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey.

It’s Mother’s Day and our team asked me to write about mothering a blended family. In light of the news, I will share my thoughts on the current political debate through the lens of my experience as the mother of teenagers.

Readers, you all know me, so my perspective won’t come as a surprise. What is ask is that you take the time to read my words and let’s enter into a conversation. Here’s my take:

The court and state legislatures are flat-out telling everyday American families what we can and cannot do about one of the most important decisions we will ever make: parenthood. And they are deliberately removing our ability to protect our kids.

I joined my husband’s family when our daughters where 11 and 9 and our son was 7. I always wanted to be a mother and specifically picked someone with kids. I remember the first time the school called and asked, “Is this so-and-so’s mom?” I was thrilled, shocked and scared all at the same time.

Being a mom fulfills my vocation and it’s really, really hard. 

My husband would counsel patience, reminding me that it took them years to learn to walk and I couldn’t expect them to learn so fast. 

Eleven years later and they still haven’t learned to load the dishwasher, but I digress. 

Growing into motherhood I gained new depths of worry: about school; about friends and how they were forming my kids as human beings; about spirituality; about alcohol, drugs and sex; about mindful choices; about early childhood trauma; about behavioral and learning diagnoses; about trust; about their futures.

I decided I wanted to know what was really going on in their lives no matter what. Often the price of this decision was my peace of mind. But in return I heard the truth. Hearing the truth was hard and scary and sometimes infuriating.

Let me assure you: Your kids are in situations that involve alcohol, drugs and sex. Don’t delude yourself for one second. No matter what your family values are, it’s happening.

When my daughters turned 16 or so, I made sure they got long-lasting birth control. It was an easy decision. Our kids know sex outside of a committed relationship in not in our family values. They also know protection against pregnancy does not equal permission and that we don’t think kids should have sex.

We hear political rhetoric all the time about the importance of freedom from government interference in our families.

When it came to mask mandates, people were furious that the government was telling them what to do. All through 2021 Governor Noem she said she trusts South Dakotans to make the best medical decisions for their families. That is exactly what we did in our family. How is this any different?

When my son was 16 I was frustrated there was nothing I could do to protect him from an unwanted pregnancy. I was literally disoriented when my fundamental drive to protect my child was thwarted.

What do you mean all I can do is buy him condoms and tell him, Don’t have sex? He’s a teenager! It’s clear impulse control is a skill he hasn’t mastered yet, just look at the dishwasher!

As a mother it’s my job to love, protect, and teach. I taught my kids honesty and respect in relationships. I made sure they had every protection against a momentary slip in judgement that might derail their lives. I kept communication open even when it terrified me. I was determined to give my kids the chance to make their own decisions about when to have a family. That meant birth control to ensure their transition to adulthood without the responsibility of pregnancy.

Life, Liberty and Property are protected under the Constitution. In the absence of specifics (abortion is never mentioned in the Constitution), are we to assume the framers intended a narrow scope of protections or a broad one? The concepts of Due Process and Equal Protection, upon which so many of our freedoms depend, generally expand Liberty. They don’t limit it.

Furthermore, the use of the Supreme Court as a political tool breaks down the foundation of our democracy in two ways. It undermines confidence in the skeptical perspective of the court and it attacks foundational democratic principles.

When Roe falls, the underpinnings of Due Process and Equal Protection erode. So much of our judicial system rests on these concepts, it’s hard to imagine the scope of potential reversal. The court could rescind interracial and same-sex marriage for starters. Given the interconnectedness of our judicial system, the impact could be much larger.

Take a look at some personal freedoms and rights based on Due Process and Equal Protection: of speech, of the press, of religion, of assembly, of movement across state lines, of citizenship, from unreasonable search and seizure, from cruel and unusual punishment; the right to bear arms, to privacy, to marriage, to legal representation, to enter into a contract, to trial by jury. The list goes on and on.

The bottom line is, I want every kid to have the chance to grow up with the freedom to make their own decisions about when to have kids or never to have kids at all. The Right is purposefully infringing on the rights and freedoms of everyday American families in order to get votes and using the Supreme Court and abortion as the lever. It’s a dangerous and treacherous path.

As I write this, I hear in my mind that many of you believe the same about the Left. So, let’s have a conversation.

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