Sep 16, 2021 4 min read

#311: Roe

#311: Roe

When Ruth Bader Ginsburg died last year, loyal reader and good friend Marni reached out. I liked and respected RBG; Marni loved and admired her. As we talked, Marni shared her deep sadness as well as her concern for the future. What’s going to happen with the Court? she asked. Roe v. Wade didn’t com

When Ruth Bader Ginsburg died last year, loyal reader and good friend


reached out. I liked and respected RBG; Marni loved and admired her. As we talked, Marni shared her deep sadness as well as her concern for the future. What’s going to happen with the Court? she asked.

Roe v. Wade didn’t come up that day. But it didn’t need to, I guess. Marni and I both understood that RBG’s passing might mean the end of a woman’s right to choose. Two weeks ago, when the state of Texas passed Senate Bill 8, making it a crime to perform or aid an abortion after the sixth week of pregnancy, and deputizing citizens to enforce the ban, the Court did not intervene. Dissenting, Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote, “The court’s order is stunning. Presented with an application to enjoin a flagrantly unconstitutional law engineered to prohibit women from exercising their constitutional rights and evade judicial scrutiny, a majority of Justices have opted to bury their heads in the sand.”

This week’s issue of The Highlighter includes articles and essays that focus on the legacy of Roe, centering stories of pregnant women and the women who support them. You’ll meet a California physician who provides abortions across state lines. You’ll meet Anna, a midwife who helps poor women end their pregnancies in their homes. You’ll meet Alex, an abortion doula, who says that sometimes, “kindness is more important than truth.” And in today’s lead article, “Jane Roe’s Baby Tells Her Story,” you’ll meet Shelley, who speaks publicly for the first time.

I hope you find at least one article worth your time and attention. If a piece moves you, please feel free to hit reply and let me know.

+ Tickets to

Highlighter Happy Hour #14

sold out quickly last Thursday! I can’t wait to see all of you. (It’s been a very long time.) If you can’t make HHH this time, never fear. There will be more events and meet-ups soon. Like maybe another Game Show?

Jane Roe’s Baby Tells Her Story

Jane Roe’s Baby Tells Her Story

Landmark Supreme Cases like Brown v. Board and Roe v. Wade are so monumental that sometimes we forget that the litigants were real people living regular lives. Before reading this outstanding article, an excerpt from Joshua Prager’s new book, The Family Roe, I knew very little about Norma McCorvey, the plaintiff in Roe. And nobody knew anything about Shelley Lynn Thornton, who revealed last week that she is Jane Roe’s child.

In the piece, Ms. Thornton shares her complicated feelings about her mother, her place in history, and the constitutional right to an abortion. She said, “When someone’s pregnant with a baby, and they don’t want that baby, that person develops knowing they’re not wanted.” (28 min)

50 Abortions in 60 Hours: A California Doctor’s Commute To A Texas Clinic

Getting an abortion in Texas was burdensome even before the state made the practice illegal. With so many restrictions, few physicians were willing to provide abortions. In this thoughtful article, Soumya Karlamangla follows a California doctor who regularly commuted to Texas to perform abortions. “I can’t have people scare me away,” she said. About 100 of the country’s 1,700 abortion providers travel out of state. (15 min)

Loyal reader Alcine has a spectacular desk set-up, don’t you think?

Safe, Cheap, Illegal Home Abortions

In the 1800s, midwives helped women end their pregnancies safely with plants like pennyroyal, savin, tansy, and ergot. Only after a 40-year campaign by the American Medical Association, once an organization made up exclusively by male doctors, did states begin to criminalize abortion in the 1880s, calling the practice “immoral.” In this intimate article, Lizzie Presser tells the story of Anna, who is part of a network of 200 midwives and doulas across the country who provide cheap, illegal home abortions. (30 min)

+ Ms. Presser’s writing has appeared five times in The Highlighter. See also #80, #96,  #164, and #244.

My Year As an Abortion Doula

Alex Ronan: “In the hospital, I’m not anyone important

— I don’t even know how to insert an IV — but I spend the most time with the patients, so I almost always have their trust. Honesty is a core principle of being a doula. But I quickly learn that you do whatever you need to and sometimes you are dishonest. In the beginning, I shadow a more experienced doula as she reassures a patient that the woman in the next room screaming wildly is not here for the same procedure, though, of course, she is. Sometimes kindness is more important than truth, but if a patient wants to know how big the fetus is, I won’t lie.” (18 min)

Thank you

for reading this week’s issue of The Highlighter. Did you enjoy it? Or do you think we should go back to the regular format (fewer theme issues, more eclectic issues)? Let me know by clicking on “Yes” or ”No” below. I like hearing from you.

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