“When There Are 9”
The night of the 2016 election, I heard gunshots and neighbors sobbing four stories below my apartment. The morning after the election, I walked into the OB/Gyn clinic that I worked at. Normally our workday started with cracking jokes and offers for coffee runs. But on that morning four years ago, it was somber and silent. Everyone, including patients in the waiting room looked like they were on the verge of vomiting or crying. Before I even sat down at my desk the phone rang.
A woman’s voice: “Hello, I need an IUD. The kind that lasts 5 years.” Normally, I scheduled one to four IUD appointments a week. But for weeks after the 2016 presidential election, the clinic’s phones rang nonstop and when we answered, patients were angry they had been on hold so long. But it felt like half the city was calling. Half the city needed an IUD that would last longer than Trump’s presidency.
Four years and an accused rapist appointed to the Supreme Court later, we are living through a pandemic that even our 2016 fears could not have predicted.
“Are you okay?” my husband asked at the exact moment that my Canadian cousin texted me, saying that she was mourning for all American women right now. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s image popped up on my Twitter feed that I had been doom scrolling, unsuccessfully trying to distract myself from the election, wildfire smoke, and COVID. Ruth Bader Ginsburg was not perfect, but as I wondered how to answer my husband’s question, I thought about her words. “When I’m sometimes asked when will there be enough [women on the Supreme Court] and I say, ‘When there are nine,’ people are shocked. But there’d been nine men, and nobody’s ever raised a question about that.”
“When I’m sometimes asked when will there be enough [women on the Supreme Court] and I say, ‘When there are nine,’ people are shocked. But there’d been nine men, and nobody’s ever raised a question about that.” — Ruth Bader Ginsburg
“I don’t know if I’m okay. Are you okay?” I deflected. My husband looked like he was about to cry. “I mean, I don’t think that this is a safe country to live in,” I told him, “But it wasn’t a good country to live in yesterday and it won’t be a good country tomorrow. We shouldn’t predicate our democracy on a handful of people or one woman who has been battling health concerns for years.” Maybe I wasn’t okay after all.
I wondered if RBG wanted to retire years ago. I wondered if she continued serving on the bench out of a sense of duty to uphold reproductive rights. I wondered what she might have done had she felt free to step down a decade ago. Where would RBG have traveled before COVID? Would she have spent more time with her children? Would she have taken up a new hobby instead of reading briefs from her hospital bed?
I texted my Canadian cousin back “xoxo” like a deranged Gossip Girl character grieving democracy and access to healthcare. I acknowledge that I’m in a privileged position of being able to move away from the U.S. I’m also privileged in that I have health insurance in a country with one of the worst healthcare systems in the world. And I already have what I jokingly call my “copper fascism IUD”.
My husband asked again if I wanted to talk about it. “No,” I said. “I just want to live anywhere else.”