Abortion has shaped the lives of every person I know in Seattle. If not availing ourselves of abortion care, then simply knowing it was there to likely color the choices we make. On Tuesday, the national uproar over the leaked Supreme Court decision that would overturn Roe v. Wade reached us all—op-eds and Instagram stories of RBG quotes and birthday fundraisers and we-told-you-sos. We debated whether it represented a reason to vote or a reason voting doesn't matter. "It's Time to Rage," proclaimed Roxane Gay in the New York Times. But from Seattle, sitting in a seat of white and middle-class privilege, a whisper: Where?
Vote? We've already elected two pro-choice U.S. senators and countless other representatives. March? More than a thousand did on Tuesday night, but half a decade after the first Trump-era Women's March, it feels like going in circles. What does a poor pregnant person in a deep red state care about a snide poster slogan in Seattle? Even Inslee’s Tuesday “rally” in Kerry Park, that famous backdrop largely inaccessible by public transportation, felt more performative than anything else.
And then there’s money. (To paraphrase the great philosopher of our time, the cause of and solution to all of America’s problems—particularly this one.) Links to abortion funds popped up, reminding wealthy blue staters that abortion restrictions will overwhelmingly affect poor pregnant people elsewhere. For those with the available cash, donation felt obligatory—but then what? The aftertaste of confusion and guilt remain, a heap of privilege and no idea what to do with it.
We all knew this was coming; when I interviewed Seattle abortion activist Amelia Bonow in January she bluntly told me, "Roe v. Wade is toast." But just as broadly known was that abortion access wasn't going anywhere in Washington; like the boomer he is, Governor Inslee tweeted furiously in all caps at the leaked draft and affirmed the state’s commitment to sustained access.
Born and raised in Washington, abortion has always been a given in my life. I stuffed envelopes with Planned Parenthood leaflets with my mother before I was old enough to understand what the organization was (though my single-digit self assumed her volunteer work somehow involved showing other adults how to organize their refrigerator calendars of soccer practices and sleepovers—you know, planning parenthood). An abortion provider shared an office park with my hometown dentist, leading me to forever associate the two: annoying but necessary healthcare. Now, expressing outrage from this blue enclave feels a bit like Kirsten Wiig’s one-upping Saturday Night Live character, making it all about ourselves.
“We’re all experiencing that roller coaster,” Pro-Choice Washington executive director Kia Guarino says. “Shock, grief, anger. The attitude wanting to do it all and not knowing what to do.” That feeling of bobbing along in a blue bubble is real—Seattle really is “a specific place of privilege,” she notes—but we’re not as removed from the front as we think.
“We may be in a place of relative comfort but that isn't the case in Washington at large,” she says; access varies across our state, and travel barriers can come in many different forms. Much hinges on decisions by the ever-fluid Washington state legislature, and the arrogance that nothing could shake our city’s status quo is, well, not a great look. Guarino says that pushing even established pro-choice officials to act on their stated position—to unapologetically say the word “abortion” when they do—can lead to incremental progress.
But more crucially, Guarino points out that while the timing (and language) of this week’s leak came as a surprise to most, “Helplessness isn't an option” for those working in her field of advocacy. As guilty as we may feel for knowing our reproductive health options are secure, wallowing in that polite embarrassment is itself more privilege.
Wake-up calls are weird; in the moment they jar us into frantic action, but by definition the urgency they deliver usually fades. For the helpless blue stater, perhaps feeling discomfort right now is what we should hold on to, more than the shock or despair. “This is going to be a long-term effort,” Guarino says. We Seattleites know that awkwardness sticks with you for the long haul.