“I am the product of a rape. This is why I support abortion rights

Forty-nine years after the landmark decision Roe v. Wade became constitutional law, the United States Supreme Court struck down federal abortion protections.

The decision fell on Friday, June 24, giving full authority to individual states whether or not to punish women who have abortions. While many US states will criminalize this medical procedure, in California abortions will continue to be protected by state law.

On the same day, UC Riverside Chancellor Kim A. Wilcox and UC President Michael Drake released a statement in support of reproductive health rights. “I stand with President Drake, our leaders in California, and health care advocates working to protect reproductive health care rights. Today’s decision intensifies the need to fight for the protection of human rights, but it will not change the services we provide, including reproductive health services,” Wilcox said in a statement.

Victoria Reyes, assistant professor of gender and sexuality studies at UCR, explains why she supports abortion rights. This Q&A is partially taken from the OpEd she wrote in the LA Times on June 12, 2022, titled “I Am the Product of Rape. Here’s Why I Support Abortion Rights.

Q: Why is sharing personal stories important to advancing conversations about reproductive rights?

A: I have had many accomplishments – Ph.D. from Princeton, a tenure-track job at a research university, fellowships, grants, awards, and two children. A lot of people who are against abortion rights would look at me and say, “See, you’re here and you’ve accomplished so much. I could be the poster child for anti-abortion activists and Supreme Court Justices who would use my life as an example of a “good” outcome to force a person with a uterus to carry a pregnancy to term.

Yet these forces rarely seem to care about policies that would support the needs of parent and child after birth. I support the right to abortion. I am pro-bodily autonomy for each person. And why is that? It’s because my mother needed to have that choice.

Q: Your mother was raped. Thank you for having the courage to share this very intimate information. Why is it important for women to speak out, to be open about these brutal realities?

A: It is clear that my own mother – at least sometimes – had wanted to abort me but did not. But giving me an abortion wouldn’t have stopped her pain. She was raped more than once during her childhood by someone who should have protected her. I often wonder what her life would have been like if she hadn’t had me when she was so young. If she had aborted me and she hadn’t been reminded of her trauma every time she looked at me.
Could she have gone to college? Could she have broken a cycle of abusive relationships? Would she have had a happy life?

Too many—too many—women of color, aboriginal women, immigrant women, poor women, white women, transgender women, women whose identities intersect with these categories, and others, share stories, especially family stories, sexual violence. This is not a new story. This has been going on for centuries and continues today. And this sexual violence implicitly tells women that we don’t deserve to be safe.

Q: What questions would you ask lawmakers, anti-abortion supporters?

A: I am the product of rape and I see what it did to my mother. And no, I don’t think the world is made a better place because I’m here.

If anti-abortion activists are adamant every life matters, why don’t they care about the women who are raped or others who will be forced to give birth if the right to abortion is destroyed? What about their well-being? Their health and safety? Why do they value a cluster of cells or a fetus that cannot survive outside the body more than a person’s life?

Readers can find more personal stories in Reyes’ upcoming book, “Academic Outsider: Stories of Exclusion and Hope,” due out next month.

Header photo: Getty Images

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