Fighting Back: Part Two in Our Pro-Choice Horror Roundtable

Welcome back to my blog, and in particular, welcome back to our pro-choice horror roundtable! This is part two in our ongoing series, and I’m thrilled to welcome six new authors to this week’s discussion about abortion rights and the fallout of losing Roe vs. Wade.

And with that introduction, I shall let my amazing interviewees take it away!

There are so many things to talk about right now, but first and foremost, how are you doing personally? How has the overturning of Roe affected your life so far? How has it affected your family and friends?

SUMIKO SAULSON: As an African American, I worry about my family members. Black women (and other black people with a uterus) are 4 times as likely to die during childbirth because of medical racism, poverty, and lack of access to proper medical care. Additionally, all of the poor taste memes about how people can just put the children up for adoption ignore the fact that black children are overrepresented in foster care and less likely to be adopted. I think a lot of my friends are in a state of shock, completely overwhelmed, or infuriated by the decision. Also, there’s been a lot of racism expressed on social media in attacks on Clarence Thomas, and while I certainly dislike him, this again has created stress for me personally and other Black folks who are reeling not only from Roe vs Wade, but a slew of other recent Supreme Court decisions making it easier for police to abuse their power and authority and harder for people to sue for civil rights violations. My friends and I in the LGBTQ community are upset that the Supreme Court is threatening to overturn Same Sex Marriage, and although someone on my timeline made a bad joke about Clarence Thomas not wanting to overturn Loving vs Virginia because he’s in an interracial marriage, he and the rest of the Supreme Court are indeed talking about that as well.

ALEXIS D: I am terrified for the future of our country. America is founded on Patriarchy and White Supremacy, but the goal is to move farther away from those systems of oppression, not to recede deeper into them. This decision is one of the rare instances when rights have been stripped, rather than strengthened by SCOTUS. And that is very telling for what lies ahead. They’ve already announced that contraception and gay marriage are next on the chopping block. It’s disgusting that Christofascism is embraced in such a clear and deliberate way by the judiciary. And this decision came the very next day after Bruen, which said states couldn’t make their own gun laws. It’s just such a baldfaced, shameless sprint to authoritarianism. There’s an obvious endgame and the future is bleak.

One of my family members is a doctor and they have friends who have been instructed to deny patients medication for autoimmune diseases because they are abortifacients, so these people now have to deal with lupus and rheumatoid arthritis flare ups (Tear gas is an abortifacient, too, but cops are still using that on protesters who may very well be pregnant).

To get truly personal about this, I will say that if I hadn’t been able to have an abortion, I’d have a kid right now, getting physically and emotionally abused by their father. The thought that this is now the only option for so many people, to be forever tied to their abusers and to know that the children they are forced to have will be subjected to that too, is sickening. On that subject, it’s important to state that the leading cause of death during pregnancy is murder.

MARSHEILA ROCKWELL: I’m angry, of course, but also incredibly frustrated. I live in Arizona and I support all of our pro-choice candidates, I donate to organizations that provide access here (for as long as they can), and I always vote, but it still feels like I’m screaming into the void.

But I’m also Native American, and we’ve had our reproductive rights curtailed since colonization began, so when I see people say things like, “Put clinics on reservations” (which is impossible for a myriad of legal reasons), that makes me doubly angry/frustrated. NOW people care? Now that white people are losing their rights? I mean, I get it, obviously, but I hope people can see how even suggesting that just reeks of privilege.

So I’m basically a bundle of rage who hates everybody and everything right now, LOL.

LCW ALLINGHAM: I am absolutely not good. At points I can get away from this, distract myself and give focus to the good things in my life, of which there are many, but it is an effort to not let my mind drift into how all of those good things are in danger now because of the hateful radicals in our government. I find it has very much divided me from a lot of friends and family who can’t be bothered. It’s drawn the line and given me the strength to stop giving fucks to people who don’t have them for me, or other women in general. It has also put me in touch with some amazing people that I might not have connected with otherwise.

JOANNA ROYE: It hasn’t been great. I’ve had a lot more anxiety than usual and my depression has flared up but overall I’ve managed to keep it together. Though I have called an OBGYN to have my IUD replaced as soon as possible, just in case. I worry for the future and the immediate present. I have friends that are pregnant or trying. What if something goes wrong? I do what I can to support them, but there’s no way I can know just how heavy this is for them. Everyone I’m close to seems to be experiencing varying degrees of helpless distress.

BARBARA KRASNOFF: Since I am past menopause, the overturning of Roe will not affect me personally. However, I am furious — livid — that women younger than me will have to put up with the kind of crap that I demonstrated against when I was a teenager. I also have younger friends, relatives, and work colleagues who are dealing with this. And there are so many questions that need answers. Is it safe to use a period tracking app? What are the best organizations to support to help those women who live in states where they can no longer get proper health care? What is the best legislative way to fight this decision?

Where were you on June 24th when you learned that Roe had been overturned? What was your first reaction?

SUMIKO SAULSON: I was in San Francisco for a Trans Gathering before the Trans March on the first day of San Francisco’s LGBTQ Pride celebration weekend. One of my friends was thinking of skipping Trans Day and the Trans March to go and march in with the Reproductive Rights Rally, but when she looked it up, she found out that they’d already coordinated with the Trans March. And there was another march, a Socialists Rally, out protesting. So all three of the marches arranged to meet, combined, and then march down to the courthouse to protest the overturning of Roe vs Wade. That’s a couple of miles, and I stayed with the march for a mile and a half before my body was no longer up to the challenge. I think a lot of people in the mainstream aren’t aware of how important reproductive rights are for the trans community and the LGBTQ community in general. People in the LGBTQ community do have to contend with unwanted pregnancy, and not just those of us who represent the third letter, B. Lesbian-identified community members, trans people who have a uterus, and other queer folks who can become pregnant also lost bodily autonomy when Roe vs Wade was overturned. And for a lot of transmasculine people, there’s an additional issue of gender dysphoria when it comes to being forced to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term.

ALEXIS D: I was walking to work. Even though the decision was leaked a few weeks prior to being officially announced and Gaslit Nation (my favorite podcast for politics) warned that it was a certainty, you’re never actually prepared to hear it as something that is here and now and true and real life.

MARSHEILA ROCKWELL: I found out right before I was going in to have a fractured tooth extracted, so it will forever be associated with fear and pain and trauma for me (I loathe going to the dentist, and this guy was NOT gentle).

My gut reaction, though, dental horrors aside, was the same as when my 4 month old was diagnosed with cancer thirteen years ago – pure animal terror. Back then, it was because there was this alien thing that had my child in its clutches and I had absolutely no control over what it did to him – there was nothing I could do that would save him. This time, when the ruling was announced, it wasn’t my child in the monster’s clutches, it was me and every other woman in this country, including my trans daughter – and again, there was nothing I could do to save us, because I’d already done everything and none of it had worked. So, yeah, pure animal terror.

(My son is doing okay now, BTW. Relapse is always a fear, and there are always late effects from chemo, but he’s otherwise healthy and as happy as a thirteen-year-old is capable of being, LOL.)

LCW ALLINGHAM: I was home, with my kids. I felt betrayed, by my country, by the people I love who dismissed my concerns and evidence as overreacting and falling for liberal fear mongers, by every single person who wasn’t screaming at the top of their lungs. I still feel that way. It rises up to this crest of absolute fury and then crashes into despair, over and over and over. But you know, maybe I’m overreacting.

JOANNA ROYE: I was sitting at the kitchen table, taking a break from chores. I saw a bunch of chatter about Roe across social media and had that horrible moment of realization. I’d lost track of the days and forgotten that this was the Friday the Court actually handed down their rulings. I checked AP and BBC which were already flooded with fresh pictures of protestors. I had known it was coming but still… I raced through whether birth control is next, spun dystopias for how things may be in six years for my daughter, what this all means for my queer friends…On and on to the bleak horizon of how this will bleed into every other social sector as we complete our slide into theocratic-fascism. “What were you hoping for? What did you expect?” kept ringing in my mind. I leaned back in the chair, folded my arms, and dissociated.

BARBARA KRASNOFF: Well, it wasn’t like it was a complete surprise — we had been warned that it was coming because of the leak that Politico exposed on May 2nd. However, I think that, once that first shock was over, many people wanted to hope, “Maybe not. This was not the final decision. Maybe they won’t do something this awful.” I was pretty sure that the deed was done, but who knew? So I waited.

As a horror writer, how do you feel like this ruling will affect your work? Are you struggling to write? Will you incorporate these themes into your writing more? Also, how would you like to see people in the genre, especially those in positions of power, do better in terms of supporting us during this crisis?

SUMIKO SAULSON: I’m someone who has had to deal with trauma on a near-constant basis for large portions of my life, and as a result, writing is a way for me to process the trauma. Being unable to write is less of a concern than becoming manic – I am bipolar with psychosis and have PTSD – and staying up all day and all night pounding out work in a frenetic state that is not good for my physical or mental wellbeing. So I have been trying to really monitor my sleep, and take care of myself. I would like people in the genre to be a bit more mindful about who is directly impacted by the recent legislation. People directly impacted are processing a lot of grief right now, and I have seen a really large number of posts by women about how really gung-ho men are telling them how they need to feel about what just happened. A bunch of us are traumatized, and some of us need to recover. It’s actually OK for those of us with a uterus to talk about Stranger Things and not discuss the Handmaid’s Tale-type dystopia we’re living in for a while. Speaking of which – stop it with the creepy adoption memes. No one owes you a baby, and even the jokes about it are cringe. Clarence Thomas being a Justice isn’t a free pass for racism. I’ve had to block a couple of clods who had the nerve to call women who have abortions promiscuous. What decade are they living in? I’m guessing sometime back in the 1950s since that’s the decade the Supreme Court is trying its damnedest to drag us back to. I would tell those in power to write cautionary tales and see if that helps, but Margaret Atwood did that 37 years ago and this still happened. Still, I’m going to go with that. Write the best horror dystopias you can come up with about why and how all of this can go terribly wrong. I know I will.

ALEXIS D: I haven’t written much since the decision. I have been in a kind of adrenaline/anger/sadness/numb cocktail state and it hasn’t been great for my ability to focus. I’ve mostly just been rewatching shows I’ve already seen a thousand times and scrolling Twitter, reading about all the horrors that have already come from this ruling and those that are being anticipated.

I feel like in terms of horror writers as a whole, we are angry. And when people are angry, they have something to say. And a lot of great art can come from that. Rod Serling was angry about how people were being treated in this country and he created The Twilight Zone because of it. And I believe that had to have impacted the way people interacted with the world around them. Even if it’s just a handful, it still counts. I watched that show as a kid and I know it had an effect on me. Art is important that way. It frames the way we see and interpret real life.

People in power need to be vocal. They have a duty to be. Power provides a platform and that is a responsibility. If you are the person who represents a group of people, no matter how big or small, you better do right by them, or step aside and let someone who is able to meet the moment take the wheel. Complacency is complicity, and silence is a statement.

MARSHEILA ROCKWELL: Well, I’m writing this response after that whole kerfluffle with HWA issuing a nonstatement, retracting it after a storm of community anger, and finally proclaiming their support for a woman’s right to bodily autonomy, so there’s a perfect example of how those in power can do better (and a lot of other organizations/publishers stepped up and put out unequivocal statements of support without having to be pressured into it, which was nice to see). I’m also happy to see some bodily autonomy-themed horror anthos being put together, because as writers, that’s where our power lies and how we can make a difference – with our words.

Personally, I haven’t written anything since the ruling came out. I’m sure my fears RE: bodily autonomy and my revenge fantasies on those who take it will make it into my work at some point, but right now I’m still processing being turned back into property.

LCW ALLINGHAM: This is such a big question. First, I’m not sure this will affect my work. I have always been compelled to write pieces that examine the subjugation of women, how the patriarchy shapes them and how they take back their power. I started to hear that it wasn’t relevant, was overdone. With so much wrong in the world around me, I started to doubt myself and what I was trying to say. So, what is changing is that I decided I don’t care. I’m going to keep writing my stories. I’m going to keep screaming.

As an author I write in a lot of genres, but I started in horror, and I return to horror because it is how I control the monsters in the dark. I have already started to compile a list of ideas. I have a horror anthology my small press is putting out about feminine rage, and I am going to try to contribute a story to it. I have a horror novel I’m poking with a stick about motherhood and monsters in the patriarchy.

I hope that the horror community can step up and provide a light in the dark for its marginalized writers. That starts with listening to what female, queer, BIPOC, and trans authors have to say about this situation and not rushing to make spokesmen of those who still have all their rights intact. It starts by making horror a welcoming place for the oppressed and a dangerous place for the predators.

JOANNA ROYE: It has energized me, strangely enough. The instability of the future gives me a sense that I MUST finish my book while I can. The next few years are extremely uncertain, and that has summoned up a renewed vigor for completing projects. Right now I don’t have any stories that explicitly interact with the right to choose. In the future, though, bodily autonomy is a theme I look forward to exploring thoroughly.

As for leaders in this field, it does give me comfort whenever I see someone state their support of access to abortion. What does NOT give me comfort is vaguery. These days, if someone fails to make it exceedingly clear that they regard me as a person rather than an elaborately decorated incubation rig, I will not be assuming otherwise. It sucks that it has to be like this.

BARBARA KRASNOFF: To tell you the truth, I don’t think this will affect my work — unless I start to work more out of pure unadulterated anger. I had a great deal of trouble writing during the first couple of years of the pandemic, and I’m just now starting to become somewhat productive again. It’s possible that I’ll incorporate these themes into my writing, or not — I really don’t know. As far as support is concerned, those with public visibility can speak out and do what we all need to do: urge our representatives to oppose any laws that will negatively affect abortion rights and women’s health; support candidates who will work on a local and national level to fight against these laws; and contribute what they can to organizations that will help women trapped in the states enacting these laws.

What’s your greatest fear right now? And also, what’s your greatest hope for where we can go next?

SUMIKO SAULSON: What concerns me the most is that the current Supreme Court is not that old. The oldest current member, Clarence Thomas, is 74. The three Justices appointed by Donald Trump are in their 50s now. We could easily be stuck with them for another 20 to 40 years. We can’t hop back in a time machine and undo the damage that was done by allowing Trump to get into office in the first place. My hope is that the Democratic Party in Congress will do an in-run around the Supreme Court. Some new iteration of Women’s Health Protection Act of 2021. Several states are amending their state constitution to protect abortion rights at the state level, but that won’t protect the most vulnerable. I hope that people will be out in the streets marching, raising hell, and demanding justice.

ALEXIS D: My greatest fear right now is that it really seems like the Christofascist takeover has arrived. They’ve already put in place all the apparatus they need to ensure Right Wing domination over our country. Next term, SCOTUS plans to hear a case that could alter election laws, changing how much power state legislatures have over elections. Who even knows what will happen between now and then, though? If abortion is a felony, and in many cases miscarriages will be treated as such, that person can’t participate in the democratic process anyway. It’s hard to say what scares me most, but I’m scared. We should all be scared.

The time to act is now, and establishment democrats who are completely out of touch with the current political climate, and fetishizing bipartisanship at immeasurable cost, are not acting. They have occupied their positions for so many decades that they feel as though those roles are promised. We need more AOCs and less Pelosis. Right now, AOC gives me more hope than pretty much anything. It’s important to feel like the people in charge are looking out for you, which echoes back to the previous question about our leaders in the genre and their response to this ruling.

As far as horror writing goes, it has been comforting to see a practically unanimous response from the community. So that gives me hope, too. It’s hard to look at yourself and think, “I can make a difference,” but we have to believe that in some way, even if it’s small, we all do.

MARSHEILA ROCKWELL: My greatest fear is that this is only the beginning of what we as women (and people of color and the LGBTQ+ community and the disabled community and, and, and) are going to lose. My greatest hope is that this can all somehow be reversed. (And after that, we get our land back, but first things first.)

LCW ALLINGHAM: My greatest fear? That everyone who cares will stand idly by wringing their hands while our rights burn.

My great hope is that we’ll be the fire and we’ll finally take what has been denied to us for far too long.

JOANNA ROYE: Despite how outlandish it sounds, I really worry the most about a hot Civil War. I love where I live, but if violence breaks out, we’ll almost certainly have to move abroad for our children’s safety. Secondly, I worry about how many other precedents were overturned on 6/24 in the shadow of Dobbs. Decisions that rip the last few teeth from the EPA, threaten Tribal sovereignty, encourage gun sales, and protect cops from being held accountable when they violate citizens’ rights (re: Mirandization). It’s a grab-bag of regression. And this is before we even get to Clarence Thomas’ remarks about “reexamining” cases like Obergefell, Griswold, and Lawrence.

In contrast, my greatest hope is that (against all odds) enough politicians currently in office would actually take direct action to codify abortion rights into federal law. I feel there’s only a microscopic chance of this but, that’s what hope is for, I guess. Realistically, I plan to do whatever I can to help the people I can reach. This is the time for our nation to correct its course and recommit to protect the rights of all its citizens instead of just the lucky few.

BARBARA KRASNOFF: My greatest fear is that this is only the beginning — that this Supreme Court will continue to turn out decisions that will erase more federally-mandated safeguards, thus eroding more and more of the rights that we’ve enjoyed since the middle of the 20th century. I dread the possibility we will continue to lose what gains we have made supporting the rights of women, POCs, LGBTQ+ people, and others; against the destruction of our environment… the list goes on.

Where can we go next? I think we have to look at the long term: make sure enough Democrats (and even reasonable Republicans) are voted in so we don’t find ourselves in this position again. There are other possibilities: a larger Supreme Court, for example. And the continued activities of all of us to push for change, even when it seems like nothing is changing.

Thank you so much to my six featured authors in this week’s roundtable! Once again, I appreciate the writers in our community sharing their thoughts about abortion rights. 

Happy reading, and happy fighting back against fascism!