From the Ashes: Part One in Our Pro-Choice Horror Roundtable

Welcome back! Today is the start of something very special to me. This is part one in our Pro-Choice Horror Roundtable series. In each installment, I’ll be featuring  a group of horror authors as we discuss how the fall of Roe vs. Wade is affecting us, both personally and professionally. This will be an ongoing series here on the blog for the rest of the year and possibly even stretching into next year.

So with that, I’ll turn today’s interview over to this week’s six incredible authors!

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?

JO KAPLAN: I feel sick that the bodily autonomy I’ve always taken for granted is being snatched away, but I’m lucky that I live in California, and my family also lives primarily in states where abortion is not being banned. But just because this isn’t legally affecting me doesn’t mean I can shrug it off. That’s, unfortunately, something you see a lot of these days: this inability to care about things when they don’t affect you personally. It’s depressing that there are so many people in this country who just lack basic empathy, who can only empathize with some pure, idealized notion of the “unborn,” rather than actual living, breathing human beings. The mental gymnastics people go through to argue that a ten year old should carry a pregnancy to term, or that women are somehow idiots or villains who wait eight months before deciding to have an elective late term abortion rather than it being a medically necessary last resort for wanted pregnancies—it makes me feel like I’m going crazy.

ZIN E. ROCKLYN: While overwhelmed, I’m also angry. I knew this was going to happen when the doc was leaked but it was absolutely disheartening for the final decision to be passed. I recently moved to Florida to help take care of my mother who has dementia (even she, a hardcore, Bible-thumping Christian, is pissed) and I am incredibly nervous for myself while straight up scared for other birthing folk, especially the poorest of us. The stigma and continued, persistent ignorance surrounding birthing folks’ reproductive health is more than a concern, it’s a crisis. Friends have already had their life-saving meds denied due to these misconceptions.

MEGAN HART: I am furious. Even knowing it was on the horizon didn’t prepare me for the utter betrayal and outrage I feel now that it’s actually been overturned. I, personally, am unlikely to ever need an abortion again, but I’m livid and horrified for all of those who still will need to make that choice — and have no choice to make.

JANET JOYCE HOLDEN: Personally, I count myself lucky at this particular time that I’m post-menopausal and no longer able to give birth. However, I’m acutely aware of how an important means of healthcare has, in some states, been rudely stripped away. A lot of my friends are in a state of shock, and rightly so.

LYANA RODRIGUEZ: Personally? I’m about as fine as a log thrown into a wood chipper. I think part of the problem is how much this decision is affecting me and not my family. My father, older brother, and nephew, all cis men/boys, don’t seem to display any personal attachment to the issue. My mother, post-menopause, seems mostly glad that it didn’t affect her own life during her marriage with my father. Her continuing response to my concerns has been, “Things change! Things always change, you’ll see, it’ll be back to what it was one day!”

It’s the most out of touch reply I’ve seen so far. None of them seem to understand that this directly affects me the most. I’m twenty-seven years old, I’m bisexual, I’m Latine which means I’m highly fetishized by a lot of people, and I’m in the process of questioning my gender identity. I walk into work, and I wonder at how fast we become desensitized to it. We’re all expected to just keep going as if everything’s normal as fascism creeps in? Really? That’s the “adult” thing to do here?

CHRISTINA LADD: I wake up every morning just a little bit nauseous, just a little bit more scared, and just a little bit angrier than the day before. I try to exist one step removed from everything, focusing only on my job or projects to get through the day, but when I tune back into the Roe reality, all those feelings rush back. I am tired with such a fury all the time. I don’t have a word for this angry exhaustion. Maybe it’s not a word. Maybe it’s a story. Maybe it’s all the stories that come after. I don’t know. Almost everyone I know is in the same place; we just keep expressing the same despair to one another over and over again.

What has Roe vs. Wade meant to you personally?

JO KAPLAN: I’ve grown up with Roe vs. Wade as settled policy, and I’ve never questioned my control over my own body. I’ve never wanted kids. Though this is a personal choice, I can’t help but also think about it in broader terms. I think about the difference between centuries past, when people were having ten children with the knowledge that not all would live to adulthood, and today, when massive improvements in technology and medicine have reduced infant and childhood mortality, and lengthened lifespans. Back then, I think there was an evolutionary imperative to have lots of children. There were also way fewer people in the world. Now we have 8 billion people on this planet, and we cannot sustain continued, explosive population growth with our current infrastructure. So in a way, I think the world needs people like me who are opting out of reproduction. Having choice is good for me personally, but it’s also good for the planet. Unfettered growth is an unsustainable capitalist dream. The right-wing wants to keep churning out babies—the right kind of babies, of course—in pursuit of this ridiculous (and very American) idea that unfettered growth is the end-all be-all, without regard to the consequences of overpopulation. So, what Roe vs. Wade has meant to me personally is having equal rights and bodily autonomy, the opportunity to live my life the way I want, and also allowing everyone the power to make their own choices.

ZIN E. ROCKLYN: It is the final nail in the coffin of freedom of choice for birthing folk. Period.

MEGAN HART: I’ve never lived, consciously, without knowing that I could choose not to carry an unwanted or non-viable pregnancy. Being able to have an abortion has been a choice for my entire life. I’ve always been a strong and outspoken advocate for reproductive rights, even though it was something seemingly “set in stone.” I never took it for granted, but I also never thought that right would be torn away.

JANET JOYCE HOLDEN: Healthcare, choice, and a right to privacy regarding that choice. Plain and simple. It’s nobody else’s business.

LYANA RODRIGUEZ: For me, Roe was the law of the land for my entire life. I always had that reassurance in the back of my head when I got my first period: if anything happened to me, I at least have the right to get an abortion and keep my life on track. Even if people tried to block my way to a clinic, even if they shamed me for something out of my control, I had that choice. In a society where we put the onus so frequently on people who can get pregnant, usually including the most marginalized of genders, having that choice is tantamount to participation in a larger, public society. Technically speaking, Florida has the right to an abortion guaranteed in its state constitution, and a state judge ruled Governor De Santis’ recent fifteen week ban on abortion unconstitutional for that reason.

But this precedent, the overturning of such a huge case, only worries me about other cases. In a matter of months, my right to marry any woman I love could fall away from me. My right to a sexual relationship, even, with another woman could be subjected to on-the-books indecency and sodomy laws. Hell, that’s just in my own personal relationships. What happens should Brown v. Board or Loving v. Virginia gets overturned? Florida isn’t exactly the paragon of healthy racial reckoning. This would be a catastrophe for many Latine families living here in Miami. After all, a lot of Latine cultures didn’t have the same stringent “one-drop” rule that dominated the Jim Crow South and the racist North.

While it may seem like I’m going off topic, I’m really not. In the end, the choice to strike down Roe v. Wade is about snatching autonomy from the country’s most marginalized people and giving it to a bigoted, powerful state. It certainly won’t stop here.

CHRISTINA LADD: It meant freedom. And now it’s gone, and I have fewer rights than a corpse. I knew, intellectually, that this was always the case for some people when they saw me. Roe just meant that it wasn’t the law, those thoughts and feelings of others. Now those thoughts and feelings are the law. Roe was my shield, and now there’s so much less between me and the massed hordes of gibbering idiots, swinging their crosses at my head.

How do you feel the horror genre has responded to the crisis of losing Roe? How would you like to see people do better in terms of supporting us during this crisis?

JO KAPLAN: The people I know in the horror community tend to be conscientious, socially and politically aware people who genuinely want to help create a better society. I like to think the horror genre, through exploring the darkest parts of humanity, reminds us of what is most important to us, what we stand to lose, and what we are willing to sacrifice. I’ve already seen horror folks being vocal, taking a stand, creating charity anthologies with proceeds going to abortion access, and I want to see the horror community keep doing what it does best: using its voice and its willingness to delve into the darkness to push for a brighter future for everyone.

ZIN E. ROCKLYN: With the exception of the HWA’s shitty response, to see folks coming together for benefit anthologies and auctions is amazing. Folks of horror are some of the nicest people in the world and our response has affirmed that.

MEGAN HART: I can’t speak for the genre as a whole. The people I follow on social media all seem to have the same level of outrage and disgust that I do. I don’t need individual support from strangers, so it’s more of a broad desire to see people taking action to protest, support and try to make change to the loss of reproductive freedoms. (And human rights, in general.)

JANET JOYCE HOLDEN: I’ve seen the initial statements of support from various sources, and going forward, at the creative level, I’d like to see a shift away from woman and fetus used as a shock morality mechanism. How about aiming our Klieg light and pen toward the reckless impregnator, cocksure, striding through life, leaving behind a trail of blood and misery? One of the ways we use horror is to better understand ourselves, and this side of the issue is way overdue for a long, hard examination.

On the organizational front, should we move our conventions to abortion-friendly states? I realize some states might not turn out as bad as they’re painted once the legal dust has settled, but it’s worth looking into, for sure.

LYANA RODRIGUEZ: For the most part, the members of the horror community I follow are amazing. They’re so supportive and willing to listen to all my rants about the historical particulars of this decision. Nobody in the community that follows me or that I follow has called me, for example, “paranoid” or “hysterical” the way that so many people have done in the past. (To be fair, this is also true of the anarchist community, but I often find a lot of overlap in these two groups).

The “genre,” on the other hand, has a lot of work to do. I think you all know exactly what I’m talking about here. The HWA incident confirmed some of the worst fears many horror writers have about the big names in the community. It all originated from something so simple, too! Some of HWA’s staff decided to put up a sign stating, “We support women’s rights to choose.” Okay, cool, it’s not exactly inclusive of every single gender that can get pregnant and would be affected by the decision, but it’s not something that will get a non-profit any flak from the IRS. But nope! HWA leadership decided it had to go down. Furthermore, I’m convinced that the reasoning they gave is false. It wasn’t because of them losing non-profit status. They just don’t want to lose any money from more conservative donors. I call it the Bob Iger Special, personally. Thankfully, many other organizations, including several great indie publishers in the horror writing community, spoke out against HWA’s decision and came out firmly in favor of bodily autonomy. Several other horror creators branching outside writing and into film production, film reviews, and more also threw their hats firmly on the side of justice. That gives me a lot of hope, at the least!

CHRISTINA LADD: I’m glad to see the Brigid’s Gate anthology for charity, and glad to see a lot of interactions on twitter. I’m not sure if there’s more–I’m not super plugged in and could be missing a lot. I agree with your statement that I would love to see conventions refuse to do any business in states where abortion is prohibited. I’d also like to see more statements of condemnation, and just like so many websites have statements against transphobia, racism, etc., it would be nice if they included “the message of your work cannot be anti-choice/anti-abortion.”

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

JO KAPLAN: Unnecessary deaths, first of all. With the right to choose being taken away in many places, it’s a simple fact that more people are going to die, whether from back-alley abortions, ectopic pregnancies, or other complications leaving doctors unsure of what they can and can’t do. On a larger scale, my greatest fear is the christofascist takeover of our government and how that might fundamentally change our society—that the religious right will become the law of the land. My greatest hope is that these are the last desperate gasps of a dying political force and that the future will see a people who refuse to kowtow to antiquated and oppressive worldviews.

ZIN E. ROCKLYN: My greatest fear is to become pregnant. That’s it. There is absolutely no support in this country for so many things, worst of all being parents, single or no. Our greatest hope is a revolution and overhaul of how this country is run.

MEGAN HART: My fear is that this is the beginning. That the next target is birth control, the right to marry who we choose, the right to cross state lines, to worship as we please…to be honest, the future seems pretty dystopian and bleak, and I have a vivid imagination, so I can fear a lot of horror on the horizon. My greatest hope is that the people who do not believe in hatred and oppression can rise up and make ourselves known, heard and respected. That we can stop the march of this country into fascism.

JANET JOYCE HOLDEN: The fear is that we can’t turn this around. The hope is that our government will live up to its current promise and right the wrong at Federal level.

LYANA RODRIGUEZ: My greatest fear is pretty simple and possibly vindicated by history. My fear is that Americans will continue to allow this fascist creep to become normalized. Instead of organizing across demographic lines on issues we all care about, such as the climate, abortion rights, healthcare, wages, and rent, they will continue the “Vote Blue No Matter Who Only!” strat, refuse to criticize their leaders, and continue hoping for the return of normality that was ultimately never even really good for us anyways. Then the rest of us that actually hope for a better world just get to sit back and watch as we become the victims of a Christofascist state, our more centrist neighbors complicit in our ultimate victimization.

My greatest hope, however, is just what I proposed: organizing! It is nowhere as easy to do as it is to say, but we need to start doing that now. We have to get in touch with our communities and make them actually livable again. So much connects us here, and we all have so many of the same needs. Plus, once you get into the practice of listening to other people’s lived experiences, the differences that separate us are nowhere near as insurmountable as you might think.

Tips on how you might get started? I’d suggest dealing with two universals in the United States: housing and wages. The housing crisis is worse than ever, and ultimately, everybody no matter what requires shelter to live in. No matter where you live, I guarantee that you either have a mutual aid organization that focuses on building tenant power or a community that would jump at the chance for it. As for wages, we have to go the way of Starbucks: unionization. For those who primarily work freelance or have less sociable jobs, this can be a pain. However, I promise that, even in freelance, people are tired, angry, and want to form a coalition. Start small. Build up an email list, a discord chat room, or anything that can get you all together! And as for the topic that started this whole roundtable together, there are plenty of actions you can take. For starters, if you want to get into abortion rights long term, look up direct action groups in your own neighborhood. Brave fighters such as clinic escorts have been doing the work of clinic defense for years. Consider getting the training for that volunteer work and working hands-on in the fight for our rights. If your circumstances can’t get you that far, I recommend supporting abortion funds and travel networks. A good one is the Brigid Alliance. This organization specializes in getting patients in the most restrictive parts of the country the healthcare they need. This includes patients who are currently in the states affected by trigger laws totally banning abortion.

CHRISTINA LADD: My greatest fear is that there will be a war over this. Or that there won’t be, and that eventually every state will bow to evangelical fascism. That birth control and gay marriage are next. That I will be raped and be forced to listen to a bunch of lies that the criminal deposit of dividing cells has a heartbeat or fingernails or some other lie. That I won’t even be able to listen to those lies, because I won’t be able to get an abortion. I don’t have one fear. They all just chase each other around, ascendant one after the other without end.

My greatest hope is that we get universal abortion rights enshrined as a constitutional amendment, and while I’m at it, I hope we also get an equal pay act and full gender-affirmation rights for trans and nonbinary people. But more immediately, I want “The Lottery.” I want stories so terrible and essential that they imprint on the collective consciousness. I want cis men to be afraid, or barring that, I want more of them to understand our fear. I hope we can make them as afraid as they ought to be, as we already are.

Thank you so much to my featured interviewees this week! I appreciate so much that they shared their thoughts with us about abortion rights!

Happy reading, and happy fighting back against fascism!