Column: How you become a woman


Junior Margaret Morris holds a sign at a recent women’s march. My friends and I attended a march in downtown Los Angeles protesting for our reproductive rights May 14. The thousands of faces marching alongside me were a reminder that women are so much stronger and powerful than any outrageous law. We will win this.

By Azel Al-Kadiri, Columnist

Last week I realized I had only one more column left to write for my junior year. I was excited by all the possibilities for my 11th grade swan song. From issues relating to sexual assault, double standards in pop culture, major achievements in feminism and political injustices, I felt as though I had covered a lot of the bases. 

What did I want to say in May?

Then I opened Instagram. Immediately, I was bombarded with distasteful infographics covered in pretty pink fonts and designs. The words read, “What Happens If Roe v. Wade Is Overturned?”

The next morning I sat in a class full of young girls just like me. I stared anxiously at every single one of my teachers, all of whom are also female, waiting for one of them to mention the fact that our reproductive rights could be taken away. 

None of them ever did.  

I understand that nothing is official yet. This conversation is following the leaked Supreme Court Draft Opinion that was published by Politico, a political journalism company. Currently, the document is a draft; however, if the Supreme Court does overturn Roe. v. Wade, many women throughout the country will lose their right to abortion. 

I can’t believe this is still a conversation we are having. I truly can’t fathom that there are people in this country who think the reproductive rights of women are a debate worth having. 

I’m tired of being polite and understanding about this issue. It’s painfully clear to me that the same people who preach their “pro-life” opinions are the same population who refuse to wear a mask on an airplane. 

You don’t care about fetuses, you care about controlling women. If you did care, you would change the fact that America is the only wealthy country in the world that doesn’t offer a national paid parental leave program

People are so focused on the events occurring in a woman’s womb, asking questions like, when does the baby’s heartbeat start? Or, at what week in her pregnancy does she lose control of her own body?

I have a question: If the country does start banning abortions, will those who overturned Roe v. Wade enforce paid parental leave and improve the nation’s foster care systems?

It astonishes me that still, in 2022, conservative and more importantly, religious beliefs can become matters of the law. No one is telling anyone they have to get abortions, so why do women’s reproductive rights concern these people so much? It’s not your body. 

I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t disassociated myself from the problem. In the past, I have been assured that I have nothing to be afraid of, that it’s only the “red” states with traditional and republican values that will enforce abortion bans.

In September, I wrote a column titled “My heartbeat, heartbreak,” a personal reflection on the Heartbeat Act, a law passed in Texas that officially banned abortions after six weeks. 

To quote myself, “Let’s be clear, this isn’t a Texas issue, it’s an American one.”

If Roe v. Wade is overturned, up to 28 states across the country could ban legal and safe abortions. I can only imagine how many state and local governments will jump on this opportunity to strip women of their rights.

In an infographic done by the New York Times, thirteen states with “trigger laws” were highlighted. States such as Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, South Dakota, North Dakota, Montana, Oklahoma, Texas, Louisiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansaw and Texas, have had laws since Roe v. Wade was established that plan to ban abortion when the Supreme Court gives the go-ahead.

This could be the go-ahead. 

People can still walk around with guns, there is currently a war in Ukraine and every day we are closer to losing the battle against climate change. 

But no, let’s focus on making sure the Constitution can’t protect a woman’s right to an abortion. That makes total sense, America. 

Roe v. Wade was established 49 years ago in January of 1973. I remember learning that and thinking how shockingly recent it sounded. It sounded so dated and medieval to me that there were women throughout the 20th century who didn’t have the right to an abortion.

Funny isn’t it, how we could go back to square one. 

This week, when I walked the halls of my girl’s school, I looked extra closely at the faces I didn’t know. I stared at the short and scrawny middle schoolers with their khaki skirts and oversized backpacks. I listened to them giggle on the school bus, sing in the hallway and chase each other around the fountain. 

Every day these wide-eyed girls look at the big kids and imagine what they will be like, look like and act like when they are their age. They imagine themselves as high schoolers. They imagine themselves as women. Not long ago, I was doing the same thing. 

So how do we tell them? How do we let these sweet girls know what being a woman means today? Where is the line between being innocent and being educated? 

Sooner or later they will learn. A mother, a sister or a friend will have a story to tell them, and these girls will listen. Their ears, once full of laughter and fairytales will begin hearing the stories of sexism, rape, assault and injustices experienced by people before them. 

That is how you become a woman. By understanding the pain of other women. 

Understanding that even though it’s your body, there are people in this world who will work very hard to take that away from you. And often, those people who make decisions about the reproductive rights of women, aren’t women at all. 

These young girls will learn eventually, but for now, I hope they never have to see Roe v. Wade overturned. 

As we enter this era of fear and concern, we are all faced with the question: How can I help?

By donating and sharing the resources of reproductive organizations like Planned Parenthood, Center for Reproductive Rights and The 19th we are actively contributing to change. Look online or ask a friend if they know of any upcoming marches and protests. There is nothing more powerful than women fighting for their rights.

The month of May came quickly. At the start, I had a choice about what I was going to write about. I had so many options to choose from. When I turned on the news, suddenly, I didn’t have a choice anymore. There was only one option.