Here we are living in the post-Roe reality that we have long feared. Feared, but somehow that we still believed wouldn’t come to pass. Because there was a part of us, against all evidence to the contrary, that hoped somehow there might be a force of reason—some force for good that would ultimately intervene.
And yet, here we are.
Women, already grappling (as I once did) with the reality of a fatal fetal abnormality, now struggling to receive the care they need to terminate a pregnancy—an act borne of love for the life they hoped would be. Women told they must wait until they are septic or undergoing some other urgent life threatening situation before their doctors can intervene. Doctors facing a horrible dilemma—should they provide their patients the life-saving care that they need and face criminal charges that could lead to a life in prison—or deny that care and face the consequences of the medical malpractice suits that will surely follow? Children forced to carry the pregnancy of a rapist because of someone’s twisted immoral belief that bearing the consequence of that rape will somehow provide her with “healing.”
A young college woman facing an abrupt break in the dreams she had for herself. A mother living in poverty, struggling to support the children she already has, forced to continue a pregnancy that she can ill afford. A trans-man, beginning his life as the person he always knew himself to be, now being told, yet again, that his body does not belong to him and to him alone to make decisions about as he wishes.
And so, what to do? I’ve been asked this question a lot lately.
It’s a question we faced in Texas in 2013, staring down an anti-abortion bill that threatened to close almost every clinic in our state of 27 million people. A 13 hour filibuster—with no water, no food, no sitting, no bathroom break, no leaning on my desk—stood between its passage or defeat.
Then, as now, I found myself thinking about the tattered, faded print out of Teddy Roosevelt’s “Arena” speech that hung on our family bulletin board when my kids were little, tucked among their school calendars, cafeteria lunch menus, and sports ribbons: “It is not the critic who counts; not the person who points out someone else’s stumbles … The credit belongs to the person who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming.”
We won that day in 2013 in Texas, thanks to the thousands of people who showed up at our state capitol and who used their voices, not just figuratively but literally, to shout down an injustice—preventing the Secretary of the Senate from taking a vote on that dangerous bill before the midnight deadline.
But now, of course, with Roe’s demise, we’ve arrived at that “error and shortcoming” stage.
Over these last months, I’ve been ruminating on the challenge of BELIEF that we face here in Texas and elsewhere around the country. Losing battles like the Dobbs decision played a part in conditioning us to believe that our voices don’t matter, our efforts won’t help, our votes won’t make a difference. And the temptation creeps in to exit the fight—leave it for someone else.
Maybe you feel yourself tending toward that now.
But, like the good women and men around this country whose optimism has managed to outshine their anger, we’ve got to keep our belief in the possibility of a better world. The faith we have that our work can make a difference. The desire that we have to improve things for the generations to come.
The only thing that stands between us and making the difference we hope to see is hope. We need to rekindle our hope.
President Obama’s 2008 campaign was built around that idea. And when he talked about hope, he was quick to remind us that, “Hope is not blind optimism. It’s not ignoring the enormity of the task ahead or the roadblocks that stand in our path. It’s not sitting on the sidelines or shirking from a fight. Hope is that thing inside us that insists, despite all evidence to the contrary, that something better awaits us if we have the courage to reach for it, and to work for it, and to fight for it.”
I see hope in action every day. Hope is speaking out about the Post-Roe injustices people face. Hope is running for office against long odds. Hope is supporting those candidates in the face of those long odds. Hope is donating to abortion access organizations to continue their work and to family planning clinics like Planned Parenthood, more important than ever now—work that will provide people with the tools to be healthy, to prevent unplanned pregnancies, to be whole and happy and able to care for the families they already have. Hope is the work that abortion care funds are doing to make sure that people can get needed care out of state until we can turn things around in states like mine. Hope is the abortion clinic worker who, in the face of these dispiriting times, shows up day after day, because her patients need her. Hope is all of you, continuing to just show up. To be there, fighting and supporting the fight of others.
Hope is what we are left with now. And it is powerful enough to carry us through this—lto propel our fight, to champion us along on the journey ahead. For all of us, for our daughters and our granddaughters, our sons and grandsons. For the world we dream can and will be, if only we keep that hope alive.
Davis is featured in “Shouting Down Midnight,” the first installment of The Turning Point, a new documentary series co-produced by TIME Studios and executive produced by Trevor Noah, premieres Sunday, October 23rd at 10pm ET on MSNBC and streaming on Peacock.
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