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Ella Lee Dominguez: Lighting candles and cleaning crumbs as my rights disappear (Column)

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Note: The Lawrence Times runs opinion columns and letters to the Times written by community members with varying perspectives on local issues. These pieces do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Times staff.

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Friday morning, I awoke to news that the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. Unsure of what to do, I made my bed. I organized the shoes next to my front door. I took a shower and braided my hair. All the while, an uncontrollable stream of thoughts swirled violently in my head.

I thought about all the painful injustices that led us to this point — a presidential election where the majority vote did not matter, the illogical inconsistencies about Supreme Court nominations in an election year, the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. 

I put the dishes in the sink. The cups are so fragile and stacked haphazardly. I worry they will collapse under the pressure.

I thought about the members of the Supreme Court — six of whom cannot birth a child. 

I started a load of laundry. I poured the soap in and watched it bubble up. Lately, it feels like everything around me is bubbling up.

I thought about my friends — some have had abortions, some have had babies, some have had miscarriages. It’s getting harder to think of a single person in my life who has not had at least one of the three. We’re all younger than 25 and still on our parents’ insurance if we’re lucky. Despite our education, a lot of us cannot get jobs that provide health insurance. 

I watered my plants. I was trying my best to take care of things.

I thought about how the maternal mortality rate for Black women in America is 2.9 times higher than it is for white women. The numbers have grown more horrifying each year since 2018.

I lit a candle. It was not enough. I went to a different room and lit another one. I don’t think anything will ever be enough. 

I thought about my past self. I was so small kneeling in a church that was so large. I remember being scared, misled, full of guilt. I remember the holy voices telling me that my body was full of sin — that my body was a temptation. I remember the holy hands condemning the lives of women like me — condemning the lives of my queer friends. I remember when it all began to unravel around me, when I realized their power lay in making me feel fearful, in making me feel small. 

On days like today, I still feel fearful. I still feel small. 

I folded blankets and fluffed pillows. I wanted things to look nice.

I thought about my present self — struggling with an incurable menstrual disorder. I have been in and out of the hospital this year more times than my entire life combined. I worried about how my health will worsen if the Supreme Court decides to take my birth control away next, just as Justice Clarence Thomas intends to do. This is not an unfounded fear. Justice Clarence Thomas does not know what it’s like to bleed like I do, yet there is blood on his hands. 

I wiped the crumbs off the countertop. I needed things to be clean.

I thought about my future self. Am I here? Where am I? I’m lucky that I’m young. I have not yet established roots. I can leave if I want to. Will I? Should I? Does that make me a refugee — fleeing from a country where I am not safe, where I am in danger? I believe it does.

With nothing left to do, I opened the curtains and twisted the blinds, letting in the sunlight.

It is now Friday afternoon. Earlier today, the U.S. Supreme Court voted to overturn Roe v. Wade. I am still unsure of what to do. My house is clean. My hair is washed and braided. There is a slight scent of lavender and honey in the air. Things around here look quite nice — but the swirling, violent thoughts remain. 

What is there to do? What has worked before? What will work today? I’m not sure. 

Decisions. That’s all I have. Today has been all about decisions. 

I have decided to mail “Vote No” buttons to my friends.

I have decided to request an advance ballot for the upcoming election. 

I have decided to read some articles. 

I have decided to write an article.

The Supreme Court has made its decision — so I will make mine. Vote No. August 2nd.

— Ella Lee Dominguez (she/her) serves as the director of programs for Sunrise Project in Lawrence. Her background is in nonprofit leadership, communications, and artistic directing. You can find her baking banana bread on Saturday mornings and watering her cute plants. To reach her, you can send a memo to ellaleedominguez (at) gmail (dot) com.

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