Speaking of Rights: Our Readers Comment

Acrylic by Margaret Karmazin


Persimmon Tree salutes the readers who responded to our call for thoughts on the current state of women’s rights, in all realms of activity, particularly in the United States. Below you will find calls for action — particularly in the voting booth — as well as angry yet determined statements acknowledging the current erosion of rights and expressing the will to regain lost ground and continue to move forward. Most Forum comments are in prose; some readers chose to respond with original poetry. All the comments are compelling and thought-provoking.


The midterm elections take place on November 8. Please vote, and urge everyone you know to do so. 

Persimmon Tree is planning a Forum for the winter issue as well — including, as topics, not only the status of women’s rights but also reactions to the election. Email ; subject line Forum Comment. Please include not only your name but also your email address and your city and/or state. We will accept Forum comments until Wednesday, November 23.

The Editors



I believe that the women of this world are at a tipping point. We have been marginalized, condescended to, abused and excluded from so many decisions that affect us directly. Right now, Iranian women are paying for their protests with their lives, and we should stand in solidarity with them even as we experience our own struggle against extremists in our own country.


Kathleen Joy Anderson
Portland, Oregon  



My car wears its Planned Parenthood decal as proudly as I wear my wrinkles. Bright Pink. All CAPS. Bold type declaring WE WONT GO BACK.


We won’t. None of us. We refuse. None of us are giving up our rights. SCOTUS be damned.

Women’s rights are under attack by two measures of power – money and laws. For every dollar a man earns, a woman earns 82 cents. Legislatures have become blatantly anti-female, yet Americans spout belief in equal rights even as we cut them down. No other country, some say, is better than ours… America, love it or leave it.

How about we change it? A new spirit will rise up. Laws created to promote the general welfare  of all Americans. Protections we all deserve. Rights we all demand.

The right to health care. The right to equal pay for equal work. The right to be safe in our communities.

The right to be female.

How much more will women take? Not much. Just watch us.

Battle lines are being drawn. We will not go back. Suit up, Sisters, and bring your brothers to the ballot box. 

Kate M. Carey
Surf City, North Carolina



An Alliance 
Iranian women have been casting off their hajibs, the mandatory head scarves that the government is so worried they keep that morality police roam the street to identify offenders. One young woman, Mahsa Amini, with some hair appearing from under her scarf, was apprehended, taken into custody, and killed. All in the name of restraining women and making them second class citizens. 


Ms. Amini’s death has set off country-wide protests against a regime that “makes women second to men in politics, in parenting, in the office and at home,” write Vivian Yee and Farnaz Fassihi in the New York Times (September 27, 2022).

Now, Nilouar Hamedi, an Iranian journalist who brought Ms. Amini’s death to light, has been arrested and is being held in solitary confinement.

In response, said a woman quoted in the article, women are gathering to chant “No to hajab, no to oppression, only equal rights.” A woman identified as Minoo pointed out “We can’t impose what we think on one another.”

Their fight is our fight. Women in Iran and in the United States want the same thing: freedom to thrive, to explore the world, to be in charge of their own bodies.

We should stand with our Iranian sisters. If we do not have hajibs to burn, we certainly have letters to write, posters to make public, and votes to cast. Iranian women have moved into the streets. It is time for action.

Carol Kammen, writing for
EAS: Erasing Abortion Stigma of Ithaca, New York



Belinda, oil painting by Judith R. Robinson



I was 12 years old in 1960. I knew what an abortion was. I knew it was bad. It was bad to get rid of your unborn child.  And illegal.


Yet, my mom did it. She and my dad had some kind of appointment with some kind of doctor.  My grandparents came to babysit us. My younger brother knew nothing.

Days later, some of my friends got together.  We were reading Readers Digest of all things.  Big article about abortions being illegal.  My friends began talking about those people who would do such a thing – these baby killers.  I sat in silence, ashamed, harboring my family secret.  Those people….

Over the years, I thought a good deal about it.

In 1973, the Supreme Court issued a 7-2 decision holding that women in the United States had a fundamental right to choose whether to have abortions without excessive government restriction.  Whoa.  What a concept. 

Hence, “a person may choose to have an abortion until a fetus becomes viable, based on the right to privacy contained in the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.”  Viability means the ability to live outside the womb, which usually happens between 24 and 28 weeks after conception.

What a liberating victory for women.  To be in control of our own bodies.

Of course there were the “pro-lifers” (a term I never liked, implying those pro-choice are really “pro death.”)

All this changed on Friday, June 24, 2022, when the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade – dismantling 50 years of legal protection.

Now, we are back to the days where women once again are made to feel shame and guilt about a difficult and private decision involving  their own bodies.  Not to mention the legal aspect.  

How can we not mention the legal aspect?

Stripping women of their rights is a slippery slope.  What’s next?  The right to vote?

Women have come too far to lose their autonomy, control, voice.  We must fight like hell to gain it back.

Ellen Reichman
Kirkland, Washington



In 1968, when having sex before marriage was taboo, I was eighteen, finishing my first year of nursing school, and pregnant. In my world unwed mothers were labeled tramps and their fatherless children bastards. Abortion was illegal everywhere in the U.S.; doctors could not legally prescribe birth control pills for single women (supposedly preventing promiscuity–but not pregnancy). 


Like over a million other young women, I went away to have the baby in secret, then relinquished her for adoption. The original birth certificate was sealed for ninety-nine years and a new legal document was created with the adoptive parents’ names. 

For most of us who landed in the predicament of unwed pregnancy, adoption was the only option. We were told that a two-parent household with the means of support would be the most loving decision because, of course, a single woman with a child was scandalous. Adoption became a lucrative business when money was exchanged for a newborn baby. Closed adoptions protected both parties from the untoward reputation of illegitimate birth, as well as protecting the adoptive parents from interference. The result was a generation of disenfranchised children who were left wondering who parented them and why they were given away, as well as women with agonizing guilt and lifelong grief.  

All of this changed in 1973 when the Supreme Court legalized abortion in the Roe v Wade decision. Women gained the right to decide whether to take an unwanted pregnancy to term, end it, or give up the baby to adoptive parents. We finally owned our bodies.  

But on June 24th, 2022, with the stroke of a pen, the United States was thrust backward into a pre-Roe v. Wade America. Some would argue that adoption, not abortion, is a welcome solution to unwanted pregnancy. These days most adoptions are open, meaning the birth mother and adoptive parents agree to communication and/or allow time together. In reality though, many adoptive parents deny the first mother visitation and, in some cases, communication. There is currently no legal recourse for the first mother if the adoptive parents refuse to communicate, leaving her again without a choice. 

There is no easy solution to unwanted pregnancy. But women deserve the right to decide the fate of their pregnancy and/or infant. 

Cathryn Vogeley
Hillsboro, Oregon
Author of the memoir I Need To Tell You (2022)



I have lived long enough to see the world both pre and post Roe v. Wade. Take away the years and the wisdom I gained from living those years. It is a strange world that has such creatures in it as the Supreme Court and others who feel we should be re-deposited in that time.


My grown-up years were spent as a single and married and then divorced female. In none of those times previous to Roe passing did I feel I had autonomy over my body and wider life.  Apartments would not be rented to a single woman on the unproved (and unprovable) assumption that she was a prostitute.  Credit was hard to establish.  Newspapers divided jobs into gender listings. Men assumed that women who had dinner with them would let them stay the night.    

Now I am officially old, disabled, and still subject to a scrutiny I did not invite.  “I am woman.  Hear me roar!” was the cry that woke us all up during the Roe years.  

I envy young women who look so together.  Are they? How will they feel when the loss of rights over our bodies becomes the loss of rights over our minds? 

Christine Emmert
Valley Forge, Pennsylvania



Standing at my kitchen sink, I can hear voices of children on the playground at the nearby elementary school. A girl is laughing, screaming, shrieking with delight, and I am smiling to myself. How good it is for girls to feel free to raise their voices. She doesn’t know it, but this girl will learn soon enough that speaking up, speaking out and – yes – even screaming is now an essential skill for girls.


In these sad times, women and their bodies have become casualties of the Supreme Court’s drive to drain every ounce of self-determination from women’s lives. Fallout from the reversal of Roe v Wade has already emerged, as states adopt their own draconian version of anti-abortion laws. Women who are having problems conceiving and want to try IVF are next in line, along with women and girls seeking birth control.

And that’s not all. I know from personal experience that pregnant women who decide to have a child can lose their jobs. Despite laws on the books, it is not uncommon to be fired in the seventh month of pregnancy, as I was in the 1990s Last time I checked, which was yesterday, pregnancy discrimination is still thriving, a situation that is likely to exacerbate satellite issues women continue to battle, including systemic racism, LGBTQ discrimination, and the perennial wage differential in most professions.

I am well aware that, as women seek abortions in states where they can’t get one, they will die or be seriously injured and traumatized. Their unwanted pregnancy will become a curse, a mark of shame, like Hester Prynne’s scarlet letter.

Where’s the hope in this scenario? On the playground, in the voice of that girl who knows how to scream, how to yell, and, I pray, how to speak up when it’s her turn. She’s got my vote.

Marianne Goldsmith
Oakland, California



This Is Who I Am
I am a woman.
I am brown, white, black, cream, tan.
I am 40, 25, 7, 67, 12, 34, 81.
I live in a nice house. I am homeless.
I don’t drink or do drugs. I am an alcoholic. I am addicted to meth, crack, heroin.
I am a mother. I don’t have any children.
I work full time. I can’t find a job, and I’m on welfare.
I have a partner. I am single. I date a lot. I don’t go out much.
I have a father, brothers, uncles, neighbors, teachers, grandfathers.
I am rich. I have enough money. I am just eking by. I am dirt poor.
I am beautiful. I have never been told that I am beautiful.
I have a sleek and slender body. I am slightly overweight. I am obese. I am too thin.
I graduated from college. I left school after the eighth grade.
I was raped.
I am a man. 
I am brown, white, black, cream, tan.
I am 13, 24, 75, 46, 19, 58, 81.
I live in a nice house. I am homeless.
I don’t drink or do drugs. I am an alcoholic. I am addicted to crack, meth, heroin.
I am a father. I don’t have any children.
I work full time. I can’t find a job, and I’m on welfare.
I have a partner. I am single. I date a lot. I don’t go out much.
I have a mother, sisters, aunts, grandmothers, teachers, neighbors.
I am rich. I have enough money. I am just eking by. I am dirt poor.
I am very handsome. No one has ever told me I am handsome.
I am strong and fit. I am not very strong, and my body is slight.
I graduated from college. I left school after the eighth grade.
I am a rapist.
I am a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner.
I see victims who report their rapes.
I gather evidence from them for rape kits to be filed with the District Attorney.
I offer prophylactics to victims for venereal diseases.
I offer the abortion pill to victims.
I am a woman who was raped.
I know who raped me. I don’t know who raped me. I might know who raped me.
I reported the crime. I am now safe. I am now in more danger than I was before.
I didn’t report the crime. I shouldn’t have put myself in danger. I just want to forget about it.
I didn’t report the crime. I don’t think anyone would have believed me.
I did not get pregnant. I am now pregnant.
I need an abortion. I can get an abortion. I don’t know how to get an abortion. 
Abortion is illegal in my state 


Zoe Burke
Portland, Oregon



Acrylic by Margaret Karmazin



We are all long past worrying about missed periods, but our daughters and granddaughters are not. Do you really want to see one of them suffer at the hands of a back-alley butcher? “Oh, that will never happen,” you say. Yes it will, because the highest court in this land has become a bastion of repressive, conservative decision-making, the effects of which will last long past our time here on this earth. Power is all that matters. Not lives, not decency, not law or historical precedent—pure, unadulterated power and anyone or anything that threatens that power, including the Constitution and laws of this nation, will be silenced and stomped with a jackboot. We’ve seen it happen repeatedly during the previous administration and it continues to happen in even more sinister ways since Dobbs vs. Jackson. Doing nothing and staying out of the fray ultimately gives tacit approval to this kind of perverted leadership.


So, I beg you to risk stepping beyond the boundaries of caution and fear of reprisal and speak truth, even if it means not being nice, because nice doesn’t live here anymore. At the very least, let’s post signs in our yard and paste bumper stickers on our cars. Call our legislators and bitch up a storm. Let’s draw a line in the sand and say, enough already. The only way we’re going to get even a little bit of nice back is for every last one of us to push back hard against those who want to take away our rights and, more importantly, those of generations of women yet to come. 

I love you all, but don’t you dare stay home on election day because you’re afraid, and you think it’s not nice to get involved or take a stand. Please vote these terrifying people out of office. It’s the only way we can survive.

Anne Moul
York, Pennsylvania



On the 25th of June, I wrote in my journal:
ROE V WADE was overturned yesterday by the Supreme Court of the United States. Women’s bodies have been turned over to the state legislatures, which means that laws like those in Mississippi, Texas, and Oklahoma will proliferate across the red states and women will have to travel—if they are still allowed to travel freely over state borders—to have a safe abortion.


It means that women’s reproductive rights are on the auction block, to be decided by each separate state. What rights will these state legislatures allow, which rights will be tossed out, what limits and purposes will they judge appropriate for a woman’s sexuality and reproductive system? Other rights may also be in danger. What about access to contraception, or the right to same-sex marriage?

In a state dominated by a moral theocracy, what status can a woman have? How much control will she have to determine her path if she cannot have control over the basic processes of her own body? What right does any state in the union have to meddle with a woman’s body?

I am well past my childbearing years. I was fortunate to witness the triumph of Roe v Wade and to have full rights to control my sexual and reproductive life. I have a grown son. But the day SCOTUS published their decision to overturn ROE V WADE, I was separated out as a U.S. citizen with fewer rights than my son or my husband. It doesn’t matter that I can’t have a baby or an abortion. The state has spoken and relegated my body to the control of state politics.

  As a woman, I am now an assembly of parts under dispute in court.

  In my grief, I wrote this poem: 

Roe v Wade June 24, 2022
I’m in mourning
for my demotion
from full citizenship,
my reduction
to a biological
function. I, and
those others, about 50 percent
of the world’s population,
we who were born
with ovaries
enlisted to serve the species.
I and my sisters and daughters
no longer hold the deed
on our bodies. They’ve been
annexed, like territory
needed to build a railroad
or an Amazon warehouse,
a victim of eminent domain.
Neighbors and the police
can drop by for coffee
to opine on the size
of my family or the number
of place settings needed
at the next dinner party.
That is, if the job
I’ve settled for
and what’s
left of my paycheck
can afford it.


Becky Boling
Northfield, Minnesota



Now that extremist positions of the far right against the rights of women and LGBTQ people have become mainstream, I have felt a growing sense of despair. The successes of the feminist movement in expanding the definitions of equality have been undermined in many states, as well as in the nation as a whole. On a personal level, I worry for my students, and my own child and their partner. What will happen to their ability to make decisions involving their own bodies? Will they be able to live as free people?


This poem came out of reading interviews in a couple of newspapers, as well as listening to what people I knew were saying after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. I also reflected on my own ability to make reproductive decisions as a woman who came of age after abortion was legalized.

A Reporter Interviews the Women
“So, what’s private?” one woman asks,
willing to social media the abortion she had as a teenager.
I knew a woman who said, “If I could have, I would have had an abortion”
in the same room as the child, who was born in the ‘60s.
Despite all the intervening news, the child did grow up
to say he pays for that knowledge every damn day.
I am the only child my mother wanted. All those bushes she left unpruned.
One of my siblings still hates me for that.
After I left home the house was abandoned,
the roof collapsing after a hurricane.
Another woman says, “I was so angry I took my anger out on the weeds.”
That was never my mother’s way.
Instead the weeds and roses took out her anger on the house.
My husband used to say, “house, baby, car”
and we were happy to choose.
A woman posted online that she was glad her fertility was gone.
51 people liked that statement, while 97 were concerned.
“It’s like the drop of a roller coaster, you know
what’s coming, but the shock—” says another woman.
The price of morning-after pills has soared.
Another inflation.
When pregnant I called the fetus the passenger,
and understood what it was like to gestate an alien.
During the delivery, the doctor said, this sometimes ends in the ICU.
The new person and I both lived through that beginning.
I wanted a baby, I had a baby, chose to assume risk.
Define private: plant a tree in her memory. 


Carol Dorf
Berkeley, California  



[Editor’s note: below are excerpts from three previously unpublished letters to the editor of her newspaper written by a reader in Massachusetts] 


Those who lead the movement to deprive a woman of access to the medical intervention of abortion insist that pregnancy involves two parties, the woman and the fetus. The denial of male involvement is boneheaded and pits the genders against one another.


There is no right to life for the fetus prior to viability. In the United States, there is a right for a woman to terminate a pregnancy. That is a fact. A fervent belief in an opinion is wishful thinking that promotes ignorance.

Can we please accept Roe as law and free women from this distraction for the important work in which we are engaged?




The patriarchy of the Catholic Church absolves men of any accountability for the act of unwanted conception. It’s not a lack of imagination that enables the disregard for women in their assignment of responsibility. I suspect it’s fear and resentment of female empowerment and independence.





[An article on] . . . the not-for-profit Providence Hospital . . . recounted how this institution had asked employees to request payment for services to which poor people were entitled as “charity” patients. I have worked in hospital settings, and the only triage I performed was in the determination of care required according to acuity, not ability to pay. I was sickened and shocked to read the article.


I don’t think healthcare should be carried in the business section of your paper. Patients are not customers and their illnesses not commodities. We need Medicare for All that guarantees medical access for sick people based on their needs, not their insurance plans or ability to pay. Politicians know Americans want a single payer system to finance health care, but answer to insurance lobbyists; and newspapers do not inform readers of the legislation that is written but held up intentionally from getting a vote. Politicians may agree to be listed as co-sponsors to legislation for the satisfaction of constituents, and still not bear any risks when there is no chance of a measure being put up for a vote. The collusion between government, insurance companies, and the media is obvious and beyond dishonest.

Thanks for at least the mention of the CEO compensation of 10 million dollars over last year. There’s an illustration of the greed that is rewarded in the U.S.

Mary Burke
Natick, Massachusetts



Angel, oil painting by Judith R. Robinson



I remember, as a young woman in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, with a world seemingly wide open to me and a life of possibilities ahead, not being at all sure what the fuss was over as the Equal Rights Amendment was being yet again campaigned over, shouted about, and ultimately left unratified. It took a short and bumptious ride through my early employment years to realize just how skewed the world is, even for privileged women.


Now, decades later, I had been continuing to glean hope from the margins, spurred most notably by appointments of women to the Supreme Court, most recently with the brilliant jurists Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor, and Ketanji Brown Jackson. My physicians are mostly women. I see more women on my ballot each election cycle, in the blue column. And organizations like Emily’s List, which aim to gather more women to run—and win—various races, light up my hope. 

But the frightening blows of losing my rights to medical decision-making given the overturning of Roe, and the new ground staked out by a partisan Supreme Court that is choosing to take away right after right regardless of settled law, are terrible. Some on the Court are apparently considering a denial of other basic rights—marriage equality among them. Added to those awful blows, and closer to home, are the losses occurring in many states, including my home state of Wisconsin, as antique laws meant for and enacted in the nineteenth century are now going back into effect. A dystopia envisioned by Atwood in The Handmaid’s Tale seems too close right now. 

And I find it discouraging in the extreme to hear even young women normalize male lack of participation in household and childcare tasks. In many heterosexual unions, “help” is really the worst of the four-letter words, as men are still given great acclaim for “helping out” around the house, the accepted assumption being that women are the ones who must eternally shoulder home-front responsibilities. There are those who say that men do so much more now—perhaps wheel the baby around the block, or do a bit of cooking. Yet it’s still true that women are the cruise-directors and general managers, making sure of doctor’s appointments, school calendars, homework, housework, and holiday planning. 

I am also, however, a woman of hope. I find a certain solace as I hear the rage and outrage over the recent assaults on our freedom. Not many want to go backward. Perhaps the sting of outrage will continue to fuel our actions and ensure voting. Perhaps more of the old-white-racist-sexist-males will finally totter toward their graves. 

I am planning to be around long enough to see more men cooking and handling childcare and more women running companies, campaigns, and Congress. And in my own life, simple household equality already reigns. My husband was telling me, earlier, what he was planning to cook this evening. 

Lynne Shaner
Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin


Artists' Bios

Margaret Karmazin works in acrylics on canvas or canvas board. Her work has appeared in literary magazines, We'Moon and SageWoman.

Judith R. Robinson is an editor, teacher, fiction writer, poet and visual artist. A summa cum laude graduate of the University of Pittsburgh, she is listed in the Directory of American Poets and Writers. She has published 100+ poems, five poetry collections, one fiction collection; one novel; and edited or co-edited eleven poetry collections. She teaches in the Osher program at Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh. Her newest poetry collection, Buy A Ticket, was published this year, and is available from Amazon. Her latest gallery exhibit was in September 2021 at the Square Café in Pittsburgh. 

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *