“The challenge of history is to recover the past and introduce it to the present.” -David Thelen
Tonight launched the 43rd annual conference of the American Association of Sexual Educators (AASECT), Counselors and Therapists. These are the people that are the educational engine as well as the therapeutic resources for the progressive understanding of what it means to be a sexual human being today. I am never disappointed at these gatherings. I hear some of the most intriguing questions and compelling conversations about what it means to educate and counsel about sex in today’s complex environment.
So I shouldn’t have been surprised to hear Sarah Weddington, the lawyer who won the case of Roe v. Wade launch the conference. In her light southern drawl, she recounted the many ways that her life growing up in Texas gave her the impetus and the opportunities to rewrite the rules for young women. From her early sports memories of having to protect her innards, which was the reasoning offered of why girls couldn’t play full court basketball to the restriction of running for student office (girls could only be secretary) Sarah saw the absurdity of these limits and spent her life fighting them.
One of the first women graduates at her law school, she was a novice lawyer when she picked up the Roe case, mostly because she was willing to do it for free. She was not an accomplished trial lawyer, her history included a few uncontested divorces and an adoption case for her uncle. She took the case because she believe that women deserved the right to choose. At the time she didn’t understand that this case would be one of the defining moments in her life or that this landmark win would guaranteed a woman’s right to choose for close to 40 years.
It was a big win that grew her career into an illustrious journey. Sarah went on to serve in the Texas House of Representatives and even worked in the White House during the Carter administration. Her stories of these years fighting for women’s rights and creating opportunities for women leadership roles were at once powerful and humble.
She is still working, realizing today more than ever that the case she won in history is still under attack and that it will take more people than ever before to preserve and protect the sexual freedoms that she spent her life trying to protect. This mission is spot on for the AASECT members, who spend their lives working to educate, counsel and inspire their patients to their right and responsibility to become a healthy and high functioning sexual human being.
The work is ongoing. There are no final victories in history. Issues are alive and changing like the humans who define and fight for and against them. It is a gift and a challenge to realize that we are responsible for the history we are making today.