Abortion views are dividing families and friend groups in the wake of Roe v. Wade being overturned

Erin McCarthy
The Philadelphia Inquirer (TNS)

PHILADELPHIA — Jamie Winder hasn't communicated with her parents much since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.

"I've been keeping it pretty short," said the 30-year-old Philadelphia resident, "because I don't want to open the door to that conversation."

People across the political spectrum say they have become accustomed to avoiding such topics with loved ones over the last few years — and they have doubled down in the last two weeks since the landmark abortion-rights case was overturned and now leaves it up to the states to determine whether people have the right to an abortion.

Winder, who supports abortion rights, and her parents, who oppose abortion, have had versions of the discussion before, particularly around the time that Donald Trump was elected president.

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In her Christian household growing up, "it's pretty much a given that abortion is this terrible thing," Winder said. When she disagreed with her parents and opposed Trump, who pledged to appoint Supreme Court justices who would overturn Roe, "I got accused of suddenly being super liberal and being a baby killer."

She didn't want that to happen again, she said, so for now she is skirting the subject with her parents.

About 56% of Americans oppose the court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, according to a recent NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll, while 40% support it.

When Peter DeMaio, 45, of Broomall, posted on social media celebrating the decision, he received many responses that were equally joyful, as well as one middle-finger emoji.

"I don't think that we should have the division that we have right now," said DeMaio, a devout Catholic who volunteers for Pennsylvanians for Human Life and who recently started a podcast called MenForLife.

In his in-person interactions, he said, he tries to avoid discussing the issue with those close to him who he knows have different views. But he wouldn't cut people out of his life for supporting abortion rights, he said.

"I see people doing that, and that bothers me," he said. "From a Christian perspective, we can't make our beliefs more important than loving other human beings."

Mickey Kelley, 32, of Fairmount, said he, too, was "thrilled" with the ruling and has tried to debate the topic in a "civilized" way in the days since.

Jamie Winder, in Washington Square Park in June. (Jessica Griffin/The Philadelphia Inquirer/TNS)

"My family is a mixed bunch, a majority are in favor of what I'm doing," Kelley said. "It takes humility to understand where people are coming from with this and engage in a more civilized discussion."

Megan, who works in the Capitol in Harrisburg, said she hasn't spoken with her father since an emotional FaceTime three days after the decision. She said she feels as if women's rights are being stripped away, and her father not only disagrees but has failed to allay her fears.

Megan, who asked to be referred to only by her first name so she could speak freely about her relationship with her father without upsetting her family, said the pair have disagreed about politics for years. Her father is a staunch Trump supporter, she said, and she is a Democrat.

But their conversation last week was a gut punch, she said, and left her unsure how to mend the relationship.

She said she told her father that "I'm really scared about what is going on," noting that the governor's race is set to determine whether Pennsylvania has abortion rights. When he said he would still vote for Republicans, Megan said, she became upset and visibly "distraught."

In the high-stakes election for Pennsylvania governor that will decide the future of abortion access in the state, the two candidates' records on the matter could hardly be more divergent.

"I've never gotten mad at him before because of his politics. Because I've never felt personally hurt by it before," she said. "That's where the difference lies this time."

Ultimately, she said, her father hung up the phone, saying he didn't want to talk to her at the moment.

As for Megan, she said she's deciding whether to reach out again and, if so, how.

"I'm very torn. Of course, I want to, because he's my father and I want to have that relationship with him," she said. But "I don't know if I can allow someone [to be a major part of my life] who almost doesn't see my worth, like my rights aren't worth protecting."

Ryan Wigmore, 35, of Phoenixville, can relate. He's chosen to cut off communication with those who oppose abortion after some friends sent around jokes and memes he found offensive in the days after the Supreme Court decision.

"I've stopped engaging with people that I know who are conservative," he said.

That includes his mother, to whom he has not reached out since the decision.

"Tax breaks, military spending, those are things we can disagree on and still have a relationship. You feeling my daughter does not get to have the same rights as her male counterparts — that's not an opinion you have that I want anything to do with you after" sharing, he said.

"It was a slow disconnect in drifting more toward people who share my values," he added, "but now, since Roe, it's really just been as much of a full break as possible."

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