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Paris Calling

Adieu Roe, Watching From Paris As My Rights Are Stolen Away

A young American takes in the most personal and political moments of her life far from home. What will it feel like when she lands back in Idaho?

Adieu Roe, Watching From Paris As My Rights Are Stolen Away

Watching the U.S. news from the French capital city

McKenna Johnson

-Essay-

PARIS — When Roe v. Wade fell, I was sitting in the lobby of my long-stay hotel nestled among the skyscrapers of the La Defense business district just outside the city limits of Paris. I had spent the day working my summer internship remotely, while dealing with a leaky ceiling and a hotel concierge who didn’t understand my broken French.

My first reaction to hearing the news was physical. I got chills; my heart sank; I felt sick; Then I texted my mom, my grandma, my childhood best friend if they had seen the news. Sitting with another intern from my program, a student from Texas, all we could do was stare at each other. I can’t speak for her, but I simply couldn’t find words.


I am angry. I am sad. I am scared. And I am in France, watching my U.S. constitutional rights deteriorate from abroad. It’s surreal.

If my current travel plan stays the same, when I return home to the U.S., I will land in my mother’s home state of Idaho in late July. Idaho has a trigger ban on abortions with exceptions for rape and incest that is expected to go into effect just days after I arrive.

Essentially, I will be returning to the U.S. with fewer rights to my own bodily autonomy than I had when I left two months earlier.

Abortion rights are on solid ground in France

Spending my summer in Paris as a tourist-intern hybrid has been an exhausting dream, but my dream has suddenly become memorable for an entirely different reason.

Last weekend, I watched through the lens of Instagram posts as many of my friends mobilized with protests against our most basic rights being taken away. I happened to be scrolling through the photos and videos, the anger and tears, from a gorgeous beach getaway on the coast of Normandy. I went boating; I collected seashells; I snapped pictures as the most picturesque rainbow spread across the sky; I watched the sunset over the water. I somehow found a moment of peace that I can only imagine is pretty hard to find right now back home.

The jokes I’ve been making about staying in France have taken on a whole new meaning.

I now have a month to process what living in a post-Roe world means before I enter it. One more month of living in a country — however temporary — where abortion is still legally protected, everywhere, without a patchwork of state laws to navigate.

France legalized abortion in 1975, two years after the U.S. did, and will have it for quite a while longer. Since Roe was overturned, the French government has already begun to mobilize to enshrine the right to abortion in its constitution. There has been talk about trying to somehow codify abortion rights in the U.S., but at the moment I have little faith our government will see it through. The Supreme Court decision is with us for years to come. The jokes I’ve been making about staying in France have taken on a whole new meaning.

At a protest against the overturn of Roe v Wade in Paris

Oceane Chipon

Going back, and backwards

The weight of what is happening in America right now is daunting. As I watch my friends take to the streets in the States while I ride the metro to work, I can’t help but feel the smallest twinge of guilt, irrational though it might be, that I am not at home.

I will relish my last moments of living as a guest in a country that respects its women’s right to choose. I will also be sure to soak up the singular beauty of this city and eat as many crêpes as I can.

Then I will head to Charles de Gaulle airport to board a plane that will take me home, 3,000 miles across the Atlantic — and 50 years back in time.

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