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Perspective: What's left in Pandora's box?

Detail from "Pandora" by Dante Gabriel Rossetti

In Greek mythology, Pandora was the first woman in human form. She and her husband were given an ornate box as a gift and told there was more in the box but not to open it. Aching with curiosity, she opened the box and out poured pain, suffering, misery, and death. Hence, opening Pandora’s box.

The English term Pandora’s box traces back to the late 1500s and since has been used to describe an action or event that ultimately causes many unforeseen problems. Not that this is anything new to human history, but it seems like we are opening one Pandora’s box after another in the United States today.

Weeks ago, the conservative Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, which recognized a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion. Many states had already enacted trigger laws that prohibit abortions as soon as the Court reversed Roe, often without reservations for the life of the mother. One iconic horror story is a woman in Louisiana who found out her fetus has a rare birth defect and will be born without a skull. She now has to travel to another state to receive the care she — and her baby — needs, or she must, as she said, carry her baby to bury her baby. This begs the question of what does pro-life even mean?

Our politics are so polar we tend to use extreme examples to prove our points, eclipsing all the complexity of the middle. Now we are learning that women seek abortions not simply for late contraceptive purposes, but also in the interest in the struggling life growing inside them.

But always remember, according to the myth, there was only one thing left in the box after Pandora closed it: hope.

So, should we open it again?

I am Joseph Flynn, and that is my perspective.

Joseph Flynn is the executive director for equity and inclusion in the Division of Academic Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and an associate professor of curriculum and instruction.