Thursday, January 20, 2011

Abortion is still a dirty word, and no one wants it to be normal.

I was invited by a friend to attend this event.  It's titled "SPEAKOUT to normalize abortion".  The thumbnail image associated with the event is a photo of a keychain that reads "I had an abortion...and I don't regret it."  It sounds like the purpose is to give women a safe place to share their experiences and stories.  I think they really need a new PR rep, because the title and the image are freaking me out. 

I am pro-choice.  I believe every woman has the right to make her own educated, informed decisions regarding her reproductive health.  I would prefer, of course, that women make those educated, informed decisions well enough in advance to avoid an unwanted pregnancy, but as the old saying goes, wish in one get the picture.  Women and girls get pregnant, unexpectedly, all the time.  It happens.  And the circumstances surrounding every single one of those conceptions are different from the last and the next.  That's why I'm pro-choice; because we don't all fit into the same boxes.

The title of this event bothers me, though.  "normalize abortion"?  I guess I know what they're trying to say - that "abortion" shouldn't be a dirty word, that there shouldn't be so much stigma attached to it, that women have abortions for all different reasons and that they shouldn't be ashamed.  Still, the title makes me go, "uhm...I don't want to live in a world where abortion is the status quo".  And the thumbnail picture?  Who'd carry a keychain like that?  I mean, seriously. 

I have a few friends who have confided in me that they've had abortions; I'm sure I know several more women who have and haven't told.  Surprisingly, none of the friends who've made this confession fit into the mold I'd imagined in my head - none of them look the way I'd imagined a woman who'd abort a baby would look,  and none of them made the choice they made because they were young, single, or failed to take adequate precautions to prevent pregnancy.  All were in their mid-twenties or later, all were in relationships, all were victims of some form of abuse, all were making use of birth control.  And all found themselves unexpectedly expecting, in a situation where they honestly felt that abortion was the best choice they could make - not only for themselves, but also for the child they were unintentionally carrying.  I know, I know - so many people want to adopt, I hear you.  But sometimes, fear or inability to raise a child is not the reason this choice is made - sometimes the choice is made because a woman fears she wouldn't survive the pregnancy, and I'm not talking because of pregnancy complications here.  Again, we don't all fit into the same boxes. 

My friends who've undergone this procedure, for the most part, don't regret their decisions.  But I don't think I'll ever see them carrying a keyfob that announces the choice they made, either, and not only because of the stigma attached.  What a horribly painful, personal decision!  I simply cannot fathom the emotional weight such a choice would carry, and I imagine it's not something that goes away once the bleeding has stopped and your hormones are back to normal.  My miscarriage threatened to send me into a tailspin of "OMG this is all my fault and I'm a terrible person" - I can't imagine the loneliness and sadness and fear of having to choose that for myself.  A keychain advertisement is tacky, at the very least. 

I follow a blog called Every Saturday Morning.  It's written by volunteers who every week stand in front of Kentucky's only clinic that provides abortions, escorting clinic patients safely through the mob that shows up every week to protest the rights of those patients to have a legal medical procedure.  On their Facebook page once, they posted a video of a man confronting these protestors - he used his cell phone to confront the elderly Catholic women who'd been spewing hate and vitriol in his direction as he'd led his wife into the clinic.  He told the women that the child his wife was carrying had died and needed to be removed - that is why they were at the "abortion" clinic. 

Every person you meet is fighting a battle you can't see. 

Facts are facts; abortion is not something anyone wants normalized.  No one wants to see a day when a woman gets pregnant and automatically thinks "Hmm - do I go to a prenatal exam, or should I just have an abortion?"  When you use words like "normalize abortion", that's the world I imagine.  "SPEAKOUT to Destigmatize a Woman's Choice" perhaps would've been a better title, or "SPEAKOUT to End the Silence" or something.  I see and understand the reason and need for the event; I just don't like the title and image they're using to spread the word - something about it seems flip; not appropriate for the gravity of the conversation.   I don't like it a lot. 


  1. I agree with everything you wrote! I too knwo women who have had them and certainly were not what I had imagined of a person who needed to do that. But, everyone is different...I like how you say we have different boxes! I don't think a woman can fully understand unless she has been in that situation!

  2. I agree wholeheartedly! I'm in the box of "I'm pro-choice but wouldn't personally choice to have an abortion." As you said, there are so many different circumstances that there is no way to pigeon-hole all women into one category.

    BTW - thanks for visiting/following my blog.


  3. God, I freaking love your blog and your writing. I agree with this article and your views 100%.


  4. This is my first visit to your blog! You are an excellent prose-picture-painter!

    I had the humbling honor of being a part of this speakout. We created a space for people to tell their stories where they wouldn't be shamed or made to feel "other". The night was full of tears, but also laughter. Gasps of horror but raging high fives, too.

    The fact is one in three American women will have an abortion. Over half in the rest of the world.

    Abortion is normal, is usual, is a regular part of reproductive health care.

    I sense that you are equating normalizing and de-stigmatizing with trivializing. But nothing could be farther from the truth. A woman's choice of when, if or how often to be a mother is a deeply personal journey into which government, or social constructs, or religion ought not tread unless invited by that individual.

    I wish we had the America that never had to deal with an unintended pregnancy. An America with sudsidized maternity, where childcare was safe and abundant and affordable, where education prepared men and women equally to join a workforce that offered the same opportunities based on ability as opposed to genitalia, where the measure of your character mattered more than the name of your neighborhood.

    But we don't.

    And in our current America, hard choices about family planning must be made. We live in a world where the best thing for some families, for some women, for a third of women, is to terminate pregnancy.

    That third ought not feel like outcasts because of politics, or religion, or some vague social construct that still adheres to some evolutionary outdated biological imperatives.

    That's why I joined in and lent my efforts to creating that space. And why I hope to do it again as soon and often as is necessary.

  5. Christie, thank you so much for sharing, here and there. I agree with most of what you said, and you're right, I did read "normalize" as "trivialize".


Please don't make me cry.


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