Don’t talk about abortion in mixed company. Don’t talk about it with friends unless you’re confident they feel the same way. Definitely don’t talk about it amongst family. You just never really know how people feel about it, unless they’re opposed to a woman’s right to it. Then you probably know. Because they talk about how awful it is. And if you, feeling how you do, let them know you feel differently, they’ll demonize you. They’ll think you’re a monster. Be polite, be careful. Don’t talk about abortion.
That’s basically how I’ve felt about the topic of abortion- how I’ve been made to feel about it- for as long as I’ve had an opinion about it. It’s not that I don’t talk about abortion. I talk about it a lot, in a lot of nuanced and layered ways, covered with real emotions, painted by real life experiences, but only with people I know feel the same way, in safe spaces, in whispers, in huddled groups of girls or women behind closed doors or in closed Facebook groups.
I never dreamed I’d talk about abortion out in the open like this, on my blog. “Definitely do not blog about abortion!” my head is screaming at me right now. But my heart is full of fire and fury and it’s so fucking sick of listening to my head and this tired old narrative that people who don’t oppose abortion as a women’s personal right are monsters and evil and ANTI LIFE.
My heart might be lighting my career on fire right now, burning bridges with “friends” and family, and it doesn’t care. Because my heart knows it’s good and it’s not evil. My heart knows that it cares deeply about life, about lives, about women’s lives and children and babies. My heart is done being quiet and letting people make up fables about the “kind of women” who don’t oppose abortion.
We have to talk about abortion more, and louder, and out in the open- at least those of us who have the strength and the platform and the mental stability in the moment- those of us who have been told to keep our deeply held beliefs and life experiences to ourselves.
We have to talk about how we absolutely would have had an abortion if the guy who raped us in college got us pregnant at the age of 19 because college was our only chance, and nobody would have believed he raped us.
We have to talk about how we did have an abortion because the condom broke and we got the positive pregnancy test after he left us with a black eye and a broken wrist. Because the only way to really break free from him was to never have any ties to him.
We have to talk about how we had an abortion because we were so severely depressed that we thought constantly about taking our own life and the medicine that was keeping us from hanging ourselves was not compatible with pregnancy.
We have to talk about how we considered having an abortion because we didn’t have health insurance, and we were $25 away from living out of our car, and we were relieved when we miscarried.
We have to talk about how we had an abortion and went on to enroll in the military and serve our country for 5 years before getting married and having 3 children.
These stories we tell each other in huddled whispers, we have to let them out… if we can, in some way. Maybe we let the strongest speak them for us, maybe we share anonymously, like I shared the stories above. There is danger in speaking these things out loud for some of us, I know. I’m not trivializing that. And yet, staying quiet and polite, protecting ourselves, it’s left them all the room in the world to tell the stories for us.
They are using abortion for birth control, they are sluts, they are irresponsible, they don’t care, they’re callous and cold, they don’t think about consequences– all the things people will tell you about women who get abortions when they don’t actually know women who get (or at least talk about getting) abortions.
They definitely most likely know women who’ve had one who would never dare mention it in their presence. It would shock them. They would say “but she’s a good woman,” because she is. Because good women get abortions for a lot of valid reasons.
In the comments section of a friend’s Facebook post about this topic, a woman stated that abortion is the only issue that is strictly black and white for her, then she went on to say she doesn’t give the nuances too much thought- the rape, the poverty, the oppression, the economy, the diseases. Abortion, I’d agrue, is possibly the most gray and muddied argument of our lifetime. If you can’t see the gray area in between, you’re simply choosing not to pay attention. You don’t have enough gray area voices in your life (because they are probably scared to ever say anything to you, honestly).
This is not to say I don’t see and hear and try to understand the people who are deeply morally and religiously opposed to abortion. Because, again, I know this is not two sides of a coin, and I can’t just stand on my side and ignore yours.
I say to those of us who fight for a woman’s right to choose, we must leave room in the gray for the people who are very opposed to abortion. We must give them room next to us so they can do the work alongside us to lower abortion rates.
And to the people who are deeply opposed to abortion, I want to be clear you understand what I’m saying, so I’ll say it again. There is room alongside those of us who will fight to never take a women’s right to choose, to work together to lower the abortion rate, to save even more lives.
What if we could get free access to birth control for all women, if we could raise the minimum wage to a livable wage, if we could get medicare or at least better healthcare for all? What if we worked together to fight rape culture, to get rapists prosecuted, to take a better stand against domestic violence, to give women the tools they need to leave and feel safe when they are threatened by men? What if we took the time to learn more about the school to prison pipeline, and we worked to dismantle it? What if we started believing women and stopped trying to control them? We would save so many lives, y’all.
I don’t believe for a minute that anyone wants to have an abortion. I want to live in a world where far fewer women have to face that choice, too. But you know what’s not going to get us there? Legislation. Outlawing abortions is not going to stop abortions. It will stop safe abortions.
The rich always have and always will have access to safe abortions, legal or not. It’s the poor who will die trying to get them. More lives will be lost, not fewer.
We have to have nuanced, gray conversations, all of us who are really invested in the saving of lives. We have to talk about abortion more.
All that said, we’re not going to talk about it in the comment section here because I don’t have time to moderate it. I encourage you to share this post and talk about it in your own spaces, instead.