Thursday, July 9, 2009

The sound of silencing

"I just don't think abortion should be used as birth control."

"Nobody wants to have an abortion."

"Abortion is tragic, but necessary."

I've heard the above statements more times than I care to count. I know that I've said that I don't care how people frame it, I jut wish there were more people who were vocal about being pro-choice, but honestly, when you classify and qualify it, it's no longer a basic human right.

A woman who chooses an abortion does not deserve to have words put into her mouth. She has plenty of voice that she is probably afraid to express because it doesn't quite match those PC bumper sticker statements.

A woman has agency when she can say, "An abortion was the best choice for me, and I'm not sorry." She lacks agency when the right to have an abortion is taken away from her, but also when we tell her it's a tragedy that she can make such important decisions about her body. I've spoken with so many women who tell me, "This abortion will be a relief, and I'm so glad this clinic was here for me." Even the ones who say, "This was the most difficult decision I've ever had to make, but I know this is right," say it with empowerment.
Trusting women is unconditional. It's not enough to say that you can get behind certain circumstances. Some women really do use abortion as birth control because that's what it is, isn't it? Maybe another form of birth control fails, or maybe a woman can't stand hormones and her partner doesn't care about condoms, and maybe the healthcare system does not allow her to prioritize well woman visits or let her access affordable contraception. That doesn't mean she has to have a child. If abortion is her only option, it probably doesn't exist in a vacuum.

It's awful that we have to discount and stigmatize such individual experiences. When I counsel, I really do get to talk with so-called "welfare moms" who glow with pride about their five kids, who put their heads in their hands as they tell me about how hard it is to feed their families, and who hesitantly confess that they have the audacity to consider going back to school. The body language is shame. When they hear talk about how women get pregnant so carelessly and have abortions so guiltlessly, they learn shame. In the 20 or so minutes I have with them, I can only try fruitlessly to let them know how much I respect them and their choices, not in spite of their choices.

Let's put words back in the mouths of the women. As a pro-choice community, it is our job to listen and to speak out, but not to speak for.


  1. "If abortion is her only option, it probably doesn't exist in a vacuum."

    heh! funny choice of words.
    (sorry, i couldn't help it)

  2. Ha! I didn't realize that, and I'm usually all about puns!


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