Thursday, October 6, 2011

CHOICE begins at conception

A stereotype for many reasons.

TV commercials tell us that we should be thrilled when presented with a (blood) diamond from a dude down on one knee. Billboards instruct us to expect all of our problems will be solved after a Botox injection or two. Magazines remind us that we should be melancholy when we gain 5 pounds after a delicious, heretofore enjoyable Thanksgiving meal. In fact, in that publication vein, I wrote my senior thesis on the prescriptive nature of women's magazines, but it doesn't end there--Society as it relates to women is prescriptive. They will ask how we feel about everything, but then tell us how we should feel.

And although it doesn't involve Photoshop and fancy editorializing, the world is all about how we should feel about a pregnancy. How I would love to say that this is limited to the antis, loitering outside of clinics, harassing women about how evil they are for being so selfish for not wanting to be pregnant at this point in time. They do, of course, shoulder most of the blame, and they are certainly responsible for creating guilt instead of acknowledging it. After all, we Abortioneers typically steer away from talking in absolutes, understanding the wide spectrum of emotions following an abortion. But what about when we retrace our steps, walking back to the moment of a positive pregnancy test?

There have been so many times that I perform a pregnancy test at work for a young woman, anxious and alone at the clinic. When I see the second red line appear, my gut reaction is, "I have to tell her bad news." So I deliver the news with a straight, professional, nonjudgmental face, and that face is so often met with an exclamation of, "Oh my god, I'm so happy!" And for every time that scenario replays itself, there is a put-together professional woman in the clinic for a pregnancy test with her husband or partner. I subconsciously prepare myself to celebrate with them after I give the results, only to have her burst into tears, gasping, "This is horrible."

What made me more aware of this phenomenon of assumptions and directives is one of my best friend's recent pregnancy. I make it a point not to tell others' stories here because they are not mine to tell, but the point of this account is that her story is not mine (or anyone else's) to direct, either. Her pregnancy was incredibly planned, and I knew it was in the works. When she disclosed her expectant status, I screamed and hugged her, and she told me, "I'm scared. I'm not sure I'm 100% happy." And I hugged her again and made a bad joke about how she has until the third trimester to change her mind (she smiled), and I told her I understand, because I do. I understand that women and complex and brilliant and have every right to own their bodies and all of their feelings surrounding them.

My dear friend told me that even her other staunchly pro-choice friends have looked at her befuddled, saying, "Why aren't you happier?" As though choice is a straight line, a fluid action, a yes or no. I'm not prefect in my reactions, either, but in her honor, and in her baby's honor (or in her fetus' honor, if she chooses to call it that), I want to remind the world that women's choices aren't limited to the abortion clinic, and our respect for them does not end at our expectations.

1 comment:

  1. I'm not a abortion provider, but bless you and all your readers for doing the work you do. I'm also just about old enough that I'll likely never have needed your services--and I still want to bless all of you because you were there if I would have needed you, and you are there for all your clients. You are a fine, fine writer, and I am so grateful for every post you've made here. This one on the continuum of reactions to pregnancy news is excellent.

    I've long had difficulty with the word "choice" when we talk about all aspects of reproductive justice (that's what caught my eye in your title). Perhaps you have previous posts deconstructing "choice" as useful, or not -- if so, I wish I could search and find it... last note is in fact a question: have you read 2008 -- she's got a link to a publication by Hampshire College titled, “10 Reasons to Rethink Reproductive Choice" -- which says some similar points to yours here...

    again, THANKS --


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