This post was originally published on July 4th, 2018. But it’s as important as ever for women to talk about their own experiences, their own bodies, and their own stories. Thanks for reading, or re-reading. —Kelaine Conochan, Editor-in-chief
It’s the 4th of July, y’all! Here in the US of A, that means the freedom to celebrate the hell out of America’s birthday in any way you choose—crazy fireworks, grilled meats, 5Ks, throwing yourself full force into whatever body of water you can find, from sea to shining sea.
Freedom! That’s what America is all about, right? (Seems like the nuts and bolts on that might be starting to shake loose a little, tbh.) But for the past couple of weeks I’ve been thinking more specifically about a freedom that’s really only specific to half our population—reproductive freedom. And I’m pretty frightened for its future. The prospect of a new Supreme Court makeup and an increasingly hostile attitude towards Roe v. Wade makes it seem as though unfortunately there’s good reason to be.
Did you know that 1 in 4 American women will have had an abortion by age 45?
Neither did I. But I’m one of them. And for no other reason apart from the fact that it feels cowardly to continue to remain silent about it, I’m going to share some of my thoughts with you.
There was a really illuminating and excellent piece in the NYT Opinion column recently by Cindi Lieve, “Let’s Talk About My Abortion – And Yours.” Surprisingly, the online comments weren’t a toxic cesspool of bile (the way online comments sections tend to be). Inspired by the frankness of Ms. Lieve’s story, women in the comments of the piece shared their own abortion experiences and those of their mothers, their sisters, their grandmothers and great-grandmothers. There were tales of death, of permanent and debilitating infections and infertility, stories of legal, safe procedures, and stories of dozens of wanted children that would go on to be born. Somewhere along the spectrum of these stories from harrowing to NBD, my story fits too.
Did you know that Whoopi Goldberg had a coat hanger abortion at the age of 14? Neither did I.
Much like Ms. Lieve, my abortion story is almost banal, and the details of it are not particularly interesting. What I do find interesting, as a staunchly pro-choice American woman and advocate for reproductive freedom, are the details about it that rise to the surface of my mind, how I choose what to discard and what to leave in. You don’t need to know that I was married with 2 children already, that I was being “responsible” and that my birth control failed. You don’t need to know that it was early, so early in fact that I had to wait 3 weeks before the procedure could actually medically occur. But of course, these are the things I reflexively want to tell first. I want my abortion story to seem like one of the “good” ones, one that doesn’t bring on as much judgement as maybe another kind of story. Like a story where a woman had too much to drink and had sex with a stranger, or a story of a teenage girl who wound up in the backseat of a car with her boyfriend—these are the stories that invite our reproach, our furrowed brows, our tsk-tsks.
But the truth is that all our stories matter equally. And no matter our circumstances, no matter our means, no matter how we arrived at the crossroads of a difficult choice—all women everywhere deserve the right to be able to make it. Without the freedom to choose how and when and whether we have children or how many, most of the other freedoms don’t really matter much at all.
In terms of my own experience, I could not have been more fortunate or more privileged. So here are the parts I think you do need to know: I took a paid day off of work with little notice, because I don’t have a minimum wage job. I didn’t have to take a series of buses to a neighboring state or walk a number of miles; I drove my own car to a clinic right in my own town. I wasn’t subjected to a pointless ultrasound accompanied by a lecture about the anatomy of a fetus. I didn’t have a 48 hour waiting period, I was never in fear for my life. (I had insurance, though I never bothered to check whether or not the procedure could be covered because I feared the judgement of the person on the other end of the phone at the insurance company. I paid for it with my debit card.)
Did you know that 90% of American counties have no abortion clinics? Neither did I.
See, you already know many women who’ve had abortions, for many different reasons, all of them different, all of them valid. Maybe you are one, and maybe you feel the way I used to, afraid of people’s judgement or unwilling to be public about something so personal.
I would never tell anyone to take a risk they weren’t comfortable taking or to speak out about something before they were ready. But then I think… if not now, then when? If Trump’s presidency has given us anything of value, it’s the knowledge that none of our freedoms are to be taken for granted. They’re worth fighting for. WE are worth fighting for.
Today I’m going to find more ways to celebrate those freedoms—ALL of them. And I’m going to grill some meats with my two beloved children, who are both very much wanted and who I was fully prepared to give birth to and to raise. And while I slather my daughter’s little face with sunscreen, I’m going to send up a prayer that she will always have the freedom to choose the right course for herself and for her future.
Did you know that 99% of women who have had an abortion feel that it was the right decision at the time? I did… and I still do.