Ms. Magazine‘s fall issue that will be released next week has a cover storied titled “We Had Abortions.” Thousands of women nationwide have signed it. You can sign it here, read the petition here, and I was very glad to see that there was an option that says “I have not had an abortion but I stand with my sisters in support of safe, legal and accessible abortion and birth control” that you can sign if you have not had an abortion but want to stand in solidarity with women who have.
This is so important because it sends the message “Do not be ashamed. We stand together affirming our right to control our own bodies and our own lives.” Even many who support the right of a women to choose to have a legal, safe abortion tend to follow it up with such statements as “if there is no other option” or “of course, I, personally, would never be able to do such thing” as if having an abortion is something “other” women do who obviously made bad choices or who were in absolutely desperate situations but that “we” would never do unless our lives depended on it.
It feels like, to me, those who do not support the right of a woman or a couple to choose a safe, legal abortion have succeeded in much of what they aim for. They have made it very difficult to end a pregnancy – intimidating doctors, clinic workers, women and via legislative restrictions – and have managed to stigmatize the ending of a pregnancy, to promote it as something to be ashamed of. While I respect the preference of women to keep parts of their lives to themselves, I think often it goes beyond simple preference for privacy and is about being shamed into silence. I like Ms.’s campaign because it says “This is not something we have to be ashamed of. This is a basic right. It has been a part of women’s lived experience for thousands of years. It is not immoral, a crime, or shameful.”
I think for many women, abortion is a very difficult decision and I respect the range of feelings and thoughts that women have about how they have, or would handle the situation (although I think often we do not know how we would handle the situation until we actually face it). That said, I wish there was a way to bring a little perspective to the trauma that so many women feel with abortions, much of which I feel is a shame and trauma the movement against safe and legal abortions has helped to promote. They want us to feel horrible about getting an abortion. And they have done a good job of that. But I don’t think it is something that one should have to feel terrible about. Not that it is something that women should feel somehow happy about – just as one does not feel happy about using emergency contraception or birth control. I don’t mean to imply that abortion is the same as these things, but just that controlling one’s reproduction is part of life and not a shameful or morally problematic endeavor. I think legitimate questions exist as to when a fetus becomes a person and that all are free to make individual decisions about what they think about that and how they act related to that. I feel as though a reasonable chance of viability is when things get ethically more difficult. Prior to that, however, I want to encourage women to feel like this is a less dramatic issue that it has been made to be – respecting that we all must travel our paths in our own way, but also being aware that those who oppose the right to safe and legal abortion have been able to profoundly influence the rhetoric and tone of the ethical and moral implications of a first-trimester/early-second-trimester abortion.
I would like to craft this response more carefully but I have to prepare for a presentation on Plato for tomorrow.