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Thursday, June 09, 2005

Talkin' about abortion

posted by bitchphd
Via blackfeminism.org, a really good article about the importance of listening to women about abortion--specifically, women who've had abortions. I like the piece because it's a different take on my argument that yes (duh), women *do* think about the moral/ethical issues involved in abortion, that thinking we don't shows a lack of trust in our moral agency. And also because it strikes me as a rare, balanced, respectful criticism of feminist abortion rhetoric--without dismissing it as "tired" or "cliched" or "politically correct," the piece makes, I think, a good point that pro-choice arguments may dismiss (or be seen as dismissing) the complex feelings women have around abortion by emphasizing the bottom line that whatever those feelings, the choice is ours to make. And finally, I like it because it emphasizes the importance, yes, of material, experienced reality: broad principles are important, and I surely have mine, but in the end the point is that every person's experience is their own, and respecting that is a big part of what (my) feminism is about. Here's another story on the same subject, and a link to the new nation-wide post-abortion talkline, Exhale, that's featured in both stories.

A couple of interesting things. First, this:
"When I finally went, it was in a hospital, and I had a nice doctor who explained the procedure to me, and plenty of counseling beforehand," she said. "I was so grateful for the positive medical experience, despite my ambivalence."

She assumed that at some point, though, someone at the clinic was going to tell her how to get follow-up counseling. But no one did. "I didn't bring it up myself because if it's not something that they do, then I figured that my feelings were abnormal and would go away," she said.

They didn't. In fact, her confusion and sadness only increased.
A couple of weeks ago, when I was reading The Story of Jane, one thing that really stood out was the author's description of how respectful the service was, how it involved women in the process of their abortions, explained to them what was happening, increasingly came to understand abortion (and by extension all women's health care) as something that not only ought to be, but is, within women's power. As a consequence, Kaplan explains, many women who went through the service said it was one of the most positive and empowering experiences of their lives. There's an interesting anecdote, toward the end, of one of the service members who, after Roe v. Wade, went to work in an abortion clinic where she ran into a woman who'd gone through the service; the patient asked her, "how can you stand to work here, when Jane was so much better?" and she quit.

So, in light of having read that, it strikes me that in the excerpt above, Aspen Baker says she is "grateful" for the doctor's explaining the procedure. That's some damning stuff; having to be grateful for a doctor telling you what she's doing with your own body. And I can't help but wonder if that might not contribute to feeling ambivalent afterwards--later on in the piece, the point is made that abortion is "supposed to be a secret." Secrets imply shame. I can't help but wonder if thinking of abortion as a purely "private" matter might not create problems, no matter how politically expedient it is.

Here's another section I liked:
"Every woman who is pregnant wonders if she has a bedroom for that child; can she afford to take off the time to raise that child? Why flatten the decisions around abortion to just abortion? When women don't have jobs or health care, where is the choice? There is nothing worse than a woman aborting a baby she wanted because she couldn't support it."

Ross notes that black women were the first to resist the pro-choice/anti-choice dichotomy. "A very large percentage of [black] women are personally opposed to abortion but are pro-choice," said Ross. "Women of color agree with not giving unborn children more rights than grown women, but even when they're terminating a pregnancy, they call it a baby. This has been going on as long as we have had the debate. What women of color mostly say is that we have the right to . . . decide what children are born or not--that is part of women's power."

Near where I'm staying, there's an anti-abortion billboard that says, "God created me, Mom and Dad adopted me." The thing offends the crap out of me every time I drive by. Here we have a supposedly pro-life argument that *completely erases* the role of women in creating children; the child's birth mother isn't even acknowledged. A more chilling demonstration of the wrongness of a lot of so-called pro-life rhetoric, I cannot imagine.

I wonder what it would be like to live in a world where abortion wasn't seen as a private matter, but instead as a right, an innate power of women. Where pregnancy and childbirth were seen, likewise, as power--truly, not just in the lipservice way we now have. Where creating life was treated with real respect. A respect that includes respecting women's ability and right to decide when they are or are not ready to wield that power.
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