Wednesday, December 19, 2012

We are not ashamed

I'm not "pro-abortion" in the same way that I am "pro-vaccination." It's not like I think everyone should have an abortion. But I do think that we have to start making the positive case for abortion and re-characterizing it as part of women's healthcare. This excerpt is from a speech by Amy Hagstrom Miller, an abortion provider in Texas, given at a dinner for the Lilith Fund, a Texas charity which promotes abortion access. Please forgive the lengthy quote.
I EXPERIENCE stigma all the time in my work; the hospital will not give privileges to our physicians, we can’t secure local back up doctors, we can’t get anyone to provide us with bottled water or replace our tile floors or replace our roof or resurface our parking lot. 
I HEAR stigma everywhere:
“Abortion should be rare”
“Abortion is a tragedy”
“Abortion is only 3% of our budget”
“I am pro-choice but I’d never have an abortion”
“I am not like those other women”
“I don’t believe in abortion as birth control”

You may have heard these statements. You may have said these words yourselves. You may have thought these thoughts.

The reality is, however, that without us there is no choice. Without providers, the right to abortion is just an idea – it is just something on paper that means nothing to women in actuality.

So, what does it take to keep 47 million women and their loved ones silent? You have to spend millions of dollars to shame them – to tell them they are murderers over and over until they believe it themselves. And you must threaten and intimidate and ultimately murder those who provide them this care. For over 35 years abortion providers have been the buffer between the anti-abortion movement and the women who have abortions. We have tried to protect women and shield them from the hostility of the antis as well as provide them with impeccable medical care. This is not working.

To me, eradicating stigma is the single most important thing we can do for abortion rights in this country and it is my life’s work.
Wow! That is exactly right. One in three American women has had an abortion, and yet we're allowing people who are radically opposed to the procedure to define it as something shameful. They make women feel horrible for choosing to have an abortion, then they turn around and claim that abortions make women feel horrible. So we don't talk about it. We treat it as a dirty secret, because the only ones talking tell us that it is so. There is no one saying, "You were right to choose to have a bright future for yourself over a bleak one for you and a child together."

If I had made that choice, I would tell you now. I can only tell you about taking a friend to have an abortion when we were in high school. She was sweet and insecure, with a lot of life lessons to learn before she could be a good parent. Her boyfriend was a lowlife who hit her and mercifully disappeared around the time she got pregnant. To save money, she chose the non-anaesthetic option, emerging pale and shaky, then throwing up in the car on the way home. A few months later, we graduated and left for college. It is preposterous to suggest that her life would have been better for having a child at 18. Of course, she did the right thing. She never regretted it.

In 1972, Ms. Magazine attempted to remove some of the stigma attached to this very common procedure by publishing a list of 53 prominent women who said they had had abortions. Sadly, it seems we're in need of a refresher.

We have to start talking about the reality of women's lives. One site is www.45millionvoices.org, where women post stories of their abortions. The accounts of scared teenagers trying to scrape up the $400 for an abortion and hide from their parents should be mandatory reading for all red-state legislators.

One brave woman is publishing a real-time account of her pharmaceutical abortion on Facebook under the name I'm Having an Abortion. Despite the mountains of vitriolic hatemail she is receiving from "well meaning" anti-choice strangers, this woman refuses to be ashamed or silenced. She's not sad or damaged, not duped or coerced. Just relieved and hopeful for the future. In short, she's just like us.

Today's $5 is for the Lilith Fund, to fight legislative "regulation" whose sole purpose is to put abortion providers out of business. Becase we are not ashamed.

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