Thank You to the Millions of Women Who Have Had Abortions
Thank you to the millions of women who have had abortions.
In the forty-two years since Roe v. Wade recognized abortion as a constitutionally protected right, many words have been used in conjunction with women who have abortions. The words ‘thank you’ are not among them. So just a few of my thank you’s to the women of all ages, races, classes, religions, and cultures who have managed to obtain the abortion care they wanted and needed:
. Thank you for negotiating a broken health care system.
. Thank you for withstanding poverty, racism, and gender inequity and making the best of your life and your families’ lives.
. Thank you for making your own life choices even when you have experienced sexual violence and intimate partner violence.
. Thank you for being so loyal to the children you already have.
. Thank you for taking most of the responsibility for childrearing, and for deciding, honestly and courageously, when you can’t do it more.
. Thank you for making your own personal decisions even when you fear judgment and stigma.
. Thank you for doing the best you can with relationships in a culture that doesn’t seem to value or model healthy interactions between men and women.
The majority of women who have abortions are already mothers. They know what it takes to give birth, and what it takes to give life—to provide care and to nurture to raise a child into a healthy adult. When a woman doesn’t want to or cannot take on this responsibility and ends a pregnancy, I say thank you.
I also have some apologies:
. I’m sorry you are caught in between two political philosophies so that any pain you have experienced may be used as a weapon for one side or another instead of something to heal with no strings attached.
. I’m sorry our society is rife with prejudices and inequities so that those of you with the fewest resources often have access to the fewest services.
. I’m sorry that every day thousands of you are desperately seeking funds for health care that should be affordable and available to you in your own communities.
. I’m sorry that your zip code more and more determines the pregnancy options to which you have access.
. I’m sorry that when you want to have children there are so few social resources for support.
...that the United States is worse than 60 other countries in maternal mortality
...that women of color are significantly more likely to have poor pregnancy outcomes
...that childcare is expensive and often not good quality
...that pregnancy is the #1 indicator for intimate partner violence
...that there are so few birthing options available to most women
...that the most effective contraceptives are still financially out of reach of many women
It is not enough to tell our stories, or even to address the devastating inequities of race, class, and gender. We must transform the way we think and talk about abortion in our culture so that we are reflecting the reality of most women’s lives. And we must reclaim the right to define ourselves, the deepest goodness of what it takes to make a choice about abortion, and the integrity of women who make these choices, sometimes easily and sometimes with great difficulty.
In the past forty years the word that has been applied to this by anti choice forces is murder. This is such an essential misstatement of the experience. Murder implies malice. But the decision about how to handle a pregnancy is based on finding the greatest good in often complex circumstances. In the more than forty years that I have worked as an abortion counselor, the process I have been present for is a quintessentially moral search for the best outcome for all lives. This sacred process calls on the all the courage and integrity a woman can muster. We know that decisions about abortion involve questions of life and death, religion, cultural expectations, relationships, spiritual beliefs, and so much more. We who provide abortion care know that good women make these choices every day. We who trust women can stand shoulder to shoulder with them and help them make peace with the difficult fact that the greater good involves the ending of life. We focus so much on the right of the individual to make these choices that we may forget the importance of open and honest conversation about this most difficult, yet real, part of abortion. We are all scared of that part, so we have left it to the anti abortion forces to define this ending of life as murder. That means we have left women to try to make sense of this without the support they need from those of us who trust them.
“Women have always been the gatekeepers of life. It is not just our right, but our responsibility to decide when and whether to bring new life into the world through our bodies.” (author unknown)
In our culture abortion has been described in linear terms—good/bad, right/wrong, legal/illegal. Yet, like most of life’s most elemental experiences, abortion and other pregnancy-related experiences are circular. The circles encompass contradictory experiences of sadness and relief, life and death, endings and beginnings. Resolution of any of life’s mysterious passages begins when we can accept the contradictions.
It has long been the dream of feminist activists to have excellent prenatal and birth care; safe accessible community based abortion care; safe housing; access to excellent and effective contraception; freedom from intimate partner violence and rape; child care; safe housing, pay equity; sex education that encourages communication and partnership between men and women; and so much more. In the past several years political power has been seized by people who will do anything they can to circumvent all those goals. But the pendulum cannot swing to the Right forever. And when the tide turns, those of us with an unquenchable fire for justice for women will be here.
So thank you to the millions of women who have had abortions.
Charlotte Taft, Director Abortion Care Network
January 22, 2015