As reproductive rights activists in Texas gear up for another special session and Ohio governor John Kasich signs a budget that will make it much more difficult for women in that state to access reproductive health services, the New York Times‘ “Room for Debate” series is tackling abortion stigma. In specific, would increased openness around who has abortions, and why they make this choice, translate into increased public support for the procedure?
You can read each of the seven perspectives offered to get some answers, which encompass both pro- and anti-choice viewpoints. While I was especially inspired by Sonya Renee’s powerful entry, I also found myself nodding my head at points made by Aspen Baker and Kierra Johnson.
This is a thought-provoking and important aspect of the reproductive rights movement — and of the anti-choice movement as well. That side has been incredibly savvy about promoting the idea that if one woman regrets her abortion–or, as seems more often the case in reading the stories published on anti-choice websites, if she regrets the circumstances of her life that made abortion her best choice at the time–then no woman anywhere should ever be able to access abortion care.
But for all the success that the anti-choice movement has had in promoting the discredited idea of “post-abortion syndrome” and trumpeting the idea that “abortion hurts women,” that is an incomplete argument. Yes, there are women that regret having chosen abortion, and don’t want other women to have a similar experience. But there are also women that regret having had abortions and still believe in the right to choose. There are women that don’t regret having abortions, and women that regret the circumstances but not the choice. There are as many ways to feel after an abortion as there are women that have abortions, and sharing these stories allows for a nuanced and thoughtful way of discussing abortion that can transcend politics and partisanship.
But sharing these stories requires more than just women (and, in many cases, men) that are willing to talk about their experiences. It also requires an environment that is free of knee-jerk reactions, threats, and insults. Opening up about any personal experience requires a measure of bravery and candor on the part of the speaker. The least that they deserve are people willing to not just listen, but hear.
Sarah's first book, Generation Roe: Inside the Future of the Pro-Choice Movement, will be out March 2013. For more information, follow her on Twitter @saraherdreich, or check out saraherdreich.com.