I heard over the Twitter that Texas Senator Wendy Davis needs more material for the heroic filibuster she’s undertaken today in an effort to kill a really, really bad anti-choice bill that otherwise stands to be passed by the Texas state legislature, so I edited my now-thrice posted story of my own abortion. Following you can read what I sent – I hope it helps, but I really wish I could just go and stand in her place for a few minutes. I’m so grateful for what she’s doing – she’s absolutely an American hero.
She has to make it until midnight tonight, a little less than three hours from now – if you have a story you’d like to send, you can send it to Jessica Luther who is in Austin and will pass it on: luther [dot] jessica [at] gmail. (If you don’t live in Texas, just don’t mention your locale).
I’ve had an abortion. Have you?
The current legislative effort to essentially eliminate abortion in the state of Texas has generated a great deal of raucous argument; as usual, the argument suggests the existence of clear-cut opinion, the “supporting” or “opposing” of the act itself.
What is never discussed are the gray areas.
Of course, women within the reach of this story know their own answer to my question; what many of the men in their lives don’t realize is that they would be surprised by the truth.
Many men don’t know that their wives, sisters or mothers have, in fact, terminated a pregnancy. They don’t know because the women they love fear their response. Will he see me differently? Will he — figuratively or literally — kill me? Witness how shocking it was when Wyoming State Representative Sue Wallis, a Republican, disclosed her own abortion in 2011.
As a result of these fears we – as a nation and as individuals – largely don’t talk about abortion. And when we do, we’re often not honest. The shadow of perceived opinion is very long. Publicly we speak as if there were two clear positions — but in private, most of us know this isn’t the truth.
My abortion is a thing of which I’m neither ashamed nor proud. I wish that I hadn’t had to do it, but I did.
The average person might want to know why — because most of us have a sliding scale of morality. Even some staunch opponents will agree in cases of rape; others where there is genetic defect; a larger number, if the abortion takes place early in the first trimester; many, of course, think it’s always a woman’s choice.
I believe there is a vast middle ground made up of most Americans, those who feel abortion is neither irredeemably evil, nor free of moral implication. Witness polls conducted recently by the Pew Research Center: just over half of Americans think that abortions should be legal in all or most cases; 25% are willing to countenance the idea in very specific instances. Only 16% want to ban abortion outright.
At least some of our national ambivalence reflects more about our culture than anything endemically human: Japanese society, for instance, maintains a standard ritual, mizuko kuyo, to memorialize aborted or miscarried fetuses and stillborn babies. In a paper discussing the rite, Dr. Dennis Klass, a Webster University psychology of religion professor and a grief expert, writes: “The abortion experience is seen as a necessary sorrow tinged with grief, regret and fear which forces parents to apologize to the fetus and, thus, connect the fetus to the family.”
This describes my own experience well — but I’m an American. I carry a different culture, and I fear that in apologizing, I accept some notion of personhood that somehow “makes” the entire thing — murder. So, I hesitate.
I ask myself: When I aborted my first pregnancy, did I kill a baby? No. But did I stop the potential for life? Absolutely. Insofar as life itself is simultaneously the most mundane and most divine fact on our planet, this means something.
But I’m willing to say that I don’t know what that something is. I can only function in the cold reality of my own world — and as such, I alone can judge whether my abortion was a moral choice. It wasn’t easy, it wasn’t happy, but it was the least-bad of two bad choices. It was moral.
I don’t know anyone for whom abortion is easy; I don’t know anyone (any woman, at least) who sees abortion as birth control. These choices are stunningly complex. When we deny that, when we talk as if we are all 100 percent clear on this issue, we deny our humanity. And we deny our grief.
And why, in the end, did I have my abortion? I’m not going to tell you that—as Rep. Wallis said in 2011, it’s “none of your damned business.” You and I don’t know each other, and my reasons are personal. I don’t need to defend them.
And neither does your neighbor, the stranger at work — nor, perhaps, your wife.