Tag Archives: pro-choice

Obvious Child and the Plight of the Abortion Story

When I started thinking about this week’s Role/Reboot essay on Obvious Childthe “abortion rom com” starring comedian Jenny Slate, I started out by trying to come up with a list of contemporary mainstream abortion stories from TV or movies. Without googling or wikipedia-ing, or weighing in on the quality of these stories, here’s what I came up with:

1. Parenthood (Drew’s girlfriend Amy)

2. Grey’s Anatomy (Cristina Yang)

3. Friday Night Lights (Becky Sproles)

4. House of Cards (Claire Underwood)

…. what else have you got?

I watch a ridiculous amount of TV, so the fact that I can only come up with four…. well, that leads me to the point of my essay. For a thing that is extraordinarily common and affects literally millions of women (and also their partners), we have sooooo few examples in mainstream pop culture exploring these decisions. Obvious Child is a good step, but it’s only one story, and it’s the easiest story to get pushed through the pinhole that is a Hollywood approval process: it’s about a pretty, upper-middle class white woman. Valid story? Absolutely. The only story? The most common story? Absolutely not.

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Related Post: Abortion stories

Related Post: Huffington Post and the changing iconography of the abortion debate

 

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An Abortion Story: Robin

This is not a blog about abortion, per se, but I try to make it a blog that is sometimes able to put faces and stories to political dialogue that floats so far from the surface of most people’s reality. Abortion is one topic for which that is particularly important; without real stories it is just a line of text on a bill that disempowers women to control their bodies, disempowers doctors from doing right by their patients, and replaces the complicated realities of imperfect birth control and sexuality with hyperbolic dogma. We need the stories.

So today, Robin has graciously shared hers. Remember, 1 in 3. You are not alone. If not your mother, sister, daughter, than your classmate, friend, or colleague. You can’t pretend it is those women, because it’s not; it’s everywoman. From Robin:

*    *     *     *

I knew the moment it happened. This was spring break my freshman year in college. I was in a committed relationship with a long term boyfriend who I thought I would marry, Tom. When we noticed the failed choice of contraception, I immediately knew. I tried not to let my anxiety over the situation color my life while I waited the 4 long weeks to take a pregnancy test. I went back to college, went to class and went about my life, all the while with this knowledge plaguing me. The more I thought about it the more anxious I became.

Before knowing for sure, I made the decision that if I was pregnant I would have an abortion. I didn’t tell anyone that I thought I might be pregnant but I thought Tom might know. I asked him, if I were pregnant, would he want to know? He thought about it and said yes. When the day came, when I just couldn’t stand it any longer, I told my best friend what was going on and asked her to take me to the store to buy a pregnancy test. This was something I had never done before. Up until that moment, I had been super careful, never even having a scare. I bought the one that is supposed to tell you a week early. It came with 3 tests. We went back to the dorm and I took 2.

Both came back negative.

But I didn’t feel relieved. I still hadn’t gotten my period and I still had the weird sensation. A week went by and still, no period. So I took the last of the 3 tests.

Positive. Pregnant.

And so I did what any freaked out girl would do. I went and bought more tests to make ABSOLUTELY SURE. I had done my research into a clinic. Those 4 weeks of anxious thought had brought about research into my options. I made an appointment first thing in the morning 3 weeks later. I then made the hardest phone call of my life; I called and told my mom. I didn’t have enough money and insurance wouldn’t cover it. She was really quiet and then asked me if I was ok, and if I was sure that this was what I wanted. Through tears I told her yes, it was. After telling me everything would be ok and that she loved me, she asked me if I wanted her to come. In the end, her own health issues prevented her from being there.

Then I called Tom. Another tearful conversation later, he told me he had guessed. I told him what my decision was and he agreed. Tom came with me to the clinic. We spent all day there. Initial visit including an ultrasound, a session with a psychiatrist, paperwork, blood work, etc. Everyone asking “is this what you want?” They came and got me from the packed waiting room about 6 hours after we arrived. I was awake for the whole procedure. I cried for the entirety while the nurse tried to get me to talk about anything else. It took all of 5 minutes. They put me in a recovery room with other women, all of us in recliners.

I remember the oddest things. They pointed out a speck on a monitor I was told was my baby. They had put covers on the lights in the procedure room that resembled blue sky and clouds and after the doctor gave me the meds, they seemed to move. The psychiatrist gave me a small yellow rock to keep. The brown leather recliner was heated for comfort. I remember a woman barely older than I who told me she had 4 other children at home and couldn’t afford another.

I left recovery and the clinic. I went home. And life went on. February 22 is a day that always makes me second guess, even now, 7 and a half years later.

But I know I made the right decision. I also know that were I to become pregnant today, I would choose to have the child. I am in a different place in my life. But that’s the point. It’s my choice to make.

*    *     *     *

As a reminder, this is just one woman’s story. It’s not representative of anything except that reproductive rights are intensely personal.

Related Post: An abortion story from K.

Related Post: 40 years after Roe

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Raising Your Hand: An Abortion Story

The responses to my piece about speaking up about abortion have been amazing. Friends and friends of friends and strangers have been reaching out to say, “Hey! I’m one of those women they keep talking about.” Many of them have written about shame and stigma, about regret, resignation, relief. These stories are important because they push us out of rhetorical hamster wheels and into the real world of lived experience.

With her permission, here’s part of an email from K. Let’s all remember that this is exactly one woman’s story and she speaks only for herself. Her reaction is not everyone’s reaction, nor should it be.

I’ve been processing that very difficult thing these past few months. I don’t know how I feel about all of it, but what I do know is that it is significantly harder – physically and emotionally – than I ever imagined this would be. It changes your life, even if you have the choice to make to not let it change your life in one particular way, by having a kid. Things still change. Forever. 
 
Several years back I had a scare while abroad during which a friend wrote me this: “If you are pregnant, I don’t think having an abortion is selfish.  Atoms come together and they come apart.  If anything, abortion is an actualization of your rights.  That said, it seems that abortion is tragic and awful and sad no matter what.  Abortion speaks to the spaces in between, the gray area, the inexplicable.  No one knows anything concrete when it comes to creation of human beings.  No one knows what’s right and what’s wrong.  One thing that I might find reassuring if I were in the same position would be the knowledge that pregnancy and abortion is an age-old part of women’s experience on earth.  In abortion, one is joining the countless ranks of amazingly strong women who have made a difficult decision, perhaps the most difficult decision.  In one sense, you will be far from alone.”
 
When it happened for real, I was luckily to be flooded by an immense amount of love and support.  And it’s amazing how many people I’ve discovered  close to me that have also been through this. Yet I still felt / feel alone. I think part of what is so shocking is how I always have felt like I had a voice and have stood up for those who didn’t, yet suddenly it’s like my voice is gone or I worry about what people will say, think or judge if I can find it again.
 
P.S. I recently read this phenomenal book, When Women Were Birds by Terry Tempest Williams. Ironically, I stopped reading when I suddenly was exhausted and sick all the time and could barely keep up with school/work. Months after I found out what that was and went through all this, I picked it up again. The book fell open to the last page I read, marked with a passage about how the right books at the right times can change our lives. Two pages later…well, see attached.  
Click to Enlarge.
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S(Monday) Scraps 106

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1. WEIGHT: How not to be a dick to your fat friends. Spot on advice from Marianne at XOJane.

2. HOLLYWOOD: This clip is old, but man is it good. Watch Dustin Hoffman have a few on-camera epiphanies while talking about dressing like a woman in Tootsie.

3. RACE: Kiese Laymon on multicultural writing, what it means to be a “real black writer,” and the state of modern publishing. For Guernica.

4. ABORTION: My second favorite dude comedian, Rob Delaney, writes for the Guardian about why he’s pro-choice.

5. SEX ED: The always excellent Marianne Cassidy on the sex education she wish she’d had (but never got, because she grew up in uber-Catholic Ireland).

6. WRITERS: Roxane Gay at The Rumpus applies the Vida test to race and publishing. Guess what percentage of NYT book reviews were of non-white writers?

Related Post: Sunday 105: Bodies that matter, old cities, tiny islands, literacy tests

Related Post: Sunday 104: Bookish pie charts, bro Venn diagrams, the Girlfriend Zone, etc.

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Filed under Body Image, Books, Education, Gender, Hollywood, Media, Really Good Writing by Other People, Sex

What Would Happen If They Raised Their Hands?

This week’s New York Times Room for Debate section asked what would happen if more women who had had abortions shared their experiences. The responses are predictably varied, but I like Sonya Renee’s:

The lives of actual women are so often invisible in this debate as to make one wonder who is actually having abortions. We are reduced to statistics, politicizing a profoundly personal issue. But when women speak out about our experiences, as I finally chose to do, we erase the political narrative. We remind people of the truth. We are mothers, students, lawyers, teens, humans making decisions about autonomy, family and self-determination.

I don’t believe there’s a right or wrong reaction to having an abortion. I wouldn’t invalidate the experiences of women who regret their choices just as I wouldn’t invalidate the experiences of women who found the decision easy and painless. I do, however, think there’s a lot of value in speaking up, of reclaiming the narrative from crusty old dudes. One in three women will have an abortion before they turn forty. This is not an uncommon American experience. This is not an uncommon female experience. When we treat the seekers of abortion (and their supporters) as pariahs, we are not acknowledging this reality of 21st century America.

I wrote some more on this subject and about the first person I ever knew who had sought an abortion for Role/Reboot:

roe

Related Post: Ever wonder about the experience of an abortion provider?

Related Post: How to celebrate Roe’s 40th anniversary

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SB5 is Now HB2 and the Battle Isn’t Over

If you slept the easy sleep and dreamed the happy dreams of triumphant liberalism last Tuesday night during the Texas legislative battle over SB5 (a package of restrictive anti-abortion provisions), then it’s time to wake the hell up.

We didn’t win shit. We delayed. It was damn good television…er… YouTube, but today the fight continues. Less than 24-hours after Wendy Davis stepped off the floor in her pink sneakers, Governor Rick Perry called a second special session.

Need a recap of where we’ve been and where we’re going? Yeah, so did I. Did a little research and here’s what I learned, summed up for Thought Catalog:

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What can you do?

Click here for a rally schedule.

Follow the battle on Twitter with #HB2.

Donate to The Texas Tribune, an independent newspaper providing real-time coverage.

Buy a Planned Parenthood Action Fund t-shirt, “What Would Tami Taylor Do?”. We can be twinsies!

Related Post: One abortion provider’s notes on his experience learning to perform abortions.

Related Post: Things that are NOT the opposite of misogyny.

 

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S(Monday) Scraps 105

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1. TEXAS: This is a long and beautiful piece by Amy Gentry for The Rumpus about abortion, body politics, and who we’re really protecting.

2. BADASS: Senator Claire McCaskill replies to James Taranto’s horrifying essay about how the fight against sexual assault in the military is actually a “war on men” and male sexuality. Taranto: 0, McCaskill: ALL OF THE POINTS.

3. TRAVEL: Fascinating essay by travel writer Simon Winchester about a tiny island of 300 people, Tristan de Cunha, and how he got banned from visiting for violating local customs.

4. HISTORY: In the wake of the gutting of the Voting Rights Act, Slate has an example of the dizzyingly confusing literacy tests that were used in the 50s and 60s to prevent black people from voting.

5. PLANNED PARENTHOOD: In case you ever forget what Planned Parenthood provides, a lovely essay from the blog What Are You Doing Here, Are You Lost?

6. CITIES: Chicago Magazine has an awesome series of panoramic shots of New York, San Francisco, Chicago, pre- and during industrial development.

Related Post: Sunday 104 – Books in pie-chart form, awesome ASL translators, what is a bro?

Related Post: Sunday 103 – Awesome people reading, pin-up presidents, Rich Kids of Instagram

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Wendy Davis and Her Pink Shoes

Wendy DavisThe list of things I could write about today is endless, but the nice part of having your own blog is that you only write what you’re moved to write. And Wendy Davis, man, that woman moved me! Leticia Van de Putte moved me! I never would have guessed that watching 15 minutes of a crowd screaming would move me like that, but there I was, bawling like a baby! If you didn’t watch Wendy Davis,  you missed out (but the Texas Tribune has great recaps). Unlike Davis, I barely lasted for an hour, and I was asleep before the final verdict had been called: the vote happened too late, the bill did not pass, hoorah for all!.

Disclaimer for the rest of this post: I’m going to do some nitpicking. Why? Because it’s what I do, y’all. Because I don’t know how to turn it off. Because I think it still matters how we tell the story even when we win the battle. Ignore me if you’re trying to make your good vibes last for a while. If you want to pick apart media coverage some more, read on.

So this morning, I get up to read the coverage of the epic legislative battle, and the first thing I read is the NYT piece that describes Davis, “a petite Fort Worth Democrat in pink sneakers staged a 10-hour-plus filibuster marathon in which she never sat down.” My Moran-sexism-censors start flashing (Caitlin Moran, author of How to Be a Woman says the simplest way to know if something is sexist is to ask, do men put up with this B.S.?) Normally, we don’t include clothing choices or bodily descriptions when we talk about male politicians. I posted on Facebook that a gender-flip of this would seem unlikely: “A husky/tall/lanky Fort Worth Democrat in red trainers….”

My gut reaction was that describing Davis’ body and wardrobe were not relevant to her actions on the Senate floor last night, and consequently those comments are a rather benign but contributing part of the overwhelming pattern of objectifying female leaders and reinforcing a culture where attractiveness is a primary component of how we measure female worth. I may be overstating it. Some friends on Facebook certainly thought I was, which is why I’m eternally grateful for all the smart friends I’ve got on Facebook.

Rather than paraphrase, here are a few of their counter arguments:

From Lily:  Well, the description of her frame makes me want to vomit, but I think the sneakers bit could have been framed in a way that would be perfectly relevant to describing either a man or woman staging a filibuster (I mean, here, if someone’s wearing sneakers in a setting where you’d normally wear formal shoes, then you know they’re armed to the teeth and preparing for a long battle).

From Christian:  Pink sneakers are definitely an anomaly for state reps to wear – it tends to be a more formal setting, and pink could either be coincidental or a deliberate choice (given the profile, I am going with deliberate though). They make her memorable for a news story. While I agree that a description of her frame is out of line, I think pink sneakers are at least marginally (and possibly more than marginally) relevant.

From Brie: I think she wore [the shoes] on purpose, but journo should have discussed (however briefly) the REASON why she wore them, rather than just implying ‘isn’t she just the cutest little thing?’ A simple “Sen. Davis drew attention her effort by wearing pink sneakers throughout her 13-hour filibuster.” Acknowledging that she makes choices, rather than is just a woman to be impassively described. Male gaze, etc. etc.

From RyanI’m gonna call reach, although, of course, you’re entitled to your opinion. Wendy Davis is a political unknown; people don’t know her and the media tends to describe people physically when no one knows who they are. Also, she wore sneakers instead of traditional formal footwear because she was standing for 10 hours! That seems totally in-bounds to me. Even so, as a man, my body isn’t subjected to the daily scrutiny that a woman must endure.

From Michele: I get this point in general. That said, I distinctly remember, in childhood, appreciating the descriptions of (mostly male) scientists that opened most Discover magazine articles. We’re visual people, and it does mean something to say that X is sun-tanned, Y has wiry hair, Z is wearing a blue shirt. It humanizes people who belong to segments of society (science, the Senate) that can seem super-unapproachable.

From Dan: The color “pink” is also reasonably notable. It’s a bright color and carries a generally unprofessional tone, as would neon green, bright yellow, or Giants orange tennies. If her shoes were black tennies, I doubt any mention would have occurred. In that narrow context, she willingly stepped into territory for which anyone–male or female–would be criticized.

What I love is that nobody pulled the “You bitchy feminists hate beautiful women, the color pink, shaved legs, bras, penises, etc!” card or assumed I was just being obnoxiously critical for the sake of being obnoxiously critical. Everyone responded thoughtfully and for that, I am so, so grateful. I think Brie’s comment resonates the most with me, but everyone’s notes have shifted my perspective on this a little bit.

So where do I net out? I think, like the Supreme Court, we have to apply an extra level of scrutiny to descriptions of women’s bodies and clothing in the media, especially powerful women whose influence is often undermined by objectifying coverage. There are certainly valid reasons to describe clothing and bodies (of both men and women). In this case, her sneakers served a practical purpose (she was standing for 10+ hours) and were relevant to the uber-important political action she was taking. The fact that they were pink seems superfluous to me, but I’ll allow it based on the argument that the color is significant politically (indicating a commitment to women’s issues).

The “petite” is where I really get tripped up. This was a news article, not a New Yorker profile. Per Michele’s point above, we humans do love to know what people look like, and I don’t think there’s harm in sketching a more complete picture of a public figure. That said, I’ve been clicking on random other news articles today to see if any other political figures have physical descriptors attached to their introductions. Haven’t found one yet (though send me some if you do!). There is a long history of excessively discussing female politicians’ sartorial choices (see pantsuits, scrunchies, make-up, running shorts, etc) in lieu of covering their policies or accomplishments. It is an overal damaging trend that reduces the scope of female accomplishment to that which is accompanied by pretty clothes, a trim figure, or perfectly styled hair.

Does “petite” contribue to that culture? Yeah, I think it does. I think it was unnecessary and detracts from her actions, which certainly speak loud enough. Do I think it was malicious? No. Do I think it’s the most awful thing I’ve read this week? Hell to the no, not by a long shot. That prize goes to Scalia or Jodie Laubenberg, who put forth SB5.

Related Post: Notes on 40 Years of Roe

Related Post: HuffPo and the Changing Iconography of the Abortion Debate

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You Know Her

In honor of yesterday’s 40th anniversary of Roe, I wrote up a little something for Role/Reboot. 

On This 40th Anniversary Of Roe v. Wade, Here_s Why It_s More Important Than Ever

Related Post: Happy Equal Pay Day

Related Post: “No Child in Ballsack,” and other awesomeness

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Filed under Gender, Politics, Republished!

Happy Anniversary, Roe

roeToday is the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. Tomorrow, I’ll have something more concrete about what Roe means to me, but today there’s lots of great content roaming around the internet that I wanted to give you in the meantime.

First, I want to call out a friend’s blog, Dr. Coffee’s Brain Banter. Dr. Coffee is a med student in Florida, and as part of his program he participated in abortion training through a reproductive health externship. He writes extremely eloquently about about the medicine, but also about his patients and the process. Part one is mostly science, part two is mostly ethics. Just a sample:

Where these women are is often in a very bad place, and though I was only one cog in the machine, I began to take ownership of their plight.  If they didn’t want to feel this way, and knew that ending this pregnancy was their path back to feeling healthy and free, I even felt some aggression toward that growing mass of cells.  Let’s get that shit out, now, and without apology.

I mention this because despite the normal dark-cloud tone that hangs above most dirty Ab-word discussions, probably a third of the patients I’ve seen will actually smile… and smile a good amount!  (Indeed another friend recently mentioned that her experience wasn’t much to write home about.  Quick and easy.)  They smiled as the team introduced itself, smiled as they laid back and vocalized their nervousness with a laugh, and were relaxed and calm in the recovery room.

When he first shared this writing, it reminded me an non-fiction essay called “What Comes Out” by Dawnelle Wilkie, which is also worth a read.

Have you read Caitlin Moran’s How to Be A Woman? She also has an excellent chapter on abortion that focuses on one of the most forgotten/ignored statistics: In 2008 60% of women who have abortions are already mothers. That number has actually risen to 72% in the last four years. You mean people have a harder time taking care of their families during a recession? Crazy talk! The reason I want to drive home this point about mothers is because it undermines that weird caricature that Republicans* like to point to, the “sex-crazed”, can’t-keep-her-legs-shut, slutty, irresponsible, 23-year-old. Sure, those 23-year-olds exist and I completely support their right to choose, but that’s not actually the average user of abortion services.

Abortion isn’t really about sex, it’s about economics, and childcare, and education, and healthcare. That’s not as salacious as some conservatives would like to make the story, but it is the truth.

*A commenter left an excellent point on this phrasing. There are plenty of pro-choice Republicans (and there are pro-life Democrats). This should have read, “that weird caricature that pro-lifers like to….” Thanks commenter, good call. 

Related Post: Huffington Post and the changing iconography of the abortion debate

Related Post: Things that are not the opposite of misogyny.

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