By Sarah Grey
Friday, 11 July 2014
I had an abortion four years ago. I just recently decided to start talking about it.
I didn’t stay silent out of guilt; the abortion was very much the right decision. I didn’t talk about my abortion because one doesn’t talk about one’s abortion. It just isn’t done. You don’t casually drop it during a playdate. Women tell their birth stories in graphic detail, but abortion? It’s just not part of polite conversation.
And yet – I’m now “that woman.” Yup. I did it. And I’m going to keep doing it.
Will my in-laws disown me? My friends? Will I lose potential clients by writing this under my own name? Will I get hate mail? Maybe. I know, too, that I am speaking out from a position of relative privilege: as a white ciswoman with a college degree and a self-employed career, my abortion doesn’t fit me neatly into right-wing stereotypes. Nor am I in danger of being fired, beaten or murdered for having or for talking about an abortion – the stark reality for millions of women. I have considerable freedom to speak out. And I plan to use it.
Why? Because last week the Supreme Court decided that it is perfectly okay for employers to exert control over their employees’ birth control decisions. The week before, it decided to abolish clinic-door buffer zones in Massachusetts, allowing anti-abortion protestors more freedom to physically assault and intimidate women as they attempt to access reproductive health care. It was also reported that NBC refused to run an ad for the pro-choice romantic comedy Obvious Child simply because it contained the word “abortion.”
Not only are we not supposed to access abortions – or contraception, or any other reproductive health care – we’re not even supposed to breathe the very word in public. In 1973, the era of George Carlin’s “seven dirty words you can’t say on television,” it was a popular topic on shows like Maude, but today abortion is a four-letter word. Even in films about unintended pregnancies, like Knocked Up and Juno, the characters almost always either redeem themselves by deciding against abortion or fail to consider it at all.
That’s why I felt I had to say it.
I was out with some friends, all parents. Two of the other mothers, both in their mid-thirties like me, both extremely intelligent and accomplished, confessed that their recent second pregnancies had been accidental. They’d cried all through the first trimester, they said.
It made me remember terminating my own second pregnancy. My daughter had been four months old when we accidentally conceived. I had just returned to my workplace and was trying desperately to juggle nursing, child care and my job (and failing – I was on thin ice at the office). I read the pregnancy test with numb horror, so different from the joy I’d felt when I discovered I was pregnant with my Lucia. Then I’d jumped for joy. Now: “Shit!”