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Monday, March 14, 2011

In our sidebar we link to blogs of people who have had an abortion and want to write about their experience. Here's a new (to me) one: My Journey Through Abortion. The post I'm linking begins like this: "I think I am going to talk about what I have learned."

This is a wonderful, fascinating topic. How the abortion was good for me. Not just, How it sucked less than the alternative; not just, How it didn't really suck any more than getting wisdom teeth out sucks and I'm damn glad that both services exist in safe legal settings. Yes, those are interesting too. But those are already part of the public rhetoric about abortion, and the one that people who've never experienced abortion feel most comfortable joining in. It's wonderful and fascinating when a woman who's had an abortion feels able to say out loud that she is a better person after her abortion -- not in spite of it or in opposition to it or in penance for it, but thanks to it.

She is better after her abortion than she was before it. How remarkable! This exists completely outside the discourse where, no matter what else you believe, abortion must be a loss, and a taking-away -- where mathematically, and thus objectively, and thus morally, she is less than when she was pregnant. (You < You+embryo. More is more. Very baroque.) But women know this isn't true, especially when we are at our healthiest: being "good" doesn't mean saying Yes to every request; it doesn't mean taking on more than you can just-because; it does mean being true to yourself.

In the documentary "The Coat Hanger Project," interviewee Jeannie Ludlow says something remarkable that people don't discuss enough. I'll have to paraphrase: In her experience as a clinic counselor, she says, abortion can be a good thing for women; it allows some women to grow in ways that they otherwise would not have had the chance to grow. This doesn't mean, though, that no women feel wistful about their pregnancy, or that no women think of their embryo or fetus. Of course some of them don't; and some of them do but also feel joyous about returning to non-pregnancy, some of them do but also think of themselves or of their born or future children.

A friend told me about her recent experience with abortion and how it is changing her life already -- from a series of crises and dangerous disregard for self, to a new stream of moments where you face the same old decisions and this time you choose life: your life.


I'm willing to bet that some of our patients, if they had a blog or a diary, would express something similar to this blogger's words:

"I have learned that I am not really good at pulling the trigger on moving forward. It is like I am sitting in my car, flat tire, spare in the trunk. And I am too damn lazy to get out, open the trunk, get the jack out, and get to work. It is not because the view from the car is spectacular or because there are good tunes on the radio. It is because I am scared to move forward. I am too focused on the fact that I have a flat tire, and I have forgotten that I can FIX THE FLAT."

Especially when talk turns to second-trimester abortion, so many people seem to imagine women as two-dimensional things. If anyone ever asks you "why did she wait so long?" -- remind them of three things:
1) Health care is expensive, abortion isn't covered, and most people aren't rich.
2) Sometimes biology is sneaky and pregnancy isn't discovered quickly.
3) Women are people: sometimes they're unsure what to do, or they freeze, or panic, or they take time to weigh an important decision. Just like you.


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