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Monday, October 31, 2011

Keeping with the recent theme of talking about abortion and being in those all-too-common uncomfortable situations.

Recently I've been in some situations where people in my life, friends/friends of friends, have made comments about abortion that made me mad or uncomfortable. For the sake of the group, I felt I had to bite my tongue. Everyone knows about my abortion work, so it's not like it would shock anyone. But I often feel that for the sake of the group, it's better I not get involved in the conversation. I tend to avoid confrontation, particularly when I think it will make others uncomfortable, and I don't want to be "that girl".

It made me think a lot about being in these situations, and I flashed back to when I started grad school. When I was searching for schools, reproductive health didn't seem to be a common program, so (for various reasons) I chose a school that offered a more broad maternal health program with reproductive and sexual health classes. I was so excited to take my first reproductive health class. I thought I would be in a classroom with like-minded fellow students. It was a bit of a wake up call for me. Now, I was expecting everyone to be super liberal, and it wasn't like it was a class of anits. But I will never forget a couple of comments that were made (one by a fellow student and one by the professor) that made me desperately want to say something but afraid to at the same time.

My professor really tried to get us to engage in discussion, so she would try to devote 1/3-1/2 the class to discussing our readings for that lecture and whatever topic we were going over in class. At this point I can't remember the conversation we were having in class, but one of the students said she thought it was unfair to the man involved to not have a say in a woman's abortion. I was dumbfounded to hear this come from another woman. I thought, "Does she really want a man to make that kind of decision for her?" If she were in a situation where, for whatever reason, she was considering abortion, would she really want someone else to have say in what she did with her body. In a perfect world, a couple would be in a good partnership where they could discuss pregnancy options and come to a decision together. Well, we don't live in a perfect world, and I couldn't decide whether her comment was based on her just being naive or what. It made me really sad. I waned to say something, but I was afraid to be "that girl". I regret that decision now.

Another time my professor actually said something that bothered me. We were talking about mandatory counseling laws for women prior to abortion. We went though the various types of counseling and "counseling" as well as the various waiting periods. She said she thought mandatory counseling laws were actually a good thing. Now, I think all women should receive factual information and some type of counseling before an abortion, but I wasn't actually sure what she meant by her comment. Does she think that the state should decide what type of counseling women receive, rather than letting trained and experienced counselors to make that decision on a case-by-case basis? Does she think that making someone make 2 trips to a clinic because they need 24 hours to "think it over"? I never asked her to clarify because I was afraid to be "that girl".

In a class that was devoted to discussing reproductive health issues, I was afraid to open up and be honest because I felt I would be stigmatized by my classmates. There are times when I think it's a good idea to just keep my mouth shut, but there are other times when I wish I would/could say something. What about you all? I feel like we all must run into this all the time? And for those of you not afraid to speak your mind, how do you do it? How do you walk that line between speaking up when its appropriate and being able to not ostracize yourself?


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