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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

I wear a little coat hanger pendant because I support abortion rights. The coat hanger represents a dark time in history during which pregnant people who did not want to be pregnant - and I mean really, REALLY did not want to be pregnant - resorted to painful and dangerous means to terminate their pregnancies. These included: drinking strange herbal concoctions, introducing chemicals into the vagina, intentionally falling down stairs or receiving punches to the stomach, and penetrating the uterus with coat hangers. I'm not sure that the coat hanger was the preferred method of self-induced abortion or if it was even that common, but it was gruesome. I mean, can you even imagine? Your cervix gets the heebie-jeebies from a mere cotton swab! So when we invoke the coat hanger, it's intended to a) scare the crap out of you so you don't forget what it's like when abortion is inaccessible, and b) remember the suffering and the sacrifice of those people who died for the opportunity to control their fertility. If I were one for blasphemy, I'd say it's the pro-choice equivalent of a crucifix.

I generally don't wield symbols. I have no tattoos, few bumper stickers, and even fewer politically motivated T-shirts. However, those that I do rock are all pro-choice. It's what I believe in. It's my religion. It's not one of the Big Three, but we've got a very strong following (1 in 3 women, in fact). Often, when others see my little coat hanger pendant, we have a private conversation. I guess it's akin to what members of other secret societies have when they discover one another:

"What's with the coat hanger?" [barely perceptible eyebrow raise]
"It's a pro-choice symbol." [nod of affirmation]
"Aaaaahhhhhhh...." [slight up-turning of the lip]

There's the odd blissful ignoramus:

"What a cute little coat hanger! Is that because you like fashion?"

I cringe a little, and imagine that 40 years ago someone's couture ended up on the floor because its hanger had a greater purpose. (I instantly forgive the offense though, recalling my own stupidity in telling a girl one sunny Ash Wednesday that she had a little schmutz). I can't blame them. It's a nice place to be at. I used to be ignorant once, and I lived a pretty happy life. But now that I'm here and can never turn back, I pay homage and I wear my little coat hanger. And I hope to receive many more winks and head nods and acknowledgments that our secret society is not, in fact, so secret after all. 

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