This past week has been a tough one for many women. Alabama’s abortion ban was passed by the state legislature and Georgia quickly followed suit. Missouri also has a ban in the works and we should not forget the numerous states who signed heartbeat bills throughout the year, like Kentucky, Ohio, and Mississippi. Many of those bills are currently being argued in court.
The Alabama ban is particularly terrifying because it bans almost all abortions in the state, with no exceptions for cases of rape or incest. Under the proposed bill, doctors would not be able to perform the procedure once a fetus is “in utero.” This also raises serious questions about what would happen if a woman miscarried, requiring a D&E. You can read more about whether a miscarriage could land a woman in jail over at the Washington Post. I also find it interesting that eggs in a lab do not count, suggesting that really this is not about when life is believed to first be present, but more about penalizing women.
The Georgia law will ban abortions after a doctor is able to detect “a fetal heartbeat in the womb,” usually at about six weeks, before many women know they are pregnant. Like Alabama, it explicitly states that doctors who perform abortions will be prosecuted. The bill is more vague about the prosecution (or non-prosecution) of women.
Many women, myself included, are rightfully furious about this new trend in state governments. Over the weekend, I read something on twitter that said— remember when you broke down sobbing the night of the election? This is why. You knew they were coming for us.
One in four women has had an abortion, which seems to be in sharp contrast to the limited number of stories you might hear, but that’s mainly because there is so much shame attached with the procedure. In reaction to the new laws being signed, there has been an outpouring of personal stories by women online, detailing the many reasons they made that decision for themselves. Last week, Busy Phillipps admitted to having an abortion on her show and then started the #youknowme hashtag to give other women a larger platform to speak out. She is trying to get people to realize that even though you think you don’t know anyone who has had an abortion, statistics say that’s not true. In reality, you probably know many women.
“Part of what I think was so successful in getting people motivated and men on board with the #MeToo movement was hearing from women about their personal stories, ” Busy told the New York Times. “Abortion has been, historically speaking, a very taboo subject that women have a hard time talking about publicly, because it’s such a personal decision. The anti-abortion people in this country are so vocal, and for all of those reasons I think women have remained silent. And I felt like, well, maybe there’s actually value in sharing. We need to be as loud as they are, but with the truth. That’s the only thing we have. For me it includes people standing up and saying, ‘I am that one in four.’ It doesn’t matter why, when, or how old you were. ‘You know me, you like me, and I went through this.’ I think there’s something super empowering about being able to shift the narrative and being able to have a ton of people say, ‘I’ve also gone through this thing.”
I applauded Busy’s bravery on @mommyshortssquad, but then had mixed feelings reading through everyone’s various experiences and wondering what I would feel comfortable sharing personally. After all, sharing is not just about putting your story out there on a social platform for large scale public consumption, it is also sharing private details with friends, family, and co-workers. That’s the thing about abortion. Women often keep those experiences private from even their closest friends.
Someone forwarded me a tweet from Amy Westervelt that really helped me understand what I was feeling. It said, “oh hey yay it’s that time again for women to open up all their wounds and secrets to persuade you that we are humans deserving of basic rights.” Yes, THAT. It’s a sad place we are in that people don’t trust women to do what’s right for our own bodies and wellbeing. Whether or not you had an abortion, what your reasons were and if you feel compelled to share your story— it is all your choice and nobody else’s business.
I also read many women calling for men to share their #youknowme stories. After all, women do not get pregnant by themselves. Many men have encouraged abortions, paid for abortions and benefitted from them. The current President included.
To take it a step further, I suggest reading this viral twitter thread written by Gabrielle Blair about how men cause 100% of unwanted pregnancies. It’s a fascinating read that makes a very powerful argument for the placement of responsibility to be shifted. She’s even got a full proof idea for pregnancy prevention.
Here’s a hint:
I know there are many women who follow my various accounts who do not believe what I do. Some are vocal about it and some are not. I have been encouraged by a few women who have come forward to say that while they disagree with abortion personally, they do not believe that anybody else has the right to tell a woman what they do with their own body. I would argue that this stance is precisely what being “pro-choice” means. You get to believe what you want and nobody gets to dictate your choices. The term “pro-life” was coined purposefully by social conservatives to make people on the left seem “anti-life” or “pro-abortion,” when neither is true. I can guarantee you that abortion is almost always a painful choice and a last option, even for women who staunchly defend a pro-choice stance.
There was a time when I thought I understood the beliefs of “pro-life” groups, even though I disagreed with them. Now I see the hypocrisy that often comes with that position. Maybe not by everyone, but certainly in the realm of politics and with the people enacting these laws. The same people in government who say they are “pro-life” also believe that gun laws trump child safety in schools, in caging migrant children, and in stripping our healthcare system. They don’t support domestic violence prevention programs, expanded family leave policies, equal pay for women or environmental protections that will help future generations. They also do nothing to prevent unwanted pregnancies, even when there are so many initiatives they could support with proven results, like funding sex education in schools and access to affordable birth control.
I have been very vocal on social media about my opinions and as a result, I have gotten a lot of support and a predictable backlash. For the record, people who unfollow me based on my beliefs are not my people. I do not miss them and I do not want them. But I do believe there are a lot of nuances to these discussions and I have appreciated reading comments from a few followers who say their opinions are evolving as the motivations of those behind the new laws become clearer.
I also believe that when I make a political statement on social media, it is not really for the benefit of my supporters or detractors in the comment section, who are both already firm in their opinions. It is for the people who are reading, forming their opinions and most likely, never comment at all. I have gotten many direct messages over the years from women (mainly younger) who have told me that reading my thoughts has helped them formulate their own opinions, which might be different from their families, their churches or immediate communities. I have also gotten private messages from women who haven’t told anyone about something they have been through and now feel less alone. It is for those people who I will continue to voice my opinion.
On Friday, I got a direct message saying “thank you” from someone who had gotten an abortion earlier that same day. She said that although she has no shame in her decision and has the support of her husband and mother, who drove her to the appointment, she still pulled up to a clinic surrounded by protestors and had to walk past them as they screamed that she was murderer. She broke down in tears, as I imagine many of us would. Can you imagine how it would feel to walk through that mob without your mother by your side or the support of your family? It must be awful.
Yesterday, after posting a pro-choice sentiment on @mommyshorts, someone commented, “I’m really upset that I have to unfollow. I can’t handle seeing messages in my feed openly promoting the murder of precious innocent children. Why do they not deserve the same human right everyone else gets? It pains me a lot. And yes I know it takes two to get pregnant. Two individuals who both need to step up to the responsibility. Don’t have sex if you can’t deal with what comes next.”
Rather than block or ignore, I chose to respectfully challenge her way of thinking. If she has followed me for awhile and is upset about unfollowing, perhaps she would listen. My response was:
“I would encourage you to think about why someone you like and trust believes something so differently from you. I would also encourage you to think of circumstances that go beyond your own sexual experiences. I would ask that you look at the laws being signed and try to really understand the implications. Also, take a deep dive into why the same people who say they are pro-life do so little for living women and children. And lastly, know that I accept your right to not have an abortion.”
I don’t know if she read it or gave it a second thought, but I feel confident that at least one person did. And that’s another reason why I will continue to speak my mind, even when some people don’t want to hear it.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, I will continue to be vocal is because I have two daughters. These laws might not affect me, but they will affect them, especially if this is just the tip of the iceberg for the war on women. It’s a scary time to be raising kids. And I want my readers to know that I am paying attention. I’m up late at night worrying about what the future holds for my children, just like they are. Just like you are.