When I was younger the public library in my neighborhood was right across from a clinic that offered abortions. In those days the public library was like eden to me. I passed by the boring brick building a thousand times on my way to pick up books and for a long time, I really didn’t pay it much mind. Until I spotted the groups of people standing in front of the doors, I didn’t have any reason to.
I find a delicious irony in the fact that it was the people throwing holy water and insults that moved me towards the pro-choice camp. No doubt I would have found it on my own, but signs with the word ‘MURDERER’ scrawled across them in big red letters certainly helped speed things along.
I’ve been vehemently pro-choice from a very young age. I have had a lot of issues with the pro-life movement from a very young age. Even before I knew all the details of what abortion entails, I knew that I never wanted to have anything in common with the people that I saw loitering around the entrance to planned parenthood.
My opinions didn’t change as the years went on, but I did begin to see a pattern. For all my conviction, I noticed that a prefaced almost every argument I made with the disclaimer that I would never have an abortion. I just believe that other people should be allowed access if they ever needed it.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with holding that position. The issue here is that when I say that, it simply isn’t true. I absolutely would have an abortion. I know that. I’ve always known that. I also know that I am definitively not the only person in that boat. Not by a long shot. In fact, I think it’s possible that most people who are pro-choice and have or had the ability to get pregnant have lied, at one point or another, about whether they would be willing to terminate their pregnancy.
So the question here is why do so many people feel the need to make clear that the ‘abortion issue’ doesn’t pertain to them specifically, even when it does?
The first reason that comes to my mind is fear. Not just fear of being ostracized, but also fear of physical violence. Unfortunately, for all the talk about the ‘pro-life’ movement being advocates of life, anti-abortion groups don’t exactly have a history of nonviolence. In 2015 alone there were 5 terrorists attacks on abortion clinics. That number becomes far more shocking when you take into account how few clinics there are in the United States that provide abortion. The odds of a terror attack are so high that not only do most clinics have established safety procedures, but also safe rooms, extensive security footage and even bullet proof vests.
Then of course we have to consider the violence faced by people on an intrapersonal level. We’ve all heard stories about someone finding out their partner had an abortion and then beating them to death, let alone stories of people being thrown out of their homes or slandered on social media. True, it’s pretty unlikely that someone would face these kinds of consequences for saying that they would be willing to have an abortion. However, given the level of violence in the pro-life movement, having someone spit in your face isn’t really inconceivable.
The second reason I think this happens is that it’s hard to open up a conversation with someone if they believe you to be some sort of enemy. It’s nearly impossible to suggest or convince someone that an act isn’t evil when they have already made the judgment that you are a bad or misguided person. While pro-life is often portrayed as a situation of ‘a few bad apples’ and it’s easy to say that very few ‘pro-lifers’ would make this judgment, I would argue that believing that someone else’s body should act as a host to someone or something else against their consent, is an extreme not matter what the situation may be. I’ve found that saying that I wouldn’t have an abortion is something that humanizes me to someone who maybe doesn’t always see me that way.
The tertiary and I believe most prevalent reason that we do this that we have been taught that we should feel shame for this belief. We, as a culture see abortion as a shameful, perverse, even ungodly act. Anyone born in the US before 1973 has lived in the US when abortion wasn’t just frowned upon, it was illegal. The ramifications of this history are not going to disappear overnight. it is a natural response to unconsciously distance ourselves from a behavior that someone has told us was unacceptable just once, let alone a message that we’ve been told repeatedly over the course of our lives. As a society we still have the lingering feeling that abortion is something taboo.
I know those are big contributing factors for me. I can understand why I do it and why other people do as well. At the same time, it’s something that absolutely has to come to a stop. The things we say have very real ramifications. When someone who has had an abortion hears me distance myself from them and their actions, they now do not see me as any sort of ally. This is important not just because it could cause them to feel judged or isolated but because the voices of people who have had abortions are absolutely essential to a conversation about abortion rights. When cisgender men hear me say this, it reinforces the idea that abortion is something that most women don’t want or need access to abortion. If someone truly believes that they don’t know anyone who would have an abortion they won’t exactly have the same inclination to advocate for it.
So I’d like to formally set the record straight. As much as I love babies (and I really really do) I don’t actually want to have one. I see infants as being somewhat reminiscent of tigers. While undeniably awesome, I definitely would want one living in my house. Maybe someday I’ll change my mind. Maybe I won’t. The point is that if I got pregnant today, I’d almost certainly get an abortion. I absolutely would.I am glad these services exist, not just for life or death situations involving ambiguous ‘other women’ but also for me. Though I cannot say for certain, I doubt I would have any difficulty making that decision, nor would I have any regrets. I make the decisions about my own body because it is my own. I am not ashamed of this, because I do not believe abortion is a shameful thing.