Thursday, June 22, 2006

Women who have abortions

So, I work at an abortion clinic. I have been involved with the reproductive rights movement for a long time - in particular the movement towards elevating women's voices to the forefront of this pro-choice/pro-life debate that is becoming increasing irrelevant as those on both sides cement their positions deeper and deeper.

I lead the development of a booklet at our center called "I Had An Abortion: Real Women. Real Choices." It is a collection of real women's stories about their experiences with abortion and the events and feelings leading up to and following the abortions.

I was on the board of a start-up magazine called Our Truths, Nuestras Verdades that seeks to provide a safe space for women and men to share their experiences with abortion as well as political commentary and analyses. I have written about the significance of women's stories resonating louder in this endless political debate because there is nothing, nothing that will change for women until we are able to come to terms with what we do with our own bodies, the power we hold over life and death. Until women are able to dialogue about this, talk freely and openly about our abortions, our births, our miscarriages, our children's deaths (and I don't mean necessarily in a public forum) we will NOT be able to claim we truly control our own bodies - even if abortion remains legal.

The truth is it's a vicious circle - keeping women unempowered, confused and shamed about their bodies only serves to ensure that women do not necessarily have the tools to make the best decisions about our lives and health. And please don't misunderstand me - abortion is NOT a bad decision in and of itself. However, if we do not allow women to feel empowered and in control of our bodies which includes pregnancy, we are not giving women the tools to be healthy and powerful.

There is a growing and vocal movement of us - The Abortion Diaries, Speak Out: I Had An Abortion, i'mnotsorry.net and many others I probably don't even know about - working towards a very concrete goal: women carving out the space in the world to deal with their abortion experiences, in the context of their larger reproductive health lives , in a healthy and appropriate way.

There is no one who has worked in reproductive health care that would ever say that having an abortion has absolutely no emotional ramifications - it's ridiculous. But so what?! Why should a procedure that has emotional ramifications for women automatically result in the complete dissolution of that procedure? Why does the pro-choice movement try so desperately to pretend that it has no emotional ramifications? Why does the pro-life movement pretend that emotional ramifications are absolutely untenable, impossible to deal with and the explanation for why that procedure should be outlawed?!

I'm tired of both sides of this debate getting it wrong. I'm tired of the political extremists (of which I must admit I am one) speaking on behalf of all women in this country and around the world. If we do not listen to women we will never "resolve" this. We are all yelling so loudly we can't hear the voices that matter most.

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