Why The Abortion Conversation Is Triggering For So Many Women

by Serene Anderson
Originally Published: 
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I live in the Midwest, but as a Southerner by birth, my heart goes out to the folks in Alabama and Georgia.

What’s happening now is reflective of all the worst things that are associated with Southern culture. I’m disgusted but not surprised that men all over the country are standing at the front lines of a discussion that impacts those of us with uteruses. Bottom line, it just ain’t right!

Reproductive justice advocates warned us this was coming. Instead of listening, we called them “dramatic” and ignored their calls to action. Now, we’re watching as state representatives, who aren’t even reflective of their quickly diversifying populations, attempt to take us backward in another attempt to preserve “the good ol’ days,” which is really just another way of saying oppressive AF days.

First, it’s important to remember that this is about so much more than abortion. It’s about the freedom to control one’s life. It’s about bodily autonomy. And it’s about safe health care.

And it’s about hypocrisy. Many of us are fed up with a government that aims to regulate our bodies while saying it’s futile to regulate guns. Political change is slow to evolve, and many of us are set in our ways. Which makes convincing others that we deserve reproductive agency and bodily autonomy nearly futile.

But that doesn’t stop many of us from trying. And one of the ways folks are trying to change minds and influence legislation is by sharing their own personal stories. #youknowme and #1in4 are a couple of ways folks are participating in the abortion storytelling movement. People all over are sharing stories of the ways archaic policies around birth control access, tubal litigations, and abortion are limiting our ability to decide how and when we become parents.

It’s not just about convincing others; it’s about the freedom to make one’s own reproductive decisions even if those you love would choose differently. It’s about removing the stigma of abortion.

Unfortunately, social media allows widespread (and sometimes anonymous) feedback on those brave stories folks are telling, but the stories are more personal than we realize. One of my best friends gave birth during our senior year. A few months later, I terminated a pregnancy. By witnessing the aftermath of each other’s choices, my friend and I were able to see “what might have been,” and we were both aware that neither was a perfect or easy option. Both come with challenges. And neither of us could have made the decision for the other.

We have context and we have mutual respect.

Social media, on the other hand, typically has neither. And that’s triggering and painful.

I’m sure there are plenty of folks who would say, “Oh well, that’s karma” or “Who cares about the pain of a woman who decided to terminate a pregnancy?” I’ll go on the record and say, you should.

By the age of 45, about one in four women will have terminated a pregnancy. And although many folks oversimplify the conversation, when you’ve been through it, you know it’s more nuanced than folks realize.

Each time abortion enters the public discourse, women are sent through a cycle of discomfort and trauma. Chances are, a number of the women you know, respect, and love are in that 1 in 4 figure. And we see what you’re saying about it.

Legislation that you brush off as “politics” is extremely personal for us. And watching those we love demonize us is frustrating and alienating.

It’s also worth noting that parenthood and morality are much more complicated than we let on. Abortion doesn’t negate a value of life. And being pro-fetus doesn’t mean you care more for humanity. Giving birth doesn’t mean you made the “right” decision.

Everyone’s abortion story is different. Our feelings are equally as diverse and complicated as our experiences. The range of abortion experiences are wide: some are remorseful, others are grateful, and there are many (like me) who have mixed emotions. But it’s about more than our feelings. It’s also about our context. Some were medical necessities. A number were out of fear. And plenty were voluntary. But none deserve to be looked down on by someone else.

Without the context of someone else’s life, none of us deserve to comment.

The person who aborted out of medical necessity doesn’t need a reminder of the pain. The woman who knew it was the right decision for her doesn’t care if someone thinks she should have picked differently. And since it wasn’t your body or your decision, your opinion holds no weight.

The next time you find yourself or someone close to you applauding our nation’s new “commitment to life,” think about your aunt, mother, sister, or close friend who’s likely holding a secret. And who needs your support, not your unfounded judgment.

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