A tiny migraine creeps into my brain whenever people say this. It feels a little bit true and a little bit not true. People DO change their minds about abortion sometimes. When do they change them? When abortion stops being theoretical and starts being as real as a plus-sign on a plastic wand dripping with piss. God’s great punishment in the Afterlife looks awfully far away when visions of dirty diapers and dreams deferred waltz in the mind’s eye. Pious sentiments of “Of course I’m pro-choice, but would never…” Well, never say never, darling.
People also say that people never change their minds about gays/lesbians/bisexuals/transpeople. Categorically untrue. I’ve seen dyed-in-the-wool Republicans, Live-Free-Or-Die shitkickers, and valium-ized Suzy Homemakers alike shed their homophobia like a bad polyester suit.
Because of their gay children.
And lesbian aunts and gay uncles and queer cousins and best friends from elementary school who used to be boys and are now girls (and vice versa). People Mr. Repub and Mr. Shitkicker and Ms. Homemaker love and cherish and would lay down their lives for. When a queer comes out to homophobic family and friends, those family and friends are forced to stare their own prejudice straight in the face. Is their loved one really a monster or a sinner?
Pro-lifers are rarely challenged on this front. Even though one in three American women will have an abortion by age 45,* the operation is invisible to the world at large. No scarlet letter to identify who’s had the “A-word.” It’s difficult to ignore Uncle Tony holding hands with his lover at the family picnic. The HIPAA code seals away Cousin Jennifer’s “shame,” and she’s free to go to church on Sunday (70% of abortions are performed on women who are Protestant or Catholic; one in five women having abortions are born-again or Evangelical Christians).
Fuck the shame.
I had an abortion. In all likelihood you’ve probably know someone who’s had an abortion, helped someone get an abortion (either because you’re a good friend or you knocked them up), or had an abortion yourself. It’s not an experience I’d like to put on repeat, but it didn’t scar me for life. Junior high scarred me for life, but not my abortion. It sucked (literally) and it hurt like hell, but I haven’t needed years of thumb-sucking therapy to get over my “traumatic experience.” I don’t wonder what the little zygote would have looked like now or even remember what date I had it removed.
And I have never, ever regretted it a day in my life.
Even though I didn’t hang out with pro-lifers, I got slammed by some people for being “careless” (one sting I will never forget is the “friend” who immediately snapped, “Are you stupid?”). I got slammed by people who were SLUTTY in comparison to me and had had unprotected sex with virtual strangers.
I can’t wear a sign every day that says, “I had an abortion.” But any time someone has said something patronizing or condemning of abortion, I have always piped up, “I’ve had an abortion.” It hasn’t happened often, probably a combination of 1) I don’t generally hang out with unworldly people and 2) I look like the kind of girl who wouldn’t take kindly to such an opinion. Maybe I need to get out there more.
Abortion is not a shameful, dirty secret. If anyone in your earshot starts running their mouth about “murder clinics” or “the new Holocaust” (which, incidentally, is beyond insulting to Jewish people), or even “only dumb sluts get abortions,” tell them:
“I had an abortion.” Or “My girlfriend/best friend/sister/mother had an abortion.” Or simply, “Somebody you love has probably had an abortion and never told you. Would you really call her a murderer/dumb slut to her face? Would you let someone else call her that?”
(Originally published in 2008.)