Girl on Girl: Your Body, Your Choice #ShoutYourAbortion
Originally published on CUIndependent.com on September 23, 2015
I am astounded at the ignorance toward women’s health in our country.
As anticipated in this heated political season, the morality of abortion and its accessibility for women has come under fire yet again. Planned Parenthood is facing the brunt of the debate, as its federal funding is currently being called into question by the Republican Party and its representative presidential candidates.
Thanks to the opposing Democratic Party and President Obama, the immediate future of Planned Parenthood and the procedure of abortion is momentarily safe. But, given the vigor of conservatives in Washington, as well as in state governments, there is no telling what the future of women’s health looks like long-term.
In recognition of Planned Parenthood’s necessity and importance, activists are blowing up Twitter with #ShoutYourAbortion. The hashtag was started by powerhouse writer Lindy West, author of “How to Be a Person: The Stranger’s Guide to College, Sex, Intoxicants, Tacos, and Life Itself,” as well as the 2013 winner of the Women’s Media Center Social Media Award. It is in reaction to the assumption that women who have abortions live with painful regret, and that women have other ways to access health care to the extent that the federal budget need not fund Planned Parenthood. The hashtag is trending like wildfire, being spread by those who hope to obliterate the stigma surrounding abortion and bring to light the importance of a woman’s right to choose, the autonomy she holds over her body and the necessity to keep abortion safe and fully accessible. But others are abusing the hashtag and turning it inside-out to say #ShoutYourMurder — a sickening backlash on a very serious issue.
I understand the initial shock in response to #ShoutYourAbortion. Before realizing its purpose, I was stunned to see such words strung together; to me, the choice to have an abortion is both personal and serious. Abortions are stigmatized by a million factors on the ethical standing of murder — hence, “#ShoutYourMurder.” But the original hashtag was intended, and should be treated, as a breaking out of stigma and shame. The language to “shout” one’s abortion is certainly intimidating, but its purpose must surpass its discomfort. This hashtag is smashing open a forum for women to reaffirm their decisions in having an abortion and to stand in allegiance for a woman’s right to choose.
The ethics of abortion are complicated by religion and politics surrounding the matter — I get it. But, the opposition must understand that women are not engaging in sex, or refusing sex, spurred on by the comfort of knowing there is always abortion — women have been taught to revere as well as fear pregnancy as a consequence of careless sex. It is undeniable that some manner of life begins to grow inside a woman from the get-go of the pregnancy. Some kind of organism is certainly on its way to being a human from the moment of conception. But until that being is out in the world, it simply does not have the same constitutional rights as a living person. The situation in which one must choose whether or not to abort a pregnancy is certainly not desirable, but it is necessary for a woman’s health that she have the right to choose. She has the right to private life choices. The Supreme Court ruling in Roe v. Wade protects that right, and the government has the responsibility to protect that right in order to keep women safe in their pregnancies or their decision to terminate a pregnancy.
Everyone is entitled to their religious and political beliefs, but women are entitled to their own bodies. The separation of church and state in our country requires that those beliefs do not interfere with the law, but rather protect the freedom of individual human beings. The intention of abortion is not to prevent new life, but to protect those already living and ensure that their choices remain accessible and safe.
Another common argument is that rather than have an abortion, a woman should have the child and give it up for adoption. This is another simplistic and ignorant way to approach abortion. To have a child, the woman must commit nine months of her life and her body to nourishing another life growing inside of her. Choosing to then give a child up for adoption is yet another enormous, life altering, challenging and unbelievably difficult personal choice. And even after the logistics of the situation are settled, add in the judgement, shame and embarrassment felt for having been “irresponsible” enough to get pregnant in the first place.
We have not been socialized to respect women’s lives, bodies or health as needed. Women are oppressed and suffer every day for this. She loses when she becomes pregnant out of wedlock: if she does not have the financial means, if she does not have a stable man in her life, if she chooses to have an abortion, if she chooses to give her child up for adoption. There is humiliation on every end of it. And all the while, it is no one else’s life or body than the woman’s herself.
I respect the woman who became pregnant and then realized she did not have the financial means to care for a child and chose to abort the pregnancy. I respect the woman who’s contraceptives failed and did not want a child and chose to have an abortion. I respect the already maternal woman who struggles to care for her current children and chose to terminate a new pregnancy. I respect the college student who had drunk careless sex and chose to abort the pregnancy. I respect the woman who was raped and chose to have an abortion in an effort to rid herself of her rapist. I respect the woman who didn’t feel ready to be a mother and chose to have an abortion.
I don’t care how you spin it. Your body. Your life. Your right. Your choice. Any of these hypothetical women could be your girlfriend, your wife, your sister, your niece and they need the option — and the access — to a safe abortion.
I have not been in the position where I’ve had to consider abortion. I struggle to imagine the circumstances of my life to make such a decision. But I feel safe and strong knowing that I have autonomy over my own body. That my body is my own, and I can do with it what I will. I can choose to respect it and nourish it, and I can choose to make the best decisions by it. I dream of being a mother and I hope that day comes the way I have imagined it. I hope that my pregnancy will be intentional, willing and ready. But I am empowered knowing that I have the access to a safe option if I feel I need or want one.
Pro-choice is not synonymous to murder, anti-life or pro-abortion. Pro-choice is exactly what it sounds like: the right to choose for oneself.
As I am every moment of every day, I am damn proud to be a woman and I stand with my sisters for freedom over our bodies. #ShoutYourAbortion
Photo by Anna Panchenko