It is important to get real and honest and open about abortion.
It is important to lift the shame and do away with it, once and for all. These things are important because they save lives, they change lives, and they represent a deeper, more compassionate, more enlightened humanity. Every abortion story matters and should be, in its own way and its own time, told and heard and shared. I hesitate to pick at any aspect of this powerful and beautiful movement towards transparency. But time and again, when I go to publications and organizations and conversations around this process of sharing-toward-the-end-of-stopping-the-shaming, my excitement and hope and inspiration is just a little less full and pure than I want it to be. The reason for this is something that I’ve taken to calling the Privilege of the Abortion-Story Qualifier. You’ve heard them: I was so young; I was so broke; I would have devastated my parents; I had just been accepted to college; I had no idea how to take care of MYSELF let alone someone else, and so on. These are real and honest reasons for choosing to have an abortion. Several of them were related to my choices to have the abortions that I’ve had. But it is undeniable that these scenarios represent privilege. They represent having had a real choice between more than one real option. Understanding that there are countless women all across the world who have no choice, and who have no voice, these qualifiers start to feel a little flimsy. Not because anyone’s life or process of choosing abortion is unimportant or easier than anyone else; the issue comes with the fact that we think we need to make these statements and that we feel they somehow validate our decisions.
The truth is, I don’t want to have a child right now is a perfectly acceptable reason for having an abortion, at any age, under any circumstances. I worry that women of privilege (privilege of any kind) are measuring themselves, consciously or otherwise, against this unspoken understanding of how lucky they are in comparison to so many millions of women in different situations, and, in response, they determine that they better have a pretty damn compelling story to tell about why they chose to have abortion, given that they had real choices and they had real privilege, and, if they’d chosen not to have an abortion—if they’d had a child—neither their life, nor the life of their child, would have been in any danger. We are all connected by our shared humanity, and even across geography and vastly different lived experiences the truth and power of being authentic is unchanged. Women who are denied real options and safe spaces to make choices deserve to be honored, in however small a way, by the honesty of those who do have a voice. Each of us owes it to ourselves and to each other to be part of creating a truly deeper, more compassionate, more enlightened humanity by using our voices for change and not for defending ourselves against criticism we claim to abhor. I chose abortion because it was right for me. The end.
On most days, I have faith in the good that lives in the spirit of most people. And I have faith that each of us will do our very best to move further and further, with each passing day, toward accepting that the choices of others are theirs alone. We should lift each other up, honor each other’s unique paths, and remind ourselves (often) of the privilege that allows us the space to have these conversations, to share these stories, and to hold our opinions, whatever they may be. The world needs more unconditional love. Now and always.