Many years ago, in an undergraduate women’s studies class I read Kristen Luker’s now classic Abortion and the Politics of Motherhood. Those were the hot days of the abortion wars, yet Luker’s careful nuanced analysis not of the rhetoric or of the leadership, but of the beliefs and attitudes of activists on both sides of the struggle made perfect sense to me. Luker showed that abortion is not about reproduction so much as it is about how individuals view the organization of society, the relationships between women and men, the function of religion in society, and the other beliefs that comprise what we often call a world view. Ruth Rosen, another fabulous scholar whose writings I have long admired, makes a similar point about contraception in her recent article about the exclusion of family planning funding from the economic stimulus package. It all comes down to how you define women’s primary function. Are women people just like men, or are they meant foremost to be mothers?
I have ruminated on how my blog must read to the “other side.” I do not think anything I say will change anyone’s mind, mostly because I still believe that beliefs about abortion are largely dictated by two fundamentally clashing views of the world. What I do hope is that by giving voice to one woman’s experience of abortion I can move beyond pithy slogans or religious injunctions to show the feelings and thoughts that accompany abortion. Because that is what abortion really is, a medical procedure that individual women understand in unique ways, filtered through life experiences, religious beliefs, philosophical underpinnings and all the other myriad factors that make up the way people make sense of the world. Banal generalizations and sweeping statements serve only to fan the flames of dissent.
So I have decided to continue to chronicle my abortion process. The professor in me cannot bear to let this teaching moment pass. I also think that the unfolding experience abortion is something few women have shared. There are many fine sites on which women can share their stories, but the longer process is invisible.
I already know that I am going to gradually break the silence and anonymity I have sought. As long as I hide, I will feel a sense of shame. I anticipate also that there may be moments, perhaps the monthly anniversaries, perhaps my first period, who knows, that revive the memories of my abortion.
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