By Savanah Mandeville
Safe, legal abortion is always under attack from the Right, but lately they’ve cranked up the volume to new extremes.
First, there was Trump’s outrageous remark at a Wisconsin political rally on April 27:
“The baby is born. The mother meets with the doctor. They take care of the baby, they wrap the baby beautifully. And then the doctor and the mother determine whether or not they will execute the baby.”
It’s not shocking that Trump would stand in front the world and tell a bald-faced lie, but I just can’t quite ever accept that people actually believe him. It’s mind boggling.
To quote Bill Maher: “Americans are stupid.” Full stop.
Then there’s the Texas lawmakers who are pushing an Anti-Choice bill that would criminalize abortion without exception, making it possible to charge women who’ve received abortions with homicide, carrying with it the potential for the death penalty.
And on April 29, Alabama’s House of Representatives voted 74 to 3 to pass the oppressive “Human Life Protection Act,” which would make performing abortions at any point during a woman’s pregnancy a felony in nearly all circumstances.
So apparently it’s not enough to ban abortion, the women who seek them must be punished. What more proof do we need that it’s not about the fetus, it was never about the fetus, it’s about controlling women. Anti-Choice laws like those proposed above would disproportionately affect women of color as well, as black women have the highest abortion rate, according to data from 2014, and in Alabama, specifically, black women received 60 percent of the abortions in the state. Between 2008 and 2014, women of color experienced the steepest abortion rate declines: 32% – 39% versus a 14% decline among white women, so there may be a link between these numbers and draconian Anti-Choice laws in the south.
Abortion is also increasingly concentrated among women in poverty, with 49 percent of abortions occurring among women below the Federal Poverty line. If you ask me, being in poverty is a pretty good reason to not have a child.
Of course, neither of the aforementioned measures in Alabama or Texas make any mention of the men who caused the pregnancy or what consequences they deserve for having sex for a reason other than procreation. And since men are solely responsible for where their sperm goes, I believe they are at fault for all unwanted pregnancies. If you haven’t already read this truth bomb by Gabrielle Blair, a Mormon mother of six, I highly recommend it. She explains why all accidental pregnancies are the man’s fault. To take it a step further, I believe that ejaculating inside a woman without her permission is assault and in some cases impregnating a woman against her will should be a crime. This is because humans, along with bonobos, dolphins, pigs, and a host of other species, have sex for pleasure as well as procreation. Saying that a woman shouldn’t have sex if she wants to avoid getting pregnant is like saying you should never eat food to avoid food poisoning or never drive a car to avoid getting in an accident. Like… yeah, true? But not realistic.
As soon as we accept that sex is a natural part of human life, not to mention a huge part of our culture, and drop the silly religious and patriarchal mores surrounding sex, the sooner we can start thinking logically and move on with our lives. Which includes the fact that men are equally, if not more, responsible for unintended pregnancies, and if men were held responsible, maybe they would learn to stfu up about abortion and accept it as the miracle of modern science that it is.
I’ll never forget the day a woman very close to me told me she was pregnant. We were eating at a Wendy’s when she said:
“There’s something I need to tell you…”
My face fell.
We’ve all been in this situation. Our mind races. What could it be? You start jumping to the worst possible conclusions and always “she’s pregnant” is one of them.
This time, that hastily met conclusion turned out to be true.
It was like a punch in the gut. The wind was knocked out of me.
“What are you going to do?” I asked her.
We sat at that Wendy’s flipping through a mental rolodex of options, one of them being “A” for “Abortion,” for at least two hours. I think it must have been the heaviest conversation to ever take place in a Wendy’s.
My friend deliberated for a week before making an appointment at a clinic in Arkansas and preparing herself for what was to come. She took the day off work and waited for eight hours in the crowded waiting room before being told she’d have to come back in two days because of Arkansas’s mandatory 48-hour waiting period. (Arkansas recently expanded it to 72 hours.)
When she told me this, I was so livid I started to cry. I could’ve punched a wall.
Did they really think she hadn’t thought it through? I was suddenly acutely aware of how insulting those mandatory wait laws are. How little those lawmakers must think of women to believe they aren’t capable of making the decision on their own. That these far off, faceless, nameless legislators think they know better than she does. Those men in Little Rock who will never ever know what it’s like to be pregnant know better than she does.
They must think women are fucking idiots.
Surprise, surprise, my friend did not change her mind and two days later she went through with it. She was comforted by many women in her life who told her about their own abortions. An aunt. A friend’s mom. Her mom’s best friend.
As it turns out, a lot of women have had abortions, oftentimes women we would never suspect.
Since Roe vs. Wade was passed in 1973, approximately 61,250,692 abortions have been performed. That’s 61 million women from all backgrounds, ethnic groups, income levels, religions, and political parties.
According to an article titled, “The troubling silence of conservative women who’ve had abortions”:
“By age 45, three out of 10 American women will have had an abortion.
Thirty percent of us. Millions of women, from across the country and every conceivable background. Rich, poor, black, white, liberal, and yes: conservative. Some of us talk about the experience, but most of us don’t — and if you ever wonder why, a quick look at the recent attack on Planned Parenthood in Colorado Springs and the subsequent rhetorical fallout should clear up any confusion.”
When I hear about these lawmakers in Texas and Alabama, I can’t help but imagine they have moms, aunts, wives, daughters, nieces, friends, colleagues, and neighbors who’ve had secret abortions. You know Trump has probably personally paid for an abortion or two.
I wonder how those lawmakers would feel if they knew they were attempting to pass legislation that would put their own mother on death row.
Women need to speak up about their abortions. When an issue hits close to home, it becomes normalized and we desperately need abortion to be normalized and accepted. I was glad to see that the new Hulu show “Shrill” starring Aidy Bryant showed the main character getting an abortion in the very first episode. That was one example of a big step toward normalization, but it’s going to take Conservative women to ‘fess up.
It reminds me of a scene in the movie “Milk,” based on the life of gay-rights activist Harvey Milk. In one scene, Milk urges a room full of gay activists to come out of the closet.
“We tell every gay to come out – lawyer, teacher, dog catcher,” Milk says. “We have to let all those people out there know that they know one of us.”
It’s the same principle as the Me Too movement. When people come forward, the issue hits home. The issue become real to people. People fight to end the stigma when someone they know and love has to carry its burden.
Obviously, this is much easier said than done and I would never encourage any woman whose life or safety would be in danger if she spoke up. Like coming out as gay or speaking out about sexual assault, coming forward about your abortion is no doubt extremely difficult. Since so many conservatives believe abortion is akin to murder, and political tribalism runs deep, there’s no wonder why conservative women stay mum on the topic.
I’ve also read stories about Conservative women who are in such denial about their own abortions, they’ll walk straight from the clinic to the picket line. And of course, the stories of anti-choice Republicans who’ve paid for their mistress’s abortions are never-ending. To Republicans, abortion is “Okay for me, evil for thee.” I guess it’s hard to cling to political rhetoric when you’re desperate.
It’s time to normalize abortion.
Abortion is not murder. It’s not shameful. Safe, legal abortion is something we’re fortunate to have in our society. Nobody wants to get an abortion, nobody likes it, but sometimes it’s the best option there is. All women deserve to have that option.