People who have had an abortion are yet again telling their stories in public. They are trying to humanize a medical procedure that has granted them power and control over their bodies and lives.
What comes out of these stories, if you pay close enough attention, is what abortion really offers those who elect to have one: freedom.
Freedom to lead a life of one’s choosing. The freedom that derives from a sense of self-determination that those who cannot get pregnant take for granted.
Who is anyone to impose upon another person the requirement to carry a fetus to term against their will, without any choice or say in the matter?
By stripping away a pregnant person’s bodily autonomy, those who impose a de facto policy of forced birth steal away a pregnant person’s agency over their life in the most intimate and consequential ways, imposing life-long physical, emotional, psychological and financial consequences.
For we live in a time, scientifically and medically, when an unwanted pregnancy can be safely ended. To take advantage of that is absolutely a form of freedom: a freedom of reproductive control, and a freedom to have ownership of one’s body.
To take away that freedom is a form of totalitarianism, resutlting in a life lead bereft of freedom. It is also grossly inequitable.
Abortion Isn’t a Political Issue. It’s a Means to a Life of One’s Own.
Stories help us make sense of our lives, help us understand the world around us, help us empathize with others. I think that’s one of the reasons stories about abortion — and the freedom that stems from having made that choice — are so impactful.
These stories transform abortion from a political issue, debated on social media and in the news, into something real, tangible, human, relatable.
It’s easy to discuss in theoretical terms what someone should do in the event of an unwanted or unintended pregnancy. But like most things, a theoretical situation and a real-life one are not the same.
Neither is it the same when discussing someone else’s life, and then your own.
This is how we get the stories about politicians who advocate for anti-abortion policies in their professional lives, yet opt for abortion in their personal lives.
To what extent do men’s stories about abortion matter? Certainly not as much as what matters to a woman’s life if she’s forced against her will to give birth.
But men’s stories do exist.
The stories from my own life aren’t really stories, per se. They are more like moments.
Moments of realization that crystallized for me — all within the time it takes to be told “I’m late” by a significant other — what is at stake from an unplanned pregnancy.
One such moment: my partner and I were lying on her bed together, still clothed, the lights on.
She told me she was late, and we talked how we felt about it.
Another moment, with a different partner, was on a phone call, as I was asked to buy a pregnancy test on my way home.
She took the test and it was negative, so there wasn’t much to discuss. (The other partner wasn’t pregnant either.)
But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think about abortion both times.
And by that I don’t mean that abortion was my first choice in either situation, because it wasn’t.
What I do mean is that at least abortion was a choice. It was on the table as an option. It was a path leading to a life that me and my partners could have taken if that was what we wanted.
I used the word ‘we’ carefully here. In both situations I was in a committed relationship. The path forward would have been a decision reached together.
But make no mistake: between the two of us, my vote was worth 49%.
My life would have been altered significantly if a baby entered the picture, and not just in the way babies do.
In the first case, I did not see myself ever raising a child in New York City, and definitely not in that apartment. In the other, I was not going to raise a child without living in the same house as my partner and that child.
No matter. False alarms.
But you know what? Abortion being an option gave me a great sense of comfort. In neither case would we have been trapped, my partner forced against her (and perhaps my) will to carry a pregnancy to term.
We would have had the ability to decide. And now women in Texas, and soon other states, will not have that choice.
Shame on those who deprive so many of that freedom.
The State Has Claimed a Power It Does Not Have
Those celebrating the new laws in Texas, which will almost assuredly be replicated in other states, are not being honest when they claim they want to eliminate abortion. The evidence is plain: abortion rates in America are already falling.
Perhaps not all abortions are being tracked or recorded. Birth rates as well are falling. But what is abundantly clear is that one of the most effective, sustaining (and humane) ways to prevent abortions is to provide easy access to contraception.
Oh, but so-called conservatives want to dismantle health care provisions in America, too, and carve out exceptions from the Affordable Care Act requiring the coverage of birth control. It’s almost as if conservatives aren’t interested in preventing abortions nor unplanned pregnancies.
No, those gleeful about forcing pregnant people to give birth against their will are looking to impose control over others’ bodies. They want to penalize people for getting pregnant.
As if it’s wrong to have sex.
As if it’s a crime to have birth control fail.
As if we don’t have the capacity to safely, fairly and easily handle an unplanned pregnancy so as not to permanently disrupt lives.
As if those who get pregnant don’t have loved ones who want to help them — since the new Texas law targets anyone who would help a pregnant person in their time of need.
As if there aren’t medical professionals willing and wanting to give to pregnant people the freedom to control their lives.
What gives us the right to impose that burden upon pregnant people at all, but especially when pregnancy is not a result of the actions of the pregnant person alone?
The particulars of the new Texas law are even worse. It deputizes citizen against citizen, sets up bounties to be paid — by the state — to penalize and scare off those would help others have the freedom to which we should all be equally entitled, namely, to make our own health decisions.
It fails to make exceptions for pregnancies caused by rape or incest. It fails to take into account miscarriages, which of course cannot be controlled by anyone, and would penalize procedures needed in those situations that are critical to a pregnant person’s health.
But even without those failings, the idea of banning abortion is bad enough, because banning abortion strips people of bodily autonomy.
A Gross Extension of Male Privilege
Am I entitled to more bodily freedom just because I inhabit a male body? No.
Those who steal the right to an abortion claim for themselves a power they do not have: the right to control another person’s body and to determine their fate.
They perpetuate inequality by claiming power and responsibility over a particular kind of human body, while another kind faces no restrictions.
In forcing birth upon those who become pregnant, Texas officials claim ownership of pregnant people’s bodies.
By doing so, they limit the freedom of all those who engage in sex, meaning most of humanity, and impose the most severe and life-altering consequences of an unwanted pregnancy, including the physical effects of birth and delivery, upon just one party to that unwanted pregnancy.
And it’s not the man.
This deprivation of freedom is inhumane and cruel.
It must be fought wherever, whenever it takes place until there is equality on physical autonomy and healthcare choices.
You can’t say you support equality if you oppose a person’s right and ability to get an abortion.
You can’t say you live in a country that values freedom until that country allows this form of healthcare to any who want it.
Previously Published on Medium
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