I Would Probably Have An Abortion

28 Apr

by Kat Kelley

If you are anti-choice, this article is not for you. I am not writing to add to the plethora of content on the importance of reproductive rights. Rather, I am writing to ask more from the pro-choice community, and specifically, the pro-choice community at Georgetown University.

I’m pro-choice, but I would never have an abortion.

There was a time in my life when I had the audacity to make such a baseless statement. But then someone in my life, someone I respect and admire told me that they had had an abortion, and my adolescent naivety was shattered.

I’m pro-choice, but I would never have an abortion.

How many times have you heard this? Have you as well had the audacity to say it?

1 in 3 American women will have an abortion. Between 1973 and 2011, nearly 53 million legal abortions occurred in the U.S.

I’m pro-choice, but I would never have an abortion.

I’m sure most of the women who say that really believe it, and I’m sure many of them really would not ever have an abortion, but I’m also quite certain that no one can relate to the experiences of 50 million women.

Guttmacher_Roe

I am in a supportive relationship, I have a supportive family, I attend a university supportive of mothers, and despite that context of support, if I were to become pregnant, I would still probably have an abortion.

Why is that so hard to say? Why does the abortion stigma remain within the pro-choice community?

Is it because we go to a Catholic school? Is it a desire to assimilate, or at least avoid alienation from the WASPy roots of our university? Is it a fear of acknowledging our womanhood, of owning our bodies? We take the fight out of our own feminism, acting as though the only feminism we need is “leaning in.”

Or is it an issue of validation? We fail to recognize our own needs as women and as members of a movement or activists in a field that has been historically undervalued in society. Our culture-bound norms of success and worth tell us that our human rights are merely “women’s issues” and we forget that our bodies and our autonomy are on the front lines.

Or is it the stigma? We are Hoyas, we juggle classes and internships and extracurricular, we do not make colossal “irresponsible” “mistakes” or “accidents.” We can say “I’d never have an abortion” because we can’t fathom that we’d ever have to make that choice.

I’m pro-choice, but I would never have an abortion.

Maybe you wouldn’t. Maybe, if you became pregnant tomorrow, you definitely would not have an abortion. But the context in which you would make that choice, whether to have an abortion or to carry the pregnancy to term, is unique, entirely distinct from the context in which over 50 million women have had to make that choice.

Every pro-choice Hoya has at least one form of privilege- the privilege of going to university supportive of mothers, which would enable them to carry the pregnancy to term. And many Hoyas have other forms of privilege, including race or class-based identities or emotionally and mentally supportive families and friends.

I’m pro-choice, but I would never have an abortion.

Regardless of the tone and the way in which you preface the statement, there remains the implication that there is something innately wrong with the decision to have an abortion. We need to stop treating abortion like a last resort right, and acknowledge that for many women facing an unintended pregnancy, abortion is a first resort. In saying “I would never have an abortion” we are telling women that abortion is acceptable, but that they should definitely avoid it at all costs, they should definitely feel guilty about it, or that getting abortion should be a lesson to be more responsible next time.

In conversations around sexual assault, we often encourage people to assume there is a survivor in the room. 1 in 4 college-aged women experience sexual assault, and thus, in any group setting, we should be cognizant of the impact of our words on survivors. I think we should assume the same with abortion.

If you knew that someone in your group project, on your team, on your dorm floor had had an abortion, would you say “I would never have an abortion,” aware of the judgment you are passing upon their decision? Would you knowingly reinforce norms about which type of women have abortions or the morality of the choice to have an abortion?

I’m pro-choice and I would probably have an abortion.

 

8 Responses to “I Would Probably Have An Abortion”

  1. carlypuch April 28, 2014 at 6:11 pm #

    This post is incredible. I am pro-choice myself but am sure I have uttered those words. Thank you for reminding me to be honest with myself.

  2. Jenna April 28, 2014 at 6:46 pm #

    Excellently written article, as always. And I also have no problem saying that were I to become pregnant at a time when, for whatever reason, I wasn’t ready to raise a child, I would definitely seek an abortion. However, I do have to disagree with your basic argument. So long as the people saying “I’m pro-choice, but I would never have an abortion myself” are ACTUALLY pro-choice, as in actively voting/fighting for reproductive rights for all women, then why does it matter what their personal opinion is on abortion for their own body? You are absolutely correct that no one person can relate to the experience of everyone else in the world or know the history of whoever they are speaking to. But one person saying they would not have an abortion is not necessarily them saying that women who do have abortions are wrong or sinful. Or maybe they do think that–but again, so long as they acknowledge that different people have different experiences and they support legislation and policies that promote reproductive health and freedom for all women, then….why does it matter? Not everyone in the world has to be out to make everyone feel all warm and fuzzy all the time. By not allowing these people who are pro-choice but don’t believe in abortion for themselves to feel open to speak their mind, we may lose some allies in the fight for reproductive rights.

    • KW April 28, 2014 at 7:27 pm #

      I’ve been wanting to say something about what happened a few weeks ago. During GU’s Take Back the Night week Vita Saxa staged a full fledged anti-abortion campaign the likes I’ve only seen outside abortion clinics. With groups like Pride and H*ya’s for Choice having censorship issues in red square, I want to know how Georgetown administration could let a university sponsored organization get away with what they did that week. Not to mention, with the rising climate of mental health talks on campus and sexual assault awareness on campus how these actions are not seen to threaten the mental health of GU students and faculty.

  3. Smitty April 28, 2014 at 7:17 pm #

    Hey, I’m a little confused. I would consider myself a member of the community that fights valiantly for pro-choice causes. Having an abortion is a personal decision that one decides upon based on one’s beliefs and how well they know themselves. I AM pro-choice, but I probably wouldn’t have an abortion. This is because I recognize that pro-choice means the right to choose which path you want to go down and that women come from all walks of life with all types of opinions and beliefs. It’s not that I see anything wrong with it or it as anything bad, I just know that my mental health would make it a bad choice for me. I will stand up and fight for women’s rights and their right to make decisions for themselves based on their own lifestyles and beliefs, but I don’t think I could personally handle the emotions that come from having an abortion. I see this as being similar to the right to religion. I believe that everyone has the right to determine what they will follow and practice and believe, but I would never be Catholic, I will always be Protestant. But, I will never look down on Catholicism or see is as “shameful” or “bad.”

    So, I’m a little confused about saying that my lifestyle is indefensible, because to me I work hard for pro-choice rights, but those rights are to give women the right to make their own choices without societal shame. I don’t think I could personally mentally handle an abortion. How is my choice indefensible? Are you saying if we are pro-choice, we must be people who would want an abortion, not just supporters who simply believe it is a much-needed right and that many women need this option? Conservatives put down pro-choice point of views so much, but aren’t you putting me down in this article?

    No one can relate to everyone’s point of view in the world, true. But this article is unabashedly putting one down.

    I’m a little confused. Please help me understand.

    • Kat May 1, 2014 at 6:19 pm #

      There is a difference between, upon being asked, expressing that one doesn’t think that having an abortion would be the choice you would make, but when I’ve heard this, it is often gratuitous, a caveat attached to the simple assertion that someone is pro-choice, and I think in that context it is inherently problematic, regardless of how it is intended. And that’s why I discussed the “always assume a survivor is in the room” analogy, because I don’t think we should silence the voices of people who don’t feel like an abortion would ever be the right choice for them, but in the context of existing abortion stigmas, it is very much a microagression against women who have had an abortion to say that you would never superfluously, to feel a need to separate yourself from then when it isn’t contextually relevant.

      I think we tend to try to make our movements popular and as someone who is often a ‘bridge builder’ rather than the radical voice in a movement, I often try to make a movement easily accessible. But I think we shouldn’t just let people feel good about their social justice work if the way they express it stigmatizes the individuals immediately oppressed by a certain identity or stigma. So it is fine if you are part of the movement and would probably never make the choice to have an abortion, but when activists feel the need to gratuitously separate themselves from women who have had abortions, THAT is problematic.

      • Kat May 1, 2014 at 6:23 pm #

        I think that sometimes we are more concerned about the people who want to be part of the movement or the allies to the movement rather than the people who are oppressed. We love to applaud male feminists or LGBTQ allies, and while we should certainly strive to make the movement accessible, it should not come at the cost of those for whom the movement is most necessary.

  4. Dee May 1, 2014 at 5:32 pm #

    I am pro choice, I am Catholic, I have children and I had an abortion. If you ever have/had an unplanned pregnancy that also effects your mental health…believe me no one knows what they would do until they are faced with that choice. I support all of my “sisters & daughters” in their choices. I know I made the right choice for me.

  5. Sofía Boilini May 3, 2014 at 5:35 pm #

    this is amazing ! thank you !

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