Warning: Potential firestorm brewing.
When I was a student studying photography, hoping to someday be a journalist, I gave myself an assignment: To photograph a clash between the pro-life movement and the pro-choice advocates bound to explode during a rally one Saturday at the local Planned Parenthood clinic.
Being firmly in the pro-choice camp, I expected to find a group of feminist students rallying about privacy and the right to control their own destinies. On the other side I expected to witness aging male bible thumpers carrying crosses with crucified baby dolls attached and women with a brood of children stopping traffic in the streets.
On one level, I wasn't surprised. The pro-lifers were there with their blood and gore; with their children in tow. They shouted bible verses and prayed. They called the young women murderers. Some, however, were quietly carrying signs: "Only God should take a life."
I suppose the real surprise for me that day came from watching the faces of the women with whom I thought I'd identify distort into hatred and vitriol. They carried signs and shouted "I fuck to come, not to conceive." I left the event thinking: "Everyone's gotten it wrong."
A few years later as my friends started embarking on married life, families started to emerge. Women, now well into their childbearing years, began exchanging their briefcases for diaper bags. As is life, the women seated around the large table of our friendship all had different experiences. Some were childless and intended to remain so. Some were childless and heartbroken. Others were nowhere near finding relationships conducive to bringing children into the world and some were still biding their time.
Our newly pregnant friend was glowing. Telling us all about the excitement. But when she announced that she was planning on terminating the pregnancy if the amniocentesis indicated a problem, that it just wasn't fair to the child since they were not spring chickens anymore, the room went still. No one spoke. But somewhere in between the meal and the next meeting it was obvious that some in attendance had taken her to task for her "decision."
I had remained silent, so she came to me to complain about the others.
"I thought my friends were all pro-choice. I guess I was wrong," she said stingingly, obviously disappointed in her friends, who, as she saw it, are people who should support and accept you unconditionally.
But I couldn’t lie to her. I couldn't pretend I approved. I had to tell her that it wasn't that we were anti-choice or pro-life or whatever hyphenated label fits, it's just that she made that statement on front of some women who would have done anything for a child, even an unhealthy one. And that just seemed so insensitive. I explained that I felt such decisions should probably stay between a woman and her partner. "Pro-choice means that your privacy is what should be respected."
It occurred to me then what had been bothering me all those many years: Pro-choice doesn't mean pro-abortion. I may want those freedoms to exist, but I don't think being proud of your decision is a mandate of support for the ability to choose your destiny.
I know that she wanted her friends to rally round her and support her decisions, especially if she was uncomfortable making them. She wanted to be able to share her thoughts openly with us, and in that way I suppose we let her down.
More recently, as MS. Magazine called on people to sign its petition affirming "We Had an Abortion," I am wondering what it all means again.
Do drastic times call for drastic measures? Will raising awareness eventually allow us to make such difficult decision is peace and privacy for sure? I seriously doubt it will ever come to pass that we will feel GOOD about ourselves for having had abortions. I also don't think "coming out" will change any minds or lessen the "stigma." It just diverts the issue again.
I fully believe abortions will remain legal for those who seek them out; the cost to society would be too great if it weren't. Bottom Line: No one has to like it but it should be something we only need discuss with our doctors. The rest of the world should keep their eyes on their own page.