A new script for talking about abortion

When a friend is sick, you bring her soup. When she loses a loved one, you bring her flowers. But what do you do when she has an abortion?
Last week, one of my good friends announced to me that she was two and a half months pregnant, and had booked an appointment for an abortion that weekend. I offered to come with her, an offer she refused, saying she preferred to be alone.
Saturday morning came and went, and she had her abortion. She wasn’t emotional about it; she had only recently discovered that she was pregnant, and felt no attachment to the fetus. She wasn’t nervous or afraid; it wasn’t her first abortion, and she knew what to expect. Nor had it been a difficult choice for her; she didn’t feel ready, either emotionally or financially, to raise a child. An abortion was the obvious choice for her, and luckily, she was able to afford it (with some help from the father) and arrange an appointment early in her pregnancy.
On Saturday afternoon, I stopped by her place to find her in good spirits, bundled up on the couch watching TV. On my way over to her place, I wondered what the accepted protocol was for visiting someone who’d just had an abortion. I wanted to bring her flowers, or soup, or a magazine to read, or something, but none of those seemed appropriate. So I just gave her a hug.

The reason that none of those things seemed appropriate was that my friend wasn’t sick, or grieving. She had had an abortion; an uncomplicated first trimester medical abortion, about which she was in no way conflicted or upset. I knew she didn’t want comforting or moral support: she just wanted to sleep it off alone, and get back to work.
A few weeks ago, Heidi Fleiss, currently a contestant on Celebrity Big Brother in the UK, caused something of a controversy when she said on camera, “Thank God for abortion. I don’t mean to offend anyone but I wouldn’t be a good mother. I shouldn’t have kids.” Some found it refreshing to hear a woman speak so unapologetically about abortion; others found it shocking. Personally, I was surprised, upon hearing something that so totally deviated from the cultural script to which we expect women who have had abortions to adhere, by just how well I had internalized that script.
In the US, abortion is framed as a deeply moral and highly emotional issue. In the public imagination, the choice to have an abortion is a wrenching one, one that often leaves women feeling emotionally fragile for months and years afterward. No doubt this is sometimes the case. But for many women, my friend included, it is not a wrenching or painful decision, but an easy and obvious and matter of fact one.
But we don’t have a cultural script for those women. When women speak publicly about their abortions – which, given the stigma around abortion, happens very rarely – we expect them to speak with reverence, not relief. We expect to hear stories of excruciating indecision, not of easy, obvious choices. We don’t have a blueprint for women who weren’t wracked with indecision, women who felt emotional attachment neither to the fetus nor to the decision to terminate it. And as a result, we also lack a script for supportive friends that doesn’t somehow frame abortion as a tragic illness.
Because abortion is so controversial in America, because we have such strong ideas in this culture about the kinds of women who have abortions, it’s incredibly difficult to talk about. Women who have abortions rarely talk about them, and when they do, they often feel the need to adhere to the cultural script of reverence and indecision that Heidi Fleiss so publicly flouted.
My friend didn’t, and I’m sure there are many women out there who don’t either. But there’s no space in public discourse for that kind of frank, irreverent discussion of abortion, and there won’t be until abortion becomes less taboo. At the end of the day, the personal and the political aren’t just intertwined, they’re symbiotic: The taboo around abortion confines us to a certain script, and sticking to that script keeps the taboo around abortion firmly in place. For me, changing that script began at home – specifically, at my friend’s home, on her couch. It began with the awkwardness that comes from not quite knowing what to say to someone who wasn’t at all upset about her abortion. For me, change began with a hug.

For more about speaking unapologetically about abortion, check out Jennifer Baumgardner’s book Abortion and Life and her film I Had an Abortion, as well as the site I Am Dr. Tiller.

New York, NY

Chloe Angyal is a journalist and scholar of popular culture from Sydney, Australia. She joined the Feministing team in 2009. Her writing about politics and popular culture has been published in The Atlantic, The Guardian, New York magazine, Reuters, The LA Times and many other outlets in the US, Australia, UK, and France. She makes regular appearances on radio and television in the US and Australia. She has an AB in Sociology from Princeton University and a PhD in Arts and Media from the University of New South Wales. Her academic work focuses on Hollywood romantic comedies; her doctoral thesis was about how the genre depicts gender, sex, and power, and grew out of a series she wrote for Feministing, the Feministing Rom Com Review. Chloe is a Senior Facilitator at The OpEd Project and a Senior Advisor to The Harry Potter Alliance. You can read more of her writing at chloesangyal.com

Chloe Angyal is a journalist and scholar of popular culture from Sydney, Australia.

Read more about Chloe

Join the Conversation

  • nestra

    One thing to remember is that a large number of women have fertility issues and many are actively trying to get pregnant. Being glib about abortion is rubbing one’s fertility privilege in others’ faces. It is like talking to unemployed people about wiping your butt with 20 dollar bills.

  • Kathleen Hagerty

    It’s funny how people assume all of these emotional hang ups about women and their reproductive lives. In the spring, I had an accident and took a morning after pill, and within a month started to experience depression. I attribute the depression to the massive amounts of hormones in the pill I took, but that is neither here nor there. But every single person I told my experience to assumed that I felt guilt about taking the pill, and the guilt caused the depression. I felt absolutely no guilt whatsoever about taking the pill and I didn’t even understand why I should feel guilt. I don’t ever want to take it again, but for health reasons not moral reasons. Annoying!

  • shsally

    I find this argument to be a little disingenuous. We don’t tell women who are celebrating being pregnant or who have just given birth that they shouldn’t talk openly and loudly about their experiences because of the pain it might cause people who are trying unsuccessfully to have children.
    My abortion does not effect another couple’s ability to conceive. They should not get to dictate how I discussion my abortion any more than I get to dictate how they express emotions over their fertility issues.
    It doesn’t feel fair that some people can have children, but don’t want them and that some people can’t have children but do want them, but IMO neither side is required to keep mum about their experiences out of respect for the other side.

  • Liza

    In fact, everyone SHOULD be completely aware of what is happening to other people. It allows for more understanding of different experiences, which can not only help in your own struggles (whatever they are) but in being sensitive when your loved ones go through something different than you did.

  • http://openid.aol.com/percat6

    Are you suggesting that because some women have difficulty conceiving, other women should feel horribly guilty about having abortions? It’s not as if NOT having an abortion would make conception easier for the other woman.
    That sounds a lot like the thing some parents feed their kids, the whole “There are starving children in India, so eat all your food” (until you feel sick, even). How does eating more help those starving children?

  • theology_nerd

    I don’t find nestra’s argument “disingenuous.” Look at the metaphor she uses: a fertile person speaking glibly about abortion is like a wealthy person telling a poor person that they use $20 bills as toilet paper. It’s not the fact that this hypothetical person HAS $20 (and it’s not the fact that people HAVE fertility)…it’s the fact that such a gift is going to waste. I think what nestra was trying to say is that talking about unborn children as unwanted nuisances with no emotional significance, it is a giant slap in the face to people who would give anything to be able to conceive. They see someone destroying something that they are dying to have, and that’s hurtful.
    I’m with her on this one…because of all of the religious/ethical/cultural/emotional factors that shape our beliefs about pregnancy, children, and abortion, we simply cannot approach these topics in a nonchalant or glib fashion. (Well, we could…but it would be extremely detrimental to the well-being of others. And who wants that?)

  • DeafBrownTrash

    I’ve never had an abortion because I’ve never been pregnant, but like Heidi Fless, I don’t want kids and if I got an abortion, I’d gladly get one, it’s not a big deal. but I can understand that abortion is hard for other women.
    I do agree that it’s got to do with American society that places such a huge stigma on abortions, though. In other socities, abortions aren’t a big deal.

  • paperispatient

    Whenever I hear anti-choice talk about “post-abortion syndrome,” I want to ask if they’ve ever thought that maybe some of the guilt or shame that some women experience after an abortion is because they’ve been told that’s how they should expect to feel. (Not that the women who feel this way do so solely because they’ve been told they should/will, but I think that is a factor in some instances.)
    But yeah, in my entirely unprofessional opinion, I’d say you’re right about the depression being a side effect of the pill – from what I understand, any side effect you could have from a birth control pill you can experience (frequently amplified because of the higher dose) with the morning-after pill.

  • the reckless tongue

    I had a little scare last month. My period was later than usual, and I had to sit down and think about taking a pregnancy test, and think about what I would do if that test came back positive. Thankfully, I wasn’t pregnant, but when I thought there was a possibility, my mind didn’t waver for a moment: I was going to have an abortion, without any regrets whatsoever. Honestly, I was mostly annoyed at the prospect of having to schedule the procedure and figure out how to pay for it.
    Point being, some women don’t want kids, or simply know they don’t want kids at a certain time. Women shouldn’t have to feign heartbreak over it. Some women may be deeply affected and torn over the decision (I’ve had friends who were) but not all of them are.
    I wonder if a lot of women feel that they *should* be regretful, and then express that publicly even if they feel mostly relief?

  • chersolly

    There are over 100,000 children in the U.S. foster care system and countless children worldwide desperately waiting for homes. Crying over fertility issues when their are needy kids available is like talking to unemployed people about wiping your butt with 20 dollar bills.

  • TabloidScully

    I emphatically disagree with this argument. By that logic, women who are infertile shouldn’t talk about their own acceptance (and, in some cases, relief or excitement) of their infertility. It’s the sad, unspoken truth. Some women are unable to get pregnant, and it doesn’t bother them one bit. Are they, too, supposed to keep quiet about their own experience? It seems anti-Feminist to me, since part of the patriarchy involves encouraging us all to believe we won’t have any merit in life until we have children.
    I’m a Feminist who has faced both infertility while watching my partner have a child with another woman, and abortion when conventional science (the pill used to treat the condition which caused my infertility) failed. Both of these experiences were rather diametrically opposed, but I would not have dreamed of insisting the other side be mum while existing in them.
    There is a massive reproductive narrative that is already under-utilized (the idea that even pro-choice Feminists can feel regret about their own abortion, or that pro-life Feminists can feel relief about them) without us actively promoting greater amounts of silence.

  • Jadelyn

    A-fucking-men to this. I have felt, ever since my abortion (which I handled much like your friend, it was the obvious choice and I felt no guilt or qualms nor did I have difficulty making the decision), that I’ve been sold out by my own side, in the pro-choice acceptance of anti-choice-instigated rhetoric surrounding abortion as a “weighty choice” and all that. I realize it would be more convenient for the movement if women like I and your friend didn’t exist to to contradict the reigning narrative, but that’s just too damn bad. We do exist. And we deserve a place in the discussion as much as all those tortured, conflicted women who had to make a gut-wrenching choice.

  • karak

    A woman has a right to discuss her life, her fertility, and the choices that she makes without being policed or ashamed, whether her choice is to undergo invitro fertilization, have an abortion, or be childfree. All choices are equally valid.

  • DownAtTheDinghy

    Agreed, shsally. Being vocal about having an abortion is NOT rubbing fertility privilege in another person’s face.
    Taking the Morning After Pill is the same thing as taking a few birth control pills at once. I’ll admit though, when I have taken Plan B, I got a bloated feeling for a few days – nothing emotional, though.
    It’s unfortunate that the decision to have an abortion has to be this emotionally draining, soul searching quest in order to make others feel “more comfortable” with the decision a woman makes. Sometimes it just doesn’t require that degree of thought or emotional involvement and it’s unfair to women that they think it is a required part of the process – the soul searching. They end up making themselves feel a lot worse than they need to, especially when they’re mostly feeling guilt for not feeling guilt in the first place.
    As for gift ideas or courtesy afterward … maybe just ask. “Can I get you anything special or not special?” Soda, candy bar, milkshake, book, album?
    Like this post.

  • Spiffy McBang

    If the premise is dealing with women who view having an abortion very matter-of-factly, do you really need a particular script? It doesn’t sound like your friend needed more than what you’d say or do for anyone who had any kind of basic medical procedure.
    “How you feelin’? Ok. Lemme know if you want to do something.”
    You speak of breaking the taboo, which is clearly needed, but maybe the best way to do that is to not treat it as though anything in particular needs to be said at all.

  • Lissla Lissar

    “One thing to remember is that a large number of women have fertility issues and many are actively trying to get pregnant. Being glib about abortion is rubbing one’s fertility privilege in others’ faces. It is like talking to unemployed people about wiping your butt with 20 dollar bills.”
    That doesn’t seem fair. When I recently found out I wasn’t in fact pregnant (which would have been a very negative thing for me, as I don’t ever want kids and my partner and I were not doing well financially at the time, so while an abortion would not have been an emotional thing for me it would have been terrible for our bank accounts), should I have not told friends I was happy about it? Not having a negative reaction to having an abortion is not being “glib”.

  • jane

    So is talking about one’s infertility in front of me, someone who emphatically does not want to get pregnant, a similar situation of butt-wiping? If I became pregnant, I would be very upset and definitely get an abortion. I’d actually love to be infertile; I’ve tried to get a tubal ligation but no physician will perform one on a 25 year old with no children. (In contrast to fertility treatments, though that’s certainly beside the point.)
    But I understand that some women are infertile and envy me my fertility; that’s why I’ve donated my eggs, actually. My heart goes out to women who want children and can’t, but I certainly don’t think my desires are shameful or hurtful to anyone else, as long as I express them sensitively. I expect the same empathy from infertile women that I have for them in return.
    I’m not fertile to spite anyone, and my hypothetical abortion is totally appropriate for me and my situation. I wonder why I should remain silent/ashamed out of sensitivity for others’ situations if those others have no sympathy for mine.

  • http://www.kiav.net Brady Bonk

    This is such an excellent perspective it’s stunning. Not to mention that this frame, the reverence and uncertainty with which we expect women to react to abortion, is somewhat of a surrender to the anti-choice people. They want you to feel crappy about having an abortion. Call it the “Su-Chin Qah” syndrome…

  • Little Mermaid

    Getting more women to break the stigma surrounding the subject of abortion by speaking openly about their abortion experiences is exactly what my platform issue is this year as Miss Illinois Beauties. I had an abortion myself once many years ago, and like many many other women, I kept it a deep dark secret to myself for many years out of fear of condemnation and retalliation from other people who aer against abortion. But now I realize that that silence and secrecy is exactly what is keeping abortion such a stigmatized subject. It is high time that women everywhere take an active part in breaking through that stigma once and for all by openly and unapologetically talking about their abortions. I know this may be very tough for some women to do, but it is the ONLY way that the subject of abortion will ever become less taboo. I know that being a beauty queen and speaking openly in favor of abortion is itself taboo, and I am probably one of the first if not THE first beauty pageant queen to ever do so. But I feel that this needs to be done, so I have decided to take up the torch and begin the process.

  • Lissla Lissar

    Actually, I had to come back and re-read this, and re-reading it I find it telling that you read “not reacting in an upset way to an abortion” as “glib”, which has a fairly negative connotation in my mind. Why do you think that is?

  • Tia

    Please don’t presume to know what it feels like for me.
    I begrudge no woman who chooses an abortion, whether she also chooses to talk about it openly and unapologetically or not. Will her hiding in shame make me feel better? Absolutely not. Will her keeping a child she doesn’t want help me get pregnant? Not at all.
    I can’t speak for all infertile women, but personally, as heartbreaking as it is, I would be only hurt more by people walking on eggshells around me for it. Women need to be able to be free to talk about their reproductive choices, and I’m honoured to be a part of that conversation, infertile or not.

  • kayfem

    As a young woman who’s chosen abortion in the past, I find this argument quite offensive. I attempt to talk about my decision “glibly” because I’ve found that it’s the best way for me to fight the stigma surrounding abortion, which can be stifling. I respect the pain that accompanies one woman’s infertility. But that doesn’t justify silencing another woman’s reproductive health-related struggles. This only perpetuates the silence and the stigma.

  • Emily H.

    This doesn’t seem realistic. Infertility can be painful, but an infertile couple is struggling to have their OWN biological child, not someone else’s. Your hypothetical baby isn’t interchangeable with the baby they are hoping to have. And it’s not like you can be all “do you guys want this two-month fetus? I was just going to throw it out anyway.” One woman’s unwanted pregnancy isn’t some sort of wasted opportunity for a childless couple.
    Also — if Hypothetical Infertile Couple are in a stable relationship, and have enough money/resources to raise a child, they may well have privilege of another kind, compared to a woman who needs an abortion. Neither side needs to keep silent.

  • Sloppy Sandwich

    “I wanted to bring her flowers, or soup, or a magazine to read, or something, but none of those seemed appropriate. …my friend wasn’t sick, or grieving.”
    Its still a medical procedure, and they often recommend rest afterwards. I think that warrants soup or a magazine or DVD or something. If a friend had an ingrown toenail removed (also not sick or grieving), I think something to pass the downtime or even flowers or a get well card are not inappropriate.
    And some women do grieve an abortion, even though they wanted to do it. If you know a friend who grieves, maybe help them grieve. Do women’s private experiences always have to show this united political front of “I had an abortion and the fetus meant nothing to me and it’s not an emotional issue.” This is not the experience of all women. I support that women should be able to choose whether to have an abortion and also feel however they want about it. If some conservative wants to guilt a woman for having an abortion, fuck them. If you want a woman to make sure her post abortion feelings completely align with feminist talking points, well, fuck you too.

  • Lissla Lissar

    Again, why do you think not being upset about an abortion equals being “glib” about it? Why do you assume someone who wasn’t upset about her abortion would be “talking about unborn children as unwanted nuisances”? You are making a lot of judgments here, especially considering that in the original post there was no implication that her friend was being glib.
    I’d also like to point out that if I get an abortion and talk about it, I am not talking about “unborn children”. I’m talking about a fetus. There was no “unborn child” involved.

  • Toongrrl

    I guess maybe depends on the person and you always just have to be there and be supportive of them and maybe bake a cake (that’s just me)

  • baddesignhurts

    good lord. infertile people aren’t a dumping ground for the world’s unwanted children, ugh.
    wanting the life experience of biological parenthood is another valid choice.
    and there’s a difference between someone getting an abortion and being matter-of-fact when they discuss it in a situation where it’s pertinent (great, awesome, wonderful) and someone getting an abortion and being insensitive and bringing it up when it is most likely offensive (bad).

  • rebekah

    it’s not disingenuous to say that women shouldn’t throw the fact that they are able to have children in the face of those of us who can. We support the right of women who can have children to be able to have abortions when they need them no questions asked, so I don’t really think its fair to have them shove it in our faces constantly that they are able to have children and we are not. That is not fair to us, oh and yes when women do shove their pregnancies and their happy bouncing children in our face we do get outraged. Women who cannot have children are treated worse in our society than women who can. That creates a certain amount of privilege of women who are able to bear children over women who cannot. Please learn to check yours

  • rebekah

    no but often times women can be very glib about the whole thing. Not having an emotional reaction to having an abortion is fine. It is women who have abortions and then sit there and moan and groan at those of us who cannot have children and would love to be able to that is a problem, like it or not the reactions that women who are infertile get are as horrible from feminists as they are from the conservative crazy anti’s. It is constantly shoved in our faces that we cannot have children, and not only that but because of that we are either stupid for not being happy about that fact that we can’t have children or we are useless because we can’t have children. We get no support from anyone, least of all other feminists.

  • rebekah

    for some of us infertility treatments will never help. It’s not about silencing women who have had abortions. Women who have had abortions should absolutely speak up. It’s about the women who then turn around and tell us how lucky we are to not be able to have children. It’s about the women who whine about having to remember to take the pill every day. It’s about the women who have babies, and then sit there and tell us for hours how much they love their child and what their child is doing, and how much they love being a mom. It’s about the women who choose to not have abortions and then bitch because they have to get up with the baby at two in the morning. Like it or not that is what we go through on a regular basis, and it’s not okay.

  • MarissaAO

    But middle-class to wealthy people buy crap all the time. We don’t chastise them for it. The American economy is built on conspicuous consumption for crissakes. It’s a facile analogy.
    People should be allowed to talk about their experiences. And they should talk about them in a way that reflects their subjective experience. What you’re implying is that women who have abortions need to behave with some kind of shame, because there are other women who want to conceive but can’t. I can’t support that.

  • MarissaAO

    “Getting more women to break the stigma surrounding the subject of abortion by speaking openly about their abortion experiences is exactly what my platform issue is this year as Miss Illinois Beauties.”
    Wow, that’s quite brave. Good luck; and I hope you’ll blog about the experience.

  • saresails

    Many infertile couples can neither afford to adopt or pursue fertility treatments. The recurring narrative of wealthy middle class white couples who cannot conceive is not the only one, and the privilige of being financially able to adopt isn’t one that every person has.
    Telling people to adopt as if it is the easiest thing ever is just more salt in the wound, so to speak.

  • paperispatient

    I have to disagree with you as well. I never, ever want to have children; if I got pregnant right now, would I consider how I talked about my feelings around a friend who was struggling with infertility? Absolutely, I probably would share my feelings more freely with other friends and family members because I wouldn’t want to upset her. But her infertility does not mean that I should feel guilty if I do not want to stay pregnant or that I should feel badly if I am happy and relieved after having an abortion.

  • gadgetgal

    I’ve had three abortions and a miscarriage so I’m pretty aware of the issues surrounding other people’s perceptions and also how my decision has affected me and others. Like the friend described above I managed to have one abortion with very little in the way of any kind of feeling, it was a practical decision on my part. Another time it was emotional, more emotional than I thought it was going to be for me as I was young and didn’t want children at that point. Another time it nearly killed me (although drugs, drink, homelessness and a failed relationship played an active role in how I felt). Funnily enough the easiest abortion I had was the last one, even with how bad I’d felt after the second. Basically you won’t know what you’re going to feel until you do it, and you won’t know how your friends will feel until they do it too, so I’d say tailor your response to the person AFTER the abortion, not so much to what they said before.
    Also I’m somewhere in the middle about how you speak to others about it – I don’t believe in hiding things, and I think abortion is something that needs to be talked about more in the public sphere, but I think politeness and practicality should come into it when you’re talking about the people who immediately surround you. For example, in the TV show scenario, say what you want – a lot of what’s on TV is going to be offensive to some, and it’s not on the same level as a private conversation between individuals. Not many people will be personally hurt by it, even if it’s heard by millions. If, however, I’m in a room with a bunch of women I don’t know, I tend not to talk about it out of politeness and practicality – I don’t know what any of them has been through or is going through, therefore why am I discussing anything more than the weather anyway? With close friends, I also tailor my conversation and response based upon what I know about them. The example that crosses my mind is when my sister, who had been trying to get pregnant for 10 years, lost her baby – not a miscarriage, she died at 8 months in the womb. For me to say my right to speak my mind trumps her right to not feel pain is just selfish, especially as this was the last abortion I had and it didn’t particularly bother me. So why even mention it to her?
    By the way, I feel this politeness goes both ways – I was hurting badly after my first and second abortions, and I thought some of the parents I knew were a little unthinking and uncaring in how they went on and on about their kids, and pushed them in my face a lot – I understand you should have a right to talk about your family and your kids, and that you’ll be proud, but you should always bear in mind some people aren’t so lucky, and you might in fact be talking to one of them about it. If you’re close to them they should be able to tell you what’s going on and you shouldn’t dismiss that because you don’t feel the same.
    Basically I’m saying – general public forums like the media in general (including blogs, like this one) you should be able to say what you want. In fact, it’s better it’s out there so we can remove the stigma. But if you’re going to talk about it a little more privately some thoughts about your audience are probably warranted, just because fertility is one of the more emotional aspects of a lot of people’s lives.

  • Ashlyn

    THIS!!! A thousand times yes! chersolly FTW!

  • RevolutionarilySpeaking

    What about fostering?
    Most states pay foster parents a decent amount of money (it’s like 900 bucks a month in Illinois, I believe) and once you’ve fostered a child for a while with no mishaps, the state is pretty much like, here ya go. Have’em. Or you can choose to foster pretty much indefinitely if you need the money to support them.
    And while I understand the sentiment that wanting biological children is a valid choice (it absolutely IS a valid choice i’m not contesting that), if you legitimately CANNOT conceive for whatever fertility issue, why is adopting/fostering then not a valid choice?
    I very very rarely criticize other people’s reproductive choices, but when people pay tens of thousands of dollars to exploit a woman in india by paying her to be a surrogate, I kind of have to wonder how many already-born children they could have fed with that money. Like in Baby momma (although that was an American woman, she was still be exploited), for instance.

  • RevolutionarilySpeaking

    Rebekah, I am in no way discounting your experience, but you must know a SERIOUS asshole for someone to say you’re lucky you can’t get pregnant if you are/were struggling with fertility issues.

  • RevolutionarilySpeaking

    I don’t necessarily think that putting a lot of thought into reproductive decisions is anti choice rhetoric. The idea that a woman should feel guilty or shame or loss about an abortion is extremely anti choice, but knowing that women often don’t make most reproductive choices lightly (including parenthood) is not anti choice, in my opinion.
    But, I see what you’re saying about feeling sold out by the pro-choice side. We try too hard to recruit antis for our team by making a caricature of women who abort – the sweet, intelligent woman who just COULDN’T become a parent right now, couldn’t give a baby the life it deserved, felt miserable before and after, and immediately repented and became celibate her abortion. And that most certainly is NOT every woman. We shouldn’t pretend that it is.

  • baddesignhurts

    i’m with gadgetgal and rebekah. it’s a matter of sensitivity. it’s not a matter of silencing either side. saying “i had an abortion and it was a clear and easy decision and i feel it was the right thing for me and that i don’t want it stigmatized and that’s a valid response” is not being glib. sitting around someone who you know is having trouble conceiving (and let’s remember, many infertile women feel similar societal shame as those having abortions) and complaining that you can’t fit an abortion into your busy schedule and your birth control pills are so overpriced and that during your pregnancy with your older child you went a *week!* past your due date and that was ***so uncomfortable!!!***… THAT is glib. not because it’s untrue, but because that isn’t the fucking time or place to discuss it. (and go read any infertility blog if you don’t believe me that this shit happens ALL THE TIME.)
    and let’s please remember that infertility is a MEDICAL CONDITION. if a friend of yours is undergoing chemotherapy, are you going to ask him/her their opinion on your new haircut? or tell them, “man, my doctor said i’m healthy as a horse!” hopefully you wouldn’t, because if you did, you’d be an asshole.
    and the whole “well, an infertile woman isn’t having my baby so i’m not going to stay silent” argument is missing the point. DUH.

  • Lissla Lissar

    How exactly is someone talking about their experience with abortion shoving it in your face?

  • Lissla Lissar

    I’m sorry you’ve had experiences with people who acted like that and were insensitive.
    However, I don’t see where people are getting this attitude from the original post. There is no implication that the OPs friend would act like that. The original post, to me, is about being comfortable with not being upset by having an abortion. That is not the same as being rude to infertile people. Saying “I had an abortion and it was not a difficult or emotionally damaging decision” is miles from telling infertile friends that they’re lucky or shoving your fertility in their face or anything akin to that.

  • paperispatient

    and let’s please remember that infertility is a MEDICAL CONDITION. if a friend of yours is undergoing chemotherapy, are you going to ask him/her their opinion on your new haircut? or tell them, “man, my doctor said i’m healthy as a horse!” hopefully you wouldn’t, because if you did, you’d be an asshole.
    My grandmother struggled with lung cancer for years and underwent both chemo and radiation; I know that she didn’t want to be treated like a “sick person,” she wanted everyone to treat her the same way they did before she got sick. This isn’t going to be true for everyone, but she’d have vastly preferred chatting about a new haircut to conversation focusing on her illness.

  • lovelyliz

    I don’t think that shame is required, but maybe some respect? Personally, the WAY that Fleiss spoke of her experience was more offensive than what she said.

  • SomeCommenter

    I agree with others that some sensitivity is always good, in general.
    But to be honest, I wondered where nestra’s comment came from; I think the OP was advocating talking unapologetically about abortion, about the fact that actually, it isn’t that big a deal to some women.
    I *don’t* think she was advocating getting in people’s faces and being ‘woohoo, I had an abortion, go me!’ and certainly not doing that in private with friends you know have fertility problems.
    The OP specifically mentions *public* discourse, in the last 2 paras. I realise the piece was mainly about a personal situation with her friend, but, while I don’t think the personal is political, the public and private are certainly related. If she’d had representations of women having abortions who were relatively not that bothered by it, she would have known what to do and not felt awkward. Let’s face it, in most media representations of abortion, the woman is devastated and regrets it for life/ is punished by being infertile when she does want kids, or is at least sad. We never see her little more inconvenienced than by a tooth extraction, or even having sort of mixed feelings – a bit sad, a bit regretful, but also glad and relieved because she knew she couldn’t give a child everything it needs and didn’t want to be a mum (at that time). There is no nuance. It’s always OMG BAD.
    So, the kind of we can’t talk about abortion except as tragic in case we upset infertile people – er, nope.
    Sure, saying ‘phew, glad I got that abortion! I feel so relieved!’ to a friend who is experiencing fertility trouble at the time isn’t sensitive (if it was me, I’d seriously consider whether they needed to know at all, and would find another friend to talk to) – but no-one has advocated that.
    There is no need to feel that *public* representations of abortion should walk on eggshells.
    And I may have fertility issues – but I actually don’t want kids anyway, so I am *meh*. I am also tired of it being portrayed as TRAGIC when women can’t conceive. That’s not disrespecting women who do desperately want kids and can’t have them, because they have a right to their feelings of loss and sadness, but what they don’t have is the right to make everyone pussyfoot around those feelings. No-one has a right to not have their feelings hurt.

  • MarySophia

    I think she was turning the argument on its head to show how ridiculous and offensive it was, not to actually argue the other side.

  • SomeCommenter

    Oh and – sorry, I should have added this – I really *don’t* want anyone to feel they have to pussyfoot around me if I change my mind and want to have children, but have trouble. It would make me feel worse than *gasp* hearing about abortion. Really. In other words, what paperispatient just said.

  • MarissaAO

    “It’s about the women who have babies, and then sit there and tell us for hours how much they love their child and what their child is doing, and how much they love being a mom. It’s about the women who choose to not have abortions and then bitch because they have to get up with the baby at two in the morning.”
    You realize that the way one is supposed to mother in out society, one’s entire life revolves around one’s child. Why shouldn’t mothers talk about what their kids are doing? You have a problem with them talking about how much they love being a mom, and also with them complaining about the trails that come with being a mother. So are women just not supposed to talk about being mothers at all?

  • FLT

    One reason fostering is not a good choice for many people is that the traumatic experiences that put a child into foster can can leave the child too damaged for many people to handle.
    It is completely understandable that a person would want a surrogate and be certain that his or her child would have proper pre natal care and as healthy environment as possible while growing up.
    I say this because my sister in laws two adopted children, adopted as toddlers, still have health/behavior problems stemming from early years of neglect.

  • alixana

    I’m highly suspicious of the term “shoving it in my face” because I most often come across it when reading homophobes complaining about the mere existence of a gay or lesbian couple on television. It’s just code for, “Please don’t live your life anywhere that I can see it.”