Quick Hit: 26 women tell their abortion stories in New York Magazine

BYwJK4pCMAAmblPThis week’s New York Magazine cover story features 26 individual stories from women who have made the choice to have an abortion, and in some instances chose to continue their pregnancies.
Meaghan Winter writes:

But for all the regulations and protests, despite “safe, legal, and rare” and “abortion is murder,” abortion is part of our everyday experience. Nearly half of all pregnancies are unintended; about half of those—1.2 million—will end in abortion each year.

And yet abortion is something we tend to be more comfortable discussing as an abstraction; the feelings it provokes are too complicated to face in all their particularities. Which is perhaps why, even in doggedly liberal parts of the country, very few people talk openly about the experience, leaving the reality of abortion, and the emotions that accompany it, a silent witness in our political discourse. Even now, four decades after Roe, some of the women we spoke with would talk only if we didn’t print their real names.

Not only do we get a window into the circumstances that these women faced when seeking abortions – wealthy and poor, educated and striving, young and old, and ethnically diverse backgrounds — these portraits provide us with a powerful perspective that goes beyond the bravado and impassioned speeches of anti-choicers and doublespeak and gnarled logic of GOP lawmakers. Earlier this year, Planned Parenthood attempted to reframe the never ending national debate surrounding abortion with its Not In Her shoes campaign. The campaign’s launch was supported by polling that reflected a complex electorate–one that recognized that the individual circumstances that would lead someone to choose abortion are personal. In March, we re-published a piece by poet and activist Sonya Renee Taylor about her abortion.

What each of these stories reveals about the decision to have abortion is something many of us on the pro-choice side understands: it’s complicated and it’s personal. Taylor’s writes, “Telling my truth is a salutation to that beautiful and likely brutal life I did not chose. It is me walking into the sun of the one I did. I made the wisest choice I knew to make, period. I must say that aloud. When I do I loosen a shackle of shame, for myself and for some other woman who made a similar choice.”

Those on the anti-choice side make gross presumptions about the set of events that lead people to choose abortion. These 26 women shared their very personal decision with a public that seeks to shame and silence them. You should read every single story.

sm-bioSyreeta McFadden contains multitudes, searches for the perfect line break, and wears the white hat.

SYREETA MCFADDEN is a Brooklyn based writer, photographer and adjunct professor of English. Her writing has appeared in the New York Times, The Guardian, BuzzFeed, The Huffington Post, Religion Dispatches and Storyscape Journal. She is the managing editor of the online literary magazine, Union Station, and a co-curator of Poets in Unexpected Places. You can follow her on Twitter @reetamac.

Syreeta McFadden is a contributing opinion writer for The Guardian US and an editor of Union Station Magazine.

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  • http://feministing.com/members/jackys/ Jacky

    These stories are incredibly powerful. It’s heartbreaking that the debate surrounding abortion so rarely includes voices from the people who are most affected: women who have had, or even thought about having, an abortion. The probable reason for these women’s silence, fear for their own safety, is even more heartbreaking… Especially considering that “1 in 3″ statistic.

    I believe that abortion access is the single most important issue facing women today. It’s difficult to say that when I think about all of the other feminist issues discussed on this website and others… But a person’s body is the one thing a person owns from birth until death, regardless of any other struggles or inequalities he/she faces in life, and control over our bodies is our most fundamental right as humans. That is what anti-choicers seek to take away from us.

  • http://feministing.com/members/sydneyalewis/ Sydney

    I picked up the magazine because of the cover story, thrilled that a widely-read publication was bold enough to put “abortion” on the cover and feature vignettes of real women who have chosen to have abortions. I was excited that these “real” stories might actually represent a cross-section of the millions of women who have chosen abortion and might support pro-choice activism by commending and even celebrating the women who have bravely made the decision to exercise their rights over their own bodies and lives by terminating a pregnancy.

    From the moment I turned to the first page of the article, I was incredibly disappointed and actually angry. Nearly all of the stories include a harrowing experience with a botched procedure or an impersonal clinic; most end with lingering remorse. Many of the women explain that they were woefully uninformed or even misinformed about their fertility and reproductive health. Many describe fights with partners who pressured them towards or away from abortion. All of the women who were photographed look wounded.

    Where are the stories of women who found themselves accidentally pregnant, knew that they didn’t want to carry the pregnancy to term for whatever reason, and had safe, uncomplicated abortions at welcoming clinics with friendly and informative doctors? It’s absolutely important for women to openly discuss experiences with abortion, good and bad, and it’s also important that feminists are able to share narratives that don’t resoundingly celebrate abortion. For me, though, this article doesn’t inaugurate a new dialogue about abortion – it depicts these 26 women as victims whose decisions to abort were haphazard or regrettable. A real cross-section of the “1 in 3″ – and a real pro-choice article – would have featured stories that actually celebrate women’s choices.