Reclaiming Abortion.

1 Apr

Our fearless Abortion Gang founder blogged about her decision to choose the blog name and this got me thinking about the word abortion.  Strangely, antis seem to use it totally freely.  Even the new anti ads in New York City subways are part of a campaign called abortion changes you.  The only time I remember seeing a pro-choice ad mentioning choice, let alone abortion, was for, wait for it, Manhattan Mini Storage.  The tagline overlaid an image of a coat hanger and read “Your closet space is shrinking as fast as her right to choose.”  Perhaps others have seen good examples of ads that sent a strong reproductive justice message, if so please send them my way!  I’d like to think that someone somewhere is getting this right…

According to Merriam Webster what we like to think of as a miscarriage is actually technically an abortion if it happens during the first trimester, but then suddenly is a miscarriage again in the second trimester.  Why the dictionaries are defining abortion and not doctors is totally beyond me.

So what are we really looking for in reclaiming abortion?  Handing the term back to the docs and keeping it medicalized?  I think it has been made quite clear that at this point that is impossible.  Everyone wants a piece of action.

Much like how many liberals “took back” the flag after conservatives seemingly co-opted it under Bush II, I feel we should take back abortion. Antis, who seemingly want the procedure shunned to the point the word is never uttered again, stand tall and say it.  Yet supporters of a full-range of reproductive choices, including abortion, refuse to use it because of a possible negative connotation.  It is our fight and therefore our word and we should stand by it.

4 Responses to “Reclaiming Abortion.”

  1. KushielsMoon April 1, 2010 at 4:07 pm #

    A miscarriage, medically speaking, is a spontaneous abortion. At 20 weeks (or about that time) the term for losing a pregnancy becomes stillbirth instead of miscarriage.

    I read somewhere that women have been looked down upon by doctors because someone wrote “abortion” in their medical file when the woman had a miscarriage.

    This, I think, is outrageous. No one should be looked down upon for having an abortion, whether it is intentional or spontaneous. Abortion is part of healthcare and medicine.

    In terms of ads using the word abortion, I think the reason that antichoice ads use the word abortion but prochoice ads don’t is because we’re not here just to support abortion. While antis are fighting a war against abortion, we are fighting a war against the objectification of women (trans or cis); a war against the removal of our freedoms and liberties; a war against patriarchy. It’s not just about abortion for us, where as for the antis it is.

  2. NYCprochoiceMD April 1, 2010 at 11:23 pm #

    Just for clarity’s sake, in medicine we do distinguish between “spontaneous” abortion and “therapeutic” abortion (though the terminology, as most medical terms, leaves a lot to be desired; we still say, for instance, that someone who doesn’t get better with a treatment “failed). When the reason for the abortion is not germaine to the current treatment, everything gets collapsed into “abortion,” whether it is spontaneous or otherwise. For instance, if I see a woman who is pregnant, I characterize her reproductive history by how many pregnancies she’s had, how many term deliveries she’s had, how many preterm deliveries she’s had, and how many living children she has. If I’m taking care of a woman in labor, I characterize her reproductive history as how many term & preterm deliveries she’s had. If I’m taking care of someone dealing with infertility, I go into much more detail.

    Since abortion is such a part of women’s reproductive lives, I hope that most doctors do not look down upon women based on their history of abortion, though I’m sure it happens.

  3. Nicole April 2, 2010 at 10:49 am #

    Thank you both for the medical clarifications! It always amazes me how rarely abortion is framed from a medical practitioner’s perspective. I really appreciate you weighing in.

  4. placenta sandwich April 4, 2010 at 11:35 am #

    I don’t know how widespread this is, but I was recently told by a reproductive epidemiologist that researchers and doctors have been consciously trying, over the ~2 decades?, to replace their use of “spontaneous abortion” with “miscarriage” to avoid upsetting patients who might react badly to having a past or potential miscarriage “conflated” with an induced termination of pregnancy.

    The assumptions there are that (1) all women who experience a miscarriage were unambiguously sad to lose their pregnancy, and (2) all women who experience an abortion were unambiguously happy to lose theirs, and (3) these are two different kinds of women and you can’t be both, and (4) the former would/should be insulted to be lumped in with the latter.

    I realize this is a simplistic summary, and that doctors can’t help the messages and judgments their patients have internalized over the course of their lives and should indeed have a good bedside manner that does not upset patients unnecessarily. And maybe the private appointment with the individual patient is an inappropriate place for public advocacy or social change. But if the person who told me this is correct about the situation, then it’s a terrible bind that pro-choice OB/GYNs are in.

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