In 6 days, I will have completed my first year at Smith College, and so will the 20 girls of the class of 2013 who live in my house at school.
Tomorrow, one of them is having an abortion.
She is not the first friend or classmates I’ve known who’s been driven to a clinic in Springfield or Brattleboro (Vermont) but the striking thing about this event is how it has been received by my social circle.
Smith College’s curriculum is very good about remembering minorities. As an all women’s college, every class I’ve taken has heard female voices, and African-American voices, and Asian voices, and every class of people who has ever been oppressed is mentioned, and our professors tell us that we must remember history is written by the winners, and that we have to seek our the alternate histories of groups who were silenced. We have a support group for femmes, one for butches, one for genderqueer, one for transmen. We have a college-sponsored event called Sexhibition every April, which features the art of students with content that is primarily nudity-based. Our Convocation is notoriously clothing-optional.
Fine, great. But this college’s inclusive nature is limited to race, gender and sexual orientation. I hear no conversations about class.
That is the great lie of my college, held up everywhere by statistics about the percentage of students on financial aid and the number of students who are the first in their families to attend college. The great lie of Smith is that class trumps everything, and this, too, is the great lie of the country.
Money is something I can’t talk about with my friends at this school. If I do, I regret it. With my financial aid package, I pay about half of what my friends’ parents do. Their parents’ money subsidizes my education. I work at an off-campus job about 20 hours a week, while I take the same course load as my peers.
So when Amanda* found out she was pregnant (a fact that is still under wraps) and the reaction of those in the know was, “Poor Amanda, this is so awful, that she has to go through this, she doesn’t deserve it,” I wasn’t particularly sympathetic. Yes, that sucks. But at least she can have (afford) an abortion.
My peers have whispered in hushed tones about the drama and sadness. Tragic, they say. Amanda has to pay for it out of pocket. Amanda can’t tell her parents. Amanda had to tell the dean in order to get extensions on her papers.
Amanda is having an abortion, but at least she’s not forced to carry her pregnancy to term. At least she doesn’t have to drop out. At least she has the money to pay for it out of pocket. At least she doesn’t have to travel by train or bus or plane out of state somewhere for the procedure.
I don’t know how to say this to these girls I have lived with for nine months that this could be much worse, that this is actually a good thing. At least we are in Massachusetts. At least she realized she was pregnant in time to get an abortion. At least, at least. There are one million ways this situation could have derailed a young woman’s life, but because of the privileges of Amanda’s life, it is merely a bump in the road.
Is it unfortunate? Yes. I don’t believe anyone has sex intending to abort. Abortion is never the desired effect of a series of decisions. But we do well to remember that the right to abortion is given to us by virtue of our status in society and that another girl somewhere may now be realizing that she can have an abortion or she can eat for the next month. She may now be realizing that she cannot afford an abortion. That she has no one to take her. That there is no clinic she can reach easily. That she cannot afford the bus ticket and the abortion. That she will be having a baby.
Amanda is not, and I’d like it if my peers remembered how amazing that is.
*Name changed to protect her privacy.