Have you ever known someone who says, “I think abortion should be legal but I would never have one”? I recently had a twitter argument over a post that echoes this sentiment.
Last week a twitter friend posted a link from postsecret that is a drawing of a woman wearing a pro-choice clinic escort shirt standing in front of a sign that reads “This Clinic Stays Open.” In the space next to this image are the words, “I escort women into the clinic to keep them safe…even though the thought of an abortion makes me want to cry.” Then in the text of the tweet with this link my friend writes, “I identify with this… prochoice all the way, but I do find it very sad.”
This sent me into an almost blackout rage and I was trying to keep calm and think of a response to her. I knew that the other posters at The Abortion Gang would have words I could use that put my feeling into 140 characters or less and so I came here to read the other posts. I found a sentence I really liked and replied back to her, “saying it makes you sad/cry does nothing to de-stigmatize not only abortion care work but also reproductive justice activism.”
She then replied to me in two tweets, “it doesn’t make me cry, but it does make me sad. I wish no one ever had to make the decision, but I support our right to make it” and “and even though I haven’t done it, I would gladly escort someone in so that they were safe and well cared for.”
I am giving so much detail about this because I feel my response to her was completely ignored and she doesn’t address the fact that using words like “sad” and “cry” do reinforce negative associations with abortion and also continue to shame it. I also feel that by saying this she is not really pro-choice. There shouldn’t be a qualifier statement after saying “I am pro-choice.” Why have the “but” in there? It is as harmful as someone who is flat out anti-choice. I never read anti-choice statements saying, “I’m anti-choice but….’ They own their beliefs. Using the word ‘but’ negates everything a person just said. I refuse to believe anyone when they make statements like that and I don’t trust that what they are saying is even true. Just like no one wants to hear an apology that starts with, “I’m sorry, but….”
Here are similar statements to hers to give examples of how ridiculous it sounds.
1: “I’m all for equality and gay rights, but the though of gays getting married in the church makes me cry.”
2: “I wish no one had to have gall stones removed and I would never do it but I support your right to do it.”
The thought of a safe, legal, common medical procedure does not make me cry. I strongly believe that saying that you wish no one had to have an abortion is just as bad as saying they shouldn’t have one. Until we normalize the notion of having an abortion as safe and legal, as well as using the word ‘abortion,’ no progress will be made. I feel that people who make statements like her are harmful to the cause and I don’t want to associate myself with any of it. I am fiercely pro-choice and she knows this and of course I am going to read that and feel the need to respond and stay on topic without devolving into a pointless discussion. Rather than admitting to being anti-choice why does one say “I’m pro-choice, but…”? I have thought about this question for a few days after I wrote this and I have come to realize it is because they find abortion morally wrong but consider themselves liberal. And one cannot be blatantly anti-choice and liberal; at least I feel most people would not admit that in public to their friends/family. I think this is just as dangerous to the pro-choice movement as anything else we face on a daily basis. I feel that whenever I update my facebook status or tweet about abortion in general or how it was eroded away in the health care reform I get very little response from my “friends.” Maybe this is my own problem in that my circle of friends isn’t as pro-choice as I assumed they were. This doesn’t stop me from posting articles and links because I like everyone knowing where I stand and I don’t have some internal moral struggle with my beliefs. I am going to keep talking about being pro-choice with no ‘but’ or qualifier statement because the more I can help to normalize it the more beneficial it is for everyone.