If you are reading this, you probably think about abortion more than the average citizen. Like myself, you would write-off reading through 25 personal abortion stories in succession as a somewhat simple task. But I can assure you, it’s not.
Reading these accounts from self-identified antis, pro-choice peoples, and the many unidentified folks in-between not only brought out the mushy middle, but also that in the real world it is not so much about labels as about people and their life trajectories. I think one blogger coined the spectrum best as “falsely dichotomized.”
Pro-choice, anti-choice, whatever, it may all collapse when you realize you have an unintended pregnancy. Everyday women walk in and out of a clinic anti-choice, before and after an abortion. We just often fail to recognize this because it’s all so illogical. People love their boxes. I love my box. I am a liberal, pro-choice New Yorker, and I am so comfortable in my box. Occasionally though, we have to recognize that much like latitude and longitude, these are imaginary lines made-up by people to assist them in navigating their lives.
So where does that leave us? Get rid of the boxes. Embrace people exactly where they’re at. Simply accept that one woman can say “The whole thing was about as exciting as a pap smear,” while another can regret her abortion years down the road. Embrace that everyone from professional volleyball players to professional antis will be compelled to write about this experience anytime from the day to years after. We just support them all to make the best decisions that they know how to. That philosophy, ye olde end o’boxes, to me is what distinguishes reproductive justice.
Take for example, Aspen Baker of Exhale’s abortion story. She introduces the term “pro-voice,” which easily could be used to coin this new wider vision of abortion advocacy. Focusing on women’s empowerment through internal and not external factors. She even goes so far to highlight this “gray area of human experience,” in regards to the morality and ethics of abortion. The difficulty from me came in when Baker discusses how a strict vision of “abortion on demand” and similar mainline pro-choice “movement” rhetoric and theory is incompatible with a more morally reflective individual experience of abortion.
These are not mutually exclusive. This is a fallacy, and I believe it speaks to the rift between older and younger feminists. Perhaps, older feminists don’t think we exist because we don’t think like them. But that, my friends, is what we call progress.
We, young feminists, see humanist and feminist as synonymous. We see justice not choice as the framework. We grew-up writing Amnesty International Urgent Actions and watching girl power afterschool specials. We expect feminism and work for justice. We see a full-range of reproductive options from abortion to birthing babies to contraception access as one battle.
Second wavers didn’t generally work across all these realms. They operated in isolated buckets, much like their remnant nonprofits do today. But like our personal and political imaginary lines, these buckets too are imaginary. Herein lies the crux of the generational disconnect. If you’re working on abortion rights, how could you possibly understand or truly care about ethical dilemmas around abortion? My thinking, how can you not?
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that I don’t have the utmost respect for all of these women and men. I do. Their work is incredible. But we are here to push boundaries. At the same time, I also sincerely doubt I’ll be sitting in a circle holding hands with antis anytime soon. I still call myself pro-choice and am astonished how someone can state they felt they made the right decision about having an abortion and come back years later to regret it because of something they thought they heard through divine intervention. That I will never understand. But that doesn’t mean I cannot accept it. It doesn’t mean that woman has to be sequestered to a box to keep me from having to think about her and her needs. It simply means I need to learn more and work harder alongside all of you.