Lately, we have been facing legislation and societal pressure from the anti-choice side to move us even further back in time in laws that affect reproductive justice. As an ardent supporter of access to abortion and reproductive justice for all women, this is a huge issue for me, but it also does expose the truth about this issue. You just can’t decide where the nuances fall and where they don’t. Abortion must be available for everyone. The nuances that allow for informed choices lie in medically-accurate and woman-centered education, support services, and quality care.
I see where the antis are coming from in regard to the “exceptions.” A lot of people place themselves on the anti to pro-choice continuum somewhere in the middle, placing exceptions or qualifiers on their opinions. I’m pro-choice BUT not in the third trimester. I’m “pro-life” EXCEPT in cases of rape and incest. This logic works in the day-to-day for sure, like a lot of beliefs we hold, when we don’t take our lines of thinking to their logical or practical conclusion.
When abortion is just an issue, we stop thinking about individual people and their lives, we don’t realize the limitless numbers of exceptions there should be that would provide for real reproductive choice. When one starts to hear the stories of women who have had abortions (or wanted to have abortions but were denied access) it is hard to see anything but exceptions. In fact, I know women who consider their own abortion the exception to the no-abortion rule, regardless of the circumstances. This speaks to the fact that once abortion is not a word but a personal decision weighed carefully by an individual, every woman’s abortion is an exception if that abortion was her decision.
When I think about “exceptions” I think about all the stories that I know of women who wanted to have an abortion or had an abortion. I think of women I have known with ten or more children produced with abusive husbands who kept them pregnant to make them stay, to imprison them in their homes. I think of young queer women I’ve known who were trying to prove they could be straight. I think of women I know who wanted a child so badly, only to find out what they wanted to be their baby had anencephaly or other defects that couldn’t definitively be detected until the second or third trimester. I think of women without safe access to a place to live, let alone prenatal care. I think of a woman I knew who realized she was pregnant while undergoing chemotherapy for stage four cancer.
I think of all women who have had abortions and those who wanted to have abortions who were not able. I think of women who want to have children who do not have access to what they need for family creation and for women who are not provided with real choices and options by a society in which heterosexism, racism, ableism, sexism, and religious discrimination are still alive and well. I think of how the more I know about the lives of any individual woman or group of women, the more I know I don’t know.
I remember how there should be no exceptions to how every woman should be considered the expert on her own life and circumstances without exceptions.