This morning, I had a talk about abortion and the monster that is abortion stigma with the guy that makes my coffee. It was a wide-ranging conversation and for both of us I think, informative. When I left I was surprised I even had the conversation because for all my tough talk online about being open about abortion and decreasing abortion stigma, trusting people to talk about abortion outside of activist spaces is especially difficult for me.
The conversation started innocently enough, when he asked what I plan to do today. I replied with, “I think I’m going to write,” and the conversation took off from there. “What will you write?” he asked. I hesitated. It’s a pause I’m sure many pro-choice activists are well acquainted with, that moment it takes to assess whether you trust the person you’re speaking with to not go H.A.M. when they find out you’re pro-choice. In the back of my mind I was wondering if I should just go with the default, “I write about the Blazers and other sports,” or if I should be honest. Hiding the fact that I’m an abortion rights activist is energy consuming and violates the basic tenets of my beliefs. That I am an unrepentant abortion rights activist is a fact that is constantly warring with my need for self-protection and a small mama-bear streak that arises when I feel sharing what I do with people that could pose a threat to my son.
Call it a sad carry over from anti-choice violence and the threats and online stalking I had to deal with after #10forTebow took off.
I paused long enough to elicit a strange look from my the barista and then I just did it. I said, “I’m going to write about abortion access in rural spaces and how decreasing funding hurts poor women and poor families.” I kept my self from cringing, barely. Not because I was ashamed, but because I was nervous. Even though I live in urban Portland, Oregon – one of the most liberal places in the country- I still wonder what the response could be.
“Yeah , thanks Hyde.”
DOINK. Hello floor, it’s Sophia, allow me to get up from this dead faint.
Not only did he not balk at my activism, he zeroed right in on one of the main issues blocking abortion access, the Hyde Amendment. Our conversation sped off from there, and we chatted openly about everything from legislation like the life-at-fertilization bills to how institutionalization of the idea that abortion should be safe, legal and rare creates and perpetuates stigma. He kept saying, “its just so cool that there are people writing about this.” And his coworker, a woman I think is about my age chimed in, “I love this conversation, you guys rock.”
Fine, so a conversation at my coffee shop isn’t earth shattering. But it is a small step for me, in decreasing stigma and overcoming my own fear of discussing abortion in perceived non-safe spaces. It’s one thing to talk about the need to discuss abortion openly while sitting in a Sociology program’s classroom on a college campus, or while online in an activist-centric forum, and quite another to walk-the-walk.
Today’s discussion could have been awkward, it could have ended in violence even, but I decided the risk to open up was worth it. Talking about abortion can be tough, but small discussions like the one I had this morning, I do honestly believe, can do much good in our quest to decrease a culture of abortion stigma.