An article in the Toronto Star by Judith Timson titled Abortion Tell-alls are a Trap argues that there is little point in the new trend of women telling their abortion story because,
No matter how moving your story is, many will argue your abortion was unnecessary and evil and you’re a murderer. Abortion stories don’t seem to change the minds of opponents. If anything, they harden their stances.
Although I agree abortion stories will not change the minds of hardened anti-choicers, I unequivocally disagree with her conclusion that tell-alls are “traps.” Pro-choicers are not seeking to change the minds of hard-core antis. By “telling-all” we are seeking to get “neutral” people to understand why women have abortions, and to care about women’s rights. The more people understand the intricacies of abortion, and the more people they know who have abortions, the more likely they are to become involved, either by voting for pro-choice candidates, or writing them. The more likely they are to care.
Reproductive and abortion rights for women will not come until the majority of the population demands it. Citizens will not demand abortion rights unless they understand why women have abortions. I agree with Timson that limiting stories to heart-wrenching fetal abnormality stories results in limited-exception based abortion rights, which is not the goal, or at least not my goal. What this means is that rather than discouraging women from talking about their abortion by describing it as a “trap,” we should be encouraging women who had abortions because they were not ready for a(nother) child to tell their stories as well.
Statistically, women who have an abortion because they do not want/can’t have a(nother) child became pregnant in the first place despite taking precautions. Birth control fails and society needs to understand that these women are not “irresponsible.” If individuals know a woman who had an abortion under these circumstances, chances are they will understand that woman’s reason. Even antis understand that! Abortion statistics do not differentiate based on religion or necessarily on ones status as pro- or anti-choice. Antis have abortions too and as Timson notes, many of those men in the legislature voting for restrictive abortion rights know a woman, be it their wife, daughter, or mistress, who had an abortion. If even antis can accept the abortion of a loved one as moral, why can’t society as a whole?
That is the reason why all abortion stories are valuable, including the ones where a woman was on birth control, and those where she was not. If you learn that a person you love and respect accidentally became pregnant, either due to a birth control failure or a failure to take birth control and you can understand whyshe did it, then you are one step closer to understanding why other women in the same circumstances had their abortions. The more you understand and sympathize with women you know who had an abortion, the easier it is to accept that it is every woman’s right to choose, no matter the circumstances. Women’s abortion stories normalize abortions in all circumstances.
Even if you do not accept any of my other arguments, I think you will agree that when a woman tells her story of a failure to take birth control, her story will reach another woman in the same situation who was hiding in shame and absorbed with guilt. That story, while perhaps pissing off the antis and hardening their stances (like we care…), that story may reach another woman and she may no longer feel alone. We cannot overlook the power of every woman’s story to reach another woman in the same circumstance who does not have any support network.
And while I do also agree with Timson that no woman should ever share her story if she is not ready or willing, I do not believe in telling the women who do want to tell their story that it is all for naught; that it is a trap. Abortion stories are the furthest thing from a trap, and are in fact infinitely valuable.