One year ago I spoke.
It was less a decision than it was a compulsion. As wedge issue rhetoric was ramping up in the pre-election season, Susan G. Komen pulled their funding from Planned Parenthood. The right-wing squawkers were having a praise Komen field day. I had been rolling my eyes in my typical those-people-are-nuts-it’s-just-talk dismissal – and then Dana Loesch opened her mouth.
We should all support Komen now that they’ve pulled their funding. You know, liberals only support breast cancer when it furthers their abortion agenda, because abortion is liberal birth control.
Or words to that effect. (I won’t subject you to the audio.)
I’m not sure if it was the timber of her voice, or just that it was a woman’s voice, or that she sounded so sure of the non-facts she was spouting, but I simply and calmly had had enough. The clip was aired during the Right-wing World segment on The Stephanie Miller Show, which was playing as I got ready for work. I sat down, picked up the phone, and spoke my truth.
Once I had told my story on national radio – not exactly anonymously as the unique combo of “Katie from Chicago” and “the official dogwalking bartender of the Stephanie Miller Show” – the decision to type it out was basically a shrug. When a quick Google search resulted in the astonishing (to me) statistic that one in three American women will/have had an abortion I wondered why I’d felt isolated. I was never ashamed of my decision, but I hadn’t shared it out of a desire not to alienate people around me.
When I sat down to write, I realized I was likely to find more common ground than divisiveness with the women in my life: One in Three women have an abortion during their lifetimes. One in Three? I wondered why I didn’t know – why that seemed like too high of a percentage. I realized it’s silence, forced shame and a lack of broad understanding of the circumstances that surround the choices women and their families make.
Also, there’s a very real fear factor. Not a fear of judgment, but a fear for safety. In a post-Tiller America, a country where doctors and clinics have their information printed on fliers with crosshairs over pictures and addresses, many women stay silent out of necessity. And many who don’t fear physical harm fear retaliation at their jobs, churches, and family gatherings. When picketers shout lies and hate from clinic sidewalks as women make their way in to appointments, we are understandably guarded about discussing abortions afterwards.
I had none of those fears. Yes, I might lose a few friends and possibly some family. But I could safely speak out, I thought with a sigh, so I should. And so I did.
It lead me to become a clinic escort in Chicago, volunteering my time alongside the most dedicated, amazing men and women I’ve ever known. I became more comfortable and bold in my beliefs. Along the way, I discovered my voice was part of a chorus. And it was beautiful.
Over the past year I have cried tears of joy and smiled exhaustedly and appreciatively as more and more women have spoken. There are blogs connected to every major reproductive rights organization and campaign where women tell the stories of their unplanned pregnancies and the range of choices they made, why they made them and how those choices impacted their lives.
We have taken the truth back. The slander, the faux “science,” the aggressive obfuscation of reality wielded as weapons by the anti-choice fall impotently at their feet as we tell our stories. Our silence was their power. When we speak, their control of the rhetoric and narrative dissipates.
Keep speaking – there is more to be said and better access to care to achieve. I am glad every day that I broke my silence. If it is safe for you to do so, I invite you to join the chorus.
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