In the New York Times, Merritt Tierce applauds Wendy Davis for opening up about her abortions and writes about the more common abortion stories that we don’t hear about as much.
This is how it really is, abortion: You do things you regret or don’t understand and then you make other choices because life keeps going forward. Or you do something out of love and then, through biology or accident, it goes inexplicably wrong, and you do what you can to cope. Or you do whatever you do, however you do it, for whatever reason, because that’s your experience.
It’s not Ms. Davis’s job to be groundbreaking, and I’m sorry that her personal reproductive history has to be declared and described (not to mention leveraged for votes). Do we approve of what she wanted? Did she suffer enough? These questions are not ours to ask.
We have to stop categorizing abortions as justified or unjustified. The best thing you can do if you support reproductive rights is to force people to realize that abortion is common, and the most common abortion is a five-to-15-minute procedure elected early in the first trimester by someone who doesn’t want to be pregnant or have a child. It’s our job to say it’s O.K. if that’s the end of the story. It’s O.K. if it’s boring or not traumatic or if you don’t even know what it was.
As I’ve written before, focusing on the “exceptions” can definitely reinforce this hierarchy of abortions that is so hard to shake. In fact, disclosing anything about the circumstances of your abortion seems to invite this tendency to categorize and justify — even within ourselves. As Tierce writes, “We have accepted the damaging idea that a person who wants an abortion must grovel before the consciences of others.” And so as much as I believe in the power of abortion stories to combat stigma, sometimes I think the most radical act of abortion storytelling would be for us all to say, “I had an abortion. And I will not be taking any questions.”
Maya Dusenbery is an Executive Director of Feministing.