As a part of our exploration of reproductive justice in America that coincided with our production of Abortion Road Trip, we created a form for readers to submit anonymous stories about their experiences. This post is a collection of these first-person perspectives. You can see the original form here.
Sometimes the attacks on reproductive rights are obvious -- restrictive legislation, bomb threats at clinics, and protests outside of a comedy about abortion come to mind. Often, though, the suffocating politics and culture surrounding these issues manifest themselves in subtle, almost invisible ways. That’s where you came in.
We asked you to share your experiences of reproductive health and justice with us, and you didn’t disappoint. None of these stories are terribly flashy; most likely, none of them would receive press coverage or spur mass outrage. Yet, when read together, they begin to paint a picture about the state of reproductive healthcare today. Take a look:
“The first time I saw a condom was in the episode of extras with Daniel Radcliffe. This was long after middle school and high school sex ed, and many years of watching movies with sex scenes.”
“When I explained to a friend that I take birth control solely for its side effects (lessening acne, cramps, pms), she rightly corrected me: you take a medication for those symptoms--the side effect is that you can't get pregnant while on it. This helped me own my own situation separate from the stigma and stereotype society places on contraception. I wish more people understood and talked about contraceptives this way and that there was a better word than "birth control." There is nothing wrong at all to take contraceptives to prevent conception, but there are many other reasons as well which often get forgotten, and many other health problems that could be exacerbated if contraception was banned.”
“In high school sex ed one year, we were separated by gender. The boys went into one room to talk just about anatomy and biology; the girls went into another room to talk just about feelings and emotions. I'm not making this up.”
“In kindergarten or first grade, my good friend's obgyn mother explained reproduction and birth to our class. I grew up with fewer misconceptions about both than many people who didn't have the same education.”
“My abortion had been planned since I was 18 years old and had sex for the first time.
When it was performed, 8 years later, at the age of 26, I felt like I'd already gotten the hard part out of the way.
The question of abortion has always had an easy answer for me: if I get knocked up and I'm not ready to have a baby, I'm not going to have a baby. That was the decision hanging out behind every intimate encounter. If the pill failed. If the partner came too soon. If the diaphragm bumped out of place. If the condom broke.
I had the answer. I had the option. I had the privilege. I had the money. I had the support.
As it turned out, the hardest part was my mom's grief.
My mother is a lapsed Catholic. She hasn't followed the Church since her own parents got divorced. She's a progressive feminist with bumper stickers like "Keep your laws off my body!" and "Pro Child, Pro Family, Pro Choice." Nevertheless, she is the one who cried in the waiting room at the clinic. She is the one whose hands shook. She is the one who scheduled an emergency counseling appointment for the following week. And she couldn't even explain why.
I wrote a whole page of reasons why my abortion was a good idea. I didn't need to, but it was an interesting exercise. Scenario: what if I had to explain myself to my book club, many of whom are evangelical Baptist-types? Scenario: what if the federal government found out about my procedure and demanded I make myself accountable for the decision? What if God exists, and He's just as judgmental as I always feared?
Regardless of the scenario, the list ended the same. All caps.
IT'S MY BODY AND I CHOOSE THIS.
That was enough for me.”