The Casual Feminist: Abortion and the Slut Conundrum

Shout Your Abortion, #ShoutYourAbortion
I had an exchange with a friend on Facebook during which she expressed that she’d been on the fence about the issue of abortion for some time, and the ShoutYourAbortion hashtag on Twitter repulsed her. Now that she’s a mother, she explained, she was upset that women could be so flippant about abortion. A friend of hers chimed in helpfully, “Why don’t women just keep their legs closed if they don’t want to have babies?”

Thanks to breathlessly wall-to-wall coverage, you may have noticed the current round of attacks against Planned Parenthood and the ongoing feverish discussion of abortion rights in this country. I think we can all agree that there is a lot of shouting and political posturing going on. These are vitally important issues, and many people are rightly frustrated with our backward progress on women’s rights and reproductive freedom. We’re so polarized, though, that people who just don’t know the issues very well may be afraid to ask, because those entrenched on either side are on a hair trigger.

It’s all so hard to watch. And far, far too big to address in one column. And as much as I dread hearing from fetal fetishists, I can’t just sit here any more and “like” posts from people I admire while they do all the work. So God help me, I’m going there.

First, I had an exchange with a friend on Facebook during which she expressed that she’d been on the fence about the issue of abortion for some time, and the ShoutYourAbortion hashtag on Twitter repulsed her. Now that she’s a mother, she explained, she was upset that women could be so flippant about abortion. A friend of hers chimed in helpfully, “Why don’t women just keep their legs closed if they don’t want to have babies?”

“Oh,” I thought about responding, “I would love to live in your world. It sounds like a lovely, uncomplicated place.”

Are you tired of having the rights to your own body second-guessed?”

I don’t know her or the rest of her ideology. So, in that vacuum, I decided that she may believe that most folks are much like her, with the same advantages and opportunities, and approximately the same experiences. In which case, decisions are made within the same schema, and the outcomes are likely to be comparable. Would that this were true.

She seemed nice enough, probably young, certainly sheltered. And I just want to unpack my response – calmly and kindly – and hope that by sharing some thoughts here it may help someone “on the fence” consider this point of view..

For a start, dear commenter, not every woman is in complete control of her own fertility, or chooses when and how to have sex. Rape happens. So does coercion and abusive relationships. Security – emotional, financial, or physical – can be lost in an instant. Not everyone has had the opportunity to even learn the facts of life, perhaps because they didn’t go to school, or perhaps their school system pushes an abstinence-only agenda (which doesn’t work), or declines to take a science-focused approach to sex-ed. Birth control fails even when used consistently and correctly. Illnesses, injuries and abnormalities happen to women and fetuses alike. Not everyone is equipped to carry a given pregnancy to term for whatever reason is meaningful to them.

The variations are infinite, and I’m fundamentally opposed to impeding that choice for anyone. Terminating a pregnancy is no one’s goal. I don’t know any women who have made that choice lightly, no matter how much people are shouting about it on Twitter. It’s not my place to judge whether her reasons are good enough, and I can only think of one person on Earth who is qualified to render that verdict.

I’d venture that any given woman is shouting her abortion on Twitter because she’s frustrated. She’s tired of being called a slut, or told she could have kept her legs together, or held an aspirin between her knees, or whatever insulting lunacy is being passed off as moral rectitude these days. She’s tired of having her right to control her own body second-guessed, being threatened and shamed for making the best choice she can, as the only person on this Earth who knows the sum total of her concerns and the landscape of her personal condition.

We can absolutely work to make abortion more rare. Things that work include:

Providing medically accurate sex education.

Increasing access to contraception.

– Working to fight rape and abuse.

– Establishing parental leave policies that enable women to keep their jobs after the give birth. Even women who aren’t as spoiled and corporate as me.

– Empowering women in the workplace and communities, so they are equipped to make their best choices and to handle what comes.

– Improving access to education, information and health services by, for example, not shutting down the place that provides it for 4.6 million people.

So, you know, thanks for listening.

Thea Joselow is a digital media writer, editor and social media director based in Bethesda, Maryland. She has worked for such illustrious institutions as National Public Radio, Smithsonian Magazine, and at a strategic communications firm in Washington, D.C., but please don’t hold that against them. Thea likes to think she has a good sense of humor. All opinions, omissions and offenses are entirely her own. She can be found on Twitter at @tjoselow.

Image via JTFNews

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