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Monthly Archives: June 2013

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Similar Experiences, but Never the Same by Renee Bracey Sherman

A post originally posted at Exhale and Abortion Gang, cross-posted with permission of the author.
Indifferent. As I rode home from the abortion clinic and the days after the procedure, I felt indifferent. I had been told to expect overwhelming feelings of sadness and physical pain, yet I felt none. I felt fine. Not better than normal, but also not worse than normal. Indifferent. It was not at all what I was told to expect, by the doctors, the nurses, or what I had heard from friends.
I grew up in what many would call a ‘liberal’ family. We were middle class; my parents are both nurses, college educated, we lived in the suburbs of a major city, and we were a very open family. My parents are both ‘pro-choice’ and would have supported my decision when I was 19 years old to have an abortion, yet, why did it take me six years to tell them about it?
My experience wasn’t unlike other women’s; I had a steady boyfriend, I was on birth control, but I missed a few weeks of pills and became pregnant. At sixteen, when I told my mom about a friend’s abortion decision, she told me that it was a personal choice and one she supported. So, I should have been able to go to my parents when I needed support, right?
It just wasn’t that easy for me. Many of my cousins had children in their teens and were unable to finish high school and college, yet I was on track to do both. I didn’t want to disappoint my mother, I felt that if I told her that I was pregnant, I would let her down, make her mad. I felt that she and my father would be disappointed, even though they would have supported my decision.
Even until recently, I was afraid to tell anyone, for fear of the reaction that I would get, or the way they would view me. I felt that if I told my story, I would be wearing the scarlet ‘A’ forever. I felt that I would be one of the vicious women that senators and representatives talk about who ‘abort their babies to fit into a prom dress’. That kind of rhetoric hurts me because that wasn’t what happened. How could I make others understand without having to share the whole story of the abuse I had endured during that relationship, how to say that it was my choice and it was a way to get out of a really bad situation. It’s hard to justify your actions without giving away a huge part of yourself every time.
Even though some people may see me differently after knowing I had an abortion,  I’ve chosen to share my story to let others in the community know that abortion shouldn’t be a taboo subject. We can comfort one another and change the conversation. We can shape what people hear about our lives and our stories.
After talking to many of my friends, family members and co-workers, I found out that almost everyone has an experience with abortion; whether they themselves had one, a partner, a parent or a sibling, it is not uncommon. It is an experience that crosses all racial lines, the gender spectrum, class backgrounds and sexual orientations; yet, we don’t talk about it. I understand that there are many reasons some folks won’t want to share about their experience. Even if I don’t hear their story, I want them to know they are not alone. We’ve been through a similar experience and there is love and support available to you.
I recently told my mother about my abortion experience and she cried, not because she was mad, but because she was proud of me for having the strength to make a tough decision on my own. She wished she could have been there to support me. When I asked her if she was disappointed in me, she said, “No honey, I am proud of who you have become. You made a decision for you.”
Abortion is different for everyone. Each abortion is like stripes on a zebra; while on the surface they may seem similar, no two experiences are exactly the same. I hope that in the future, the abortion debate moves from above the heads of the people it affects, down to a conversational level, where women and family members who have experienced abortion can talk about how to best support each other. Our voices matter. Let’s listen.
Renee is from Chicago, Illinois where she graduated from Northeastern Illinois University, studying economics and sociology. Renee found a passion in working to break down barriers of multiple oppressions that women/people of color/LGBT/low income/immigrant folks face each day by sharing stories. Renee currently lives in San Francisco and volunteers with the Bay Area Doula ProjectExhale and ACCESS. Renee hopes that by sharing her personal abortion experience, she can help move the conversation past partisan lines and to a compassionate level.

My Crisis at the CPC by Cynthia Di Angelo

New location of the CPC. They’ve moved in directly next door to the actual clinic. They have been confusing women into missing their appointments at the clinic next door by having misleading signs. I was told by some of the clinic escorts they will offer women thinking they are at the clinic food when they walk in, so when they realize they are in the wrong place they can’t go next door and have their procedure

A few years ago, I made the decision to return to school and found myself living on my own in Kentucky. Most of my life had to be financed with student loans and the small wage I made at my job. I had left a very good job to return to school, but paying for the COBRA plan was out of the question. I had done well in taxes the year before so Medicaid was out of the question. I have a pre-existing condition so buying a health insurance policy was not in my price range.

Another Crisis Pregnancy Center

During this time, I hadn’t gotten a period in about 4 months. I hadn’t been sexually active for at least 6 months. I knew I should start by getting a pregnancy test before assuming anything, so I stopped at what I assumed was a free health clinic. The sign out front read “A Women’s Choice: A Free Special Health Clinic” and advertised free and confidential pregnancy testing.

The clinic I walked in to was small, and had posters and propaganda for finding Christianity. This should have been my first clue. A majority of the healthcare in Kentucky is affiliated with the Catholic and Baptist faiths so having religious affiliation didn’t raise any concern. A volunteer greeted me, and told me about their free testing and ultrasound capabilities for diagnosing pregnancies. Why was I not to think this was a healthcare facility? I went to the bathroom with my test, given to me by either a volunteer or employee. No way to tell. 

It was negative.

Next I was waiting in what seemed like it was an exam room, sitting on a chair next to the ultrasound machine. I assumed a doctor or nurse would be there. Nope. A volunteer with brochures about salvation came in to counsel me about my negative test. I was confused and scared, and still without any explanation to why I was having medical issues.

The volunteer said, “You are just lucky all of your sinning hasn’t caught up with you yet. While you aren’t pregnant, how do you know you haven’t been infected with HIV, and have been infecting others? You have to walk away from how you have been living your life, hand yourself over to Jesus, and beg for forgiveness for what has lead you to us today”… My mind drifted off as she scolded me, and I began to worry about my health even more. She asked if I had any questions and I mentioned I have an auto immune disorder that could be the root of my health problem. The volunteer obviously wasn’t a healthcare professional, I was told about a place that was hiring locally that had great benefits. She reached for my hand and asked me to pray with her. Again, my mind drifted away and I found myself just looking at the floor, thinking about the physical pain I was in.

The Crisis Pregnancy Center

Many people see no harm in the Crisis Pregnancy Center. However, I can’t be the only person who has confused one of the Crisis Pregnancy Centers as healthcare. Emergency mental health centers are often called “Crisis Centers”. If they were called an adoption recruitment center, or a chapel then I would have no reason to be complaining that I had showed up seeking medical assistance.

To promote itself as a medical resource is just irresponsible. The poor who have little access to quality healthcare are the most likely to have this confusion. Any number of medical emergencies could present themselves as a women being confused she is pregnant. How would they diagnose a situation requiring immediate care from a doctor such as an ectopic or high risk pregnancy? Substituting the care of doctors, nurses or midwives for religious guidance does nothing to serve the community. 
In my case, I ended up in the ER a few weeks later. I had a week long hospital stay for my auto immune disease. I can’t help to think this situation could have been much easier for me if only I had found actual healthcare, not a religious organization posing as a clinic.

Cynthia Di Angelo has been battling Crohn’s disease for over 20 years. A native New Yorker, but somehow wound up living in Kentuckybefore ending up in Philadelphia. She has a three year old daughter and is an adult adoptee.

How I Became A Feminist by Damien Berard

A bumper sticker.
I haven’t really been into helping support abortion rights until about six months ago, when I met a girl. One of the first times we hung out she asked, “Are you pro choice or pro life?”

At that time I didn’t exactly know what the terms stood for or meant, plus, here I was, trying to impress her. So she explained, “ProLife basically says that if you get pregnant, you must carry the pregnancy to term. ProChoice on the other-hand, recognizes that sometimes an abortion is necessary, and supports whatever decision the pregnant woman makes.”

Okay, so with that context and still trying to say the right thing, I answered, “I am not really for abortion unless it’s a rape or incest case.” She didn’t care for that answer and the topic was quickly changed. Every time we hung out she would tell me more and more about the ProLife movement and what they were doing to try to stop the right to have an abortion.
A couple of weeks later, she dragged me a rally called, “Moving Choice Forward For Maine.” Sitting in the car before we walked in, she said, “I feel like you should know something…” I started to get nervous. Then she continued, “I had an abortion a little over a year ago.” She told me why, and how hard and traumatizing of a decision it was. That was definitely a new experience for me. I was kind of expecting for her to say that when she said, “I feel like you should know something,” because she talked about women’s rights every time we hung out
From Moving Choice Forward for Maine

and was passionate about it.

It didn’t make me think any differently of her. She went on to tell me the about getting pregnant having the guy say he doesn’t want anything to do with her and leaving her for her best friend. She said she was against abortions and the only way she could think of to not be pregnant was to kill herself. She went on to tell me that her abortion saved her life. That is definitely when I looked at abortions in a new light. It opened my eyes and made me want to make a difference with her so that no other woman would have to go through that same thing. I couldn’t imagine what it would be like to make that decision.
At Moving Choice Forward, there were a lot of vendors. I can’t remember most of the names of them but I do remember that Planned Parenthood was there. We colored birds for the Repeal Hyde Art Project to show support. We walked up to one table and the lady asked me if I would like to, “knit a vagina.” I can honestly say that I never in my life thought that I would get asked that. 

Towards the end they had some speakers. They told some stories that I couldn’t believe. Like the story about women using rusty coat hangers and then getting sick from it and dying. One thing that I hear a lot is, “If a women doesn’t want to be pregnant she won’t stay pregnant” no matter what she has to do to not be pregnant.
Since that rally, I have protested at a Crisis Pregnancy Center. We made signs saying “your body your choice” “honk for choice” “I had an abortion” and others. We had well over 100 honks in the first hour to hour and a half. It was nice seeing some of the women driving by seeing my sign, “your body your choice” and smiling.
Posters from the Crisis Pregnancy Center protest
The girl also made a ProChoice twitter account and asked me if I wanted to be a part of that, I have been on there a few times and read a lot of articles that just hurt my heart. Like the case of a pregnant lady, whose fetus had 0% brain function and had no chance to survive long after birth, but a congressman blatantly said that the lady should be forced to have the baby. 

Think about what that woman will have to go through; having a baby and having it not survive. Instead of just having an abortion.
I think that both of those things would be hard to go through. Giving birth is dangerous. There is always a chance of something going wrong and the woman not surviving it. An abortion can be safer, and maybe a little less stressful than having a brain dead child and it living for an hour or two before it dies. I don’t think that a congressman or congresswoman has any right saying that a woman should have no choice what happens to her body and her child. I strongly believe that she has all the right in the world to do what she feels necessary.
I know one girl’s story changed my opinion on abortion. I no longer feel that abortion is only okay in cases of rape and incest. Now, I feel like a woman should be able to do what she wants with her own body. In the end I am ProChoice now and will always be. I am glad that I had the chance to have this girl a part of my life and teach me so much about what is going on in the world regarding the war on women’s rights. I’m proud to say that I am a male feminist.

Damien Berard is a fun outgoing individual who loves family, friends, and his dog. In his spare time he enjoys snowboarding, skateboarding, making peoples days or saving the day. He is a feminist fighting for women’s rights.

You can find him on twitter: @DamienBerard and @AbortionChat on Fridays.

We’re On The Move!

We interupt your regularly scheduled posts to make this announcement:

It’s official!

AbortionChat has started spreading to college campuses!

We’re sending out emails to student organizations and universities which house Women and Gender studies programs.

If you’re interested in having us come to your school, please send us an email at:
abortionchat (at) gmail (dot) com

In the meantime, if we come to your school, what would you like us to talk about? Do you want to know what an abortion procedure is like? Do you want us to share abortion stories (our own or someone else’s)? We have our ideas, but we want to hear from you!

Also, our pretty new business cards came in today:

Tune in next week for more stories!