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Category Archives: Support

The Shaming of Pregnant Women

A week or so ago, an acquaintance of mine posted on Facebook a picture she took of a pregnant woman smoking a cigarette. She was wearing a grey tank top that barely covered her expanding stomach, and in the background a guy was walking toward her. (Assuming her significant other.) She did not ask permission to take said picture, I can only assume she also did not tell the woman that she would be posting her picture on social media. (This acquaintance has since also posted a picture of people’s addresses who bought her items on eBay. Ugh.)

Anyways, a conversation ensued, an angry rant on our Twitter feed, and lot of our followers chimed in. We submitted a panel proposal to the Sex Ed Conference this year about training people how to maintain a level head in heated arguments. In the following conversation, I (Lynne) utilized everything I would teach in that panel. With no further ado, here is the conversation/debate that ensued after this acquaintance posted that picture:
*Only the first names of the participants have been used. The Sasha person is the acquaintance who posted the picture.

  • Elizabeth What? That dude looks like he is about to kick some butt. Which Shaw’s?

    May 11 at 7:29pm 

  • Judith Nothing like low birth weight and adolescent respiratory issues, not to mention proven learning disabilities, it’s 9 months of your life makes me so sad 

    May 11 at 7:34pm

  • Sasha They were both swearing at me…I continued to state that I cared for only her children. A dude rolled up and offered me a loss prevention job at JCPenney Hahahaga

    May 11 at 7:39pm 

  • Judith Classy

    May 11 at 7:40pm

  • Elizabeth Oh no, I kind of thought that dude was looking your way. Be careful, Sasha! Why is this chick on her phone too? She is busy!

    May 11 at 7:43pm

  • Sasha She was calling the cops she said

    May 11 at 7:49pm 

  • Elizabeth Why was she calling the cops?

    May 11 at 7:50pm 

  • Sasha Because I was taking pictures of her smoking while pregnant.

    May 11 at 7:51pm 

  • Rob Series Of Unfortunate Events.

    May 11 at 8:04pm 

  • Travis You are hilarious.

    May 11 at 8:56pm 

  • Sasha Travis hilarious???

    May 11 at 8:58pm 

  • Travis Yeah. I think you are funny.

    May 11 at 9:01pm 

  • Lynne Yea….I’m not cool with criminalizing a woman while she’s pregnant. She knows the health risks associated. She’ll also be the one to pay the associated medical bills.

    May 11 at 9:02pm

  • Sasha I guarantee you Maine Care with cover it…and guess who pays for Maine Care…

    May 11 at 9:11pm 

  • Lynne I don’t care if MaineCare, Obamacare, or anything else pays for it. I don’t care if she’s shooting up heroine in the bathroom. No one has the right to police or demonize what this woman is doing to her body. It may come out stillborn, it may be a tragedy. It may be the only cigarette(s) she’s had during her pregnancy. You don’t know, it doesn’t matter, you will never see her again.

    May 11 at 9:15pm

  • Sasha I was standing up for the only person that matters. The child within. Somebody had to.

    May 11 at 9:16pm

  • Fritz They say a picture is worth a thousand words. This picture is Way beyond that!

    May 11 at 9:17pm 

  • Sasha Here is another one!

    ::At this point, she posts another picture of a pregnant woman smoking a cigarette and speaking to a man::

    May 11 at 9:19pm · Like

  • Lynne Schmidt “I was standing up for the only person that matters. The child within”

    That is an incredibly ignorant and dangerous thing to say.

    May 11 at 9:21pm 

  • Lynne May I use this picture/scenario on Abortion Chat?

    May 11 at 9:23pm

  • Heather So then when do we hold people responsible for what they do? Never? We should just let whatever happens, happens. Let the pregnant woman smoke. Let the man who wants to rob the old lady rob the old lady. Hell, I feel like driving drunk. Hope the cops don’t feel like they need to pull me over!

    May 11 at 9:24pm 

  • Jeremy How did this situation play out? Did they just start yelling at you out of the blue?>

    May 11 at 9:24pm

  • Sasha This has nothing to do with abortion. This woman has other children that she smoked while pregnant with and brags about how she will have more and continue to smoke.

    May 11 at 9:25pm · Like

  • Sasha Oh Heather I love you.

    May 11 at 9:25pm 

  • Lynne Heather, yes she should be allowed to smoke. At this point, you, nor anyone else but the woman and potential mate know if the fetus is even viable. Criminalizing and demonizing women is where unhealthy laws are put in place. If laws start being passed saying “If a pregnant woman tests positive for nicotine…” women will stop seeking prenatal care. Premature babies will be done, suffer horrendously, and die. Women, like this one who is smoking while pregnant, may need support while trying to quit. May need support in general, which may be why she is smoking.

    May 11 at 9:26pm

  • Jeremy I wonder if these people will have a change of heart as a result of your conversations with them.

    May 11 at 9:27pm

  • Lynne *be born, not done. Spelling error

    May 11 at 9:27pm 

  • Sasha Well Jeremy I opened my big mouth and asked her if she was aware of what smoking while pregnant will do to a child…and the fireworks exploded from there.

    May 11 at 9:28pm

  • Sasha Lynne heather was being sarcastic.

    May 11 at 9:28pm 

  • Lynne I highly doubt Heather was being sarcastic in regards to the situation.

    May 11 at 9:29pm 

  • Jeremy Sounds like she had an attitude, I can see why that’d make you angry.

    May 11 at 9:30pm

  • Lynne I’d have an attitude if strangers were taking pictures of me, too.

    May 11 at 9:30pm

  • Heather I mean, I’m a social worker by day so I agree with you that she probably needs some support, yes. But I don’t think Sasha is arguing that a law needs to be passed that prohibits pregnant women from smoking, but I also think it’s somewhat condescending to not hold people at all responsible for what they do. Sure, she may be suffering for a whole host of reasons, and yes, I think it’s on some level important to discern what these reasons are and educate her about her choices, but I also think it’s worthwhile to point out to people the potential consequences of their actions instead of just saying, “You know, it’s okay, you’re stressed have that cig.” No. It is actually more compassionate to hold people accountable.

    May 11 at 9:31pm 

  • Lynne Yes, however, there are surgeon general warnings on every pack of cigarettes. She is probably well aware of the risks, and for some reason, whatever that reason may be, is still choosing to smoke. It is her right to bodily autonomy. Some people decide to have healthy pregnancies. She, oblivious, is not. As a result, she will have to live with the consequences.

    May 11 at 9:33pm 

  • Sasha Jeremy I wasn’t angry. I felt bad. She acted nuts because her defense went up. I wanted to believe she actually felt bad about what she was doing but when she inhales a huge drag and exhales like a dragon well…she seemed proud.

    May 11 at 9:33pm

  • Heather And you do not think as fellow human beings we owe it to each other to point out consequences to others? Isn’t this an act of love? I see it as an act of love.

    May 11 at 9:34pm

  • Sasha Not just her Lynne, the poor defenseless baby that never asked to be stuck in such a gutter of a womb.

    May 11 at 9:35pm

  • Jeremy It’s too bad her child will have to live with the consequences too, should it be born.

    May 11 at 9:36pm 

  • Lynne Poor, defenseless baby. Do you know the gender? Do you know him/her personally? How are its rights more important than the mothers? Or are you one of those people who think women’s soul purpose in life is to be an incubator?

    May 11 at 9:36pm

  • Heather It seems like you have given up on her, Lynne, while Sasha has not.

    May 11 at 9:37pm

  • Lynne I have not, actually. I work with Abortion Chat and the reproductive justice community to avoid women like this being harassed by people like Sasha.

    May 11 at 9:38pm 

  • Jeremy Which is better: holding someone accountable by giving our adverse opinions, or biting our tongue when our opinion will not be heard?

    May 11 at 9:38pm 

  • Sasha Well Lynne, the baby inside of her has rights, not more rights than the mother like you said (seems like you enjoy putting words in my mouth)…if i saw a woman blowing cigarette smoke in her baby’s face i would speak up to her too. i will not turn my head way from child abuse I didn’t physically harm her, i didn’t call her names, i only chose to take her photo when she started acting absolutely disgusting and throwing her cigarette at my car.

    May 11 at 9:44pm 

  • Heather That is a very good question, but I would always say an “adverse opinion” can sometimes, years later, be remembered as someone’s attempt to care. Instead of remaining quiet and so complacent. And, Lynne, I don’t think we are talking about reproductive justice here. This isn’t an anti-abortion conversation. This is about the fact that this woman was smoking, and whether you like it or not, that has direct consequences to the child inside of her. You can still be a feminist and a liberal and also feel the need to express this and draw attention to it.

    May 11 at 9:47pm 

  • Lynne The fetus inside her has no rights. It can’t vote, it can’t feed itself, it can’t even breathe. Feel free to remove it from the hosts body and care for it the way you see fit.
    I didn’t put any words in your mouth, actually. I was asking a question. Until a fetus is born, it has no rights. It is not recognized by the government as a person. It holds no social security number.
    It is one thing for this woman to put whatever she wants into her body. It is another to have a child, outside of her body, ingest arsenic.
    I grew up in a household of cigarette smoke. It was awful, and I wish it on no one. However, I refuse to shame a pregnant woman based on her decisions for her health, and her body.

    May 11 at 9:48pm 

  • Lynne Actually, policing a woman’s body for any reason is a reproductive justice issue. FYI.

    May 11 at 9:50pm 

  • Heather By not holding her accountable for her actions you have given up on her. You are essentially arguing that Sasha should have just been like, “Oh well, she can do whatever she wants.” And that is condescending and actually not very just, speaking of justice.

    May 11 at 9:51pm 

  • Heather This is also a spiritual question, and I would guess you and I don’t see eye to eye on that either, so peace out.

    May 11 at 9:52pm 

  • Lynne Going up to a stranger, taking their picture without permission, and harassing them with their own opinions is generally considered wrong (or whichever order these events happened in). Just throwing it out there.

    May 11 at 9:53pm 

  • Jeremy What if an adverse opinion remains seen as one? Sasha, do you feel like there was any other way for you to voice your opinion and this woman hear it?

    May 11 at 9:53pm 

  • Heather Her boyfriend is kind of hot, though, Sash.

    May 11 at 9:54pm 

  • Heather yum yum

    May 11 at 9:55pm 

  • Sasha So the government is not the end all be all to this world. Our lives on this earth are more spiritual and important than the government could hope to be. this is about common sense and right and wrong. but if you want to play that laws and government bullshit well check this angle, why have people been charged for a double murder when they kill a pregnant mother. no rights lynn? hmmmmm?

    May 11 at 9:55pm 

  • Jeremy Laws usually follow some sort of ethical philosophy, perhaps a fetus should have some degree of rights, but where does the mother end and the fetus begin? How could we respect the rights of one without compromising the rights of the other?

    May 11 at 9:57pm

  • Lynne 1) You spelled my name wrong and 2) It depends on which state people are in, and how far along the pregnancy was. Also, how would you like it if when you decide to reproduce, you’re told you shouldn’t or you’ll be a crappy mother because of all of your tattoos?

    May 11 at 9:59pm 

  • Lynne Bodily autonomy is everything.

    May 11 at 10:00pm 

  • Heather What does that even mean

    May 11 at 10:01pm 

  • Sasha my tattoos aren’t going to medically hurt the child within….and id never get tattooed while pregnant.

    May 11 at 10:01pm 

  • Heather I do think the star tattoo on her leg, the big one, indicates that she will be a pretty bad mother.

    May 11 at 10:02pm 

  • Lynne No. I’m saying you don’t know her situation. You don’t know if she’s trying to quit smoking. If that’s the first day she’s smoked during the entire pregnancy. What the circumstances surrounding the situation are. No one has any right to harass this woman.

    May 11 at 10:04pm 

  • Jeremy I wonder if babies can get tattooes

    May 11 at 10:04pm

  • Heather If she has the right to smoke, Sasha has the right to harass her. If we should all just sit back and let whatever happens, happens, then Sasha can do whatever she wants, as can the woman in the photo.

    May 11 at 10:05pm 

  • Sasha i had a conversation with her actually. so i do know. she said she had smoked through all of her pregnancies. she would keep having kids and smoke while pregnant with them too.

    May 11 at 10:05pm

  • Lynne People pierce baby’s ears. No one is in an uproar about that. It’s considered “cute”

    May 11 at 10:05pm

  • Lynne It’s her body, it’s her potential child, it’s her right to smoke. She also could have been lying to piss you off.

    May 11 at 10:05pm

  • Sasha i think its disgusting to pierce a babies ears, to circumcise a baby, to dress them up like little sparkly dolls

    May 11 at 10:07pm 

  • Heather This is such dangerous logic, Lynne. Honestly. I find it very dangerous. You are saying a woman, just because she has a body and republicans are scary with their anti-abortion shit, can do whatever she wants. This is so dangerous to me! It is truly scary to not be invested in the child’s life AS WELL AS the mother’s. That seems so disconnected to me, emotionally, spiritually, intellectually. Honestly. Are you for real?

    May 11 at 10:08pm

  • Sasha well she hacked 4 times as she pulled the pack of cigarettes out of her bra…i bet that was her first cigarette ever LYNN. Maybe she was just trying it out…maybe her other children all under the age of 5 peer pressured her into it.

    May 11 at 10:08pm 

  • Heather The hands-off mentality is like in direct response to the terror of the anti-abortion assholes. There is definitely a middle ground. You don’t have to go in the exact opposite direction; it is just as dangerous.

    May 11 at 10:10pm

  • Lynne Funny you mention “terror of the anti-abortion assholes.” They also take pictures of pregnant women, post them online, and shame them.

    May 11 at 10:10pm

  • Sasha exactly. i believe a woman has a right to choose, and every situation is different. I don’t even have shit to say to someone who has multiple abortions. Id rather someone terminate a pregnancy than smoke all the way through it.

    May 11 at 10:12pm

  • Heather Yes, but this is a different conversation. You have to attune yourself to the conversation. I know Sasha is for women’s rights, so it isn’t really correct to lump this conversation with those conversations. And it doesn’t have to be an either/or. It’s not like if you point out that this woman is hurting her child by smoking, you’re SUDDENLY one of those terrible anti-abortion assholes. You can say this, bring this up, and not instantly be on a SIDE. I know contemporary politics would have us think (the PC culture) that instantly you are either FOR or AGAINST but it isn’t that simple. And if you begin to ascribe to that mentality and you fight for your opinion as if you know and nobody else does, then you’re occupying the same role as the anti-abortion assholes.

    May 11 at 10:13pm 

  • Lynne I don’t agree with the way Sasha handled the situation. I am not for pregnant women smoking, or drinking, or doing drugs. Do I hope that when the baby comes out it’s healthy? Yes. But I also know that if I were pregnant, and wanted a drink, a smoke, a whatever else, I’d do it. It’s my body. And honestly? I’d have called the cops on someone harassing me in a parking lot.

    May 11 at 10:15pm 

  • Sasha Well any man that considers getting you pregnant will have to read this first. a lot of people don’t agree with the way i role and thats fine. i know what is right and what is wrong and if i see it I’m going to say something. I didn’t harass her, belittle her, or call her names. I asked her a question.

    May 11 at 10:18pm

  • Lynne And took her picture without permission. And posted on social media for the world to see.

    May 11 at 10:19pm

  • Lynne You’re welcome to your beliefs. It’s not cool to exploit people, and I, like you, will speak up against it.

    May 11 at 10:20pm

  • Lynne Also, any man who gets me pregnant needs to understand I’ll have an abortion. (So I guess I’d probably continue drinking during the pregnancy, anyway.)

    May 11 at 10:21pm

  • Heather Wouldn’t want to be your bay-bay.

    May 11 at 10:22pm

  • Patrick The baby was asking for her to smoke if you ask me, its naked for christ fucking sake.

    May 11 at 10:22pm 

  • Lynne Patrick, I just laughed so fucking hard.

    May 11 at 10:23pm 

  • Sasha the thing is Lynne you went off on a tangent that was completely off topic and dragged abortion into so your credibility in this forum is shot.

    May 11 at 10:23pm

  • Lynne Actually, I didn’t, I asked if I could post it on Abortion Chat, which is a reproductive justice venue to discuss all faucets of abortion (pregnancy is considered it that, sorry to inform you). And I didn’t go on a tangent. I stuck to the fact that what you did was way out of line, and in some states illegal.

    May 11 at 10:25pm

  • Sasha as long as thats what you believe

    May 11 at 10:26pm

  • Patrick I bet they’re juggalos. Either way these two (assuming he’s the baby daddy) shouldn’t have been allowed to reproduce.

    May 11 at 10:26pm 

  • Patrick https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JWliAVpjArA

    Ice Cube – Crack Baby

Ice Cube – Crack Baby (By Mr.PsychoOo 9mm) http://icecubehiphoprapwestside4life…. See More

May 11 at 10:27pm

  • Sasha are you a grown nic baby born in Maine……

    May 11 at 10:29pm 

  • Heather It is also fascinating to me that what Lynne is expressing is a real consequence (speaking of consequences) of a capitalist mentality where the individual is the most important — and the locus of ultimate power and focus. It’s all about the individual, the individual’s body, the individual’s existence, the individual’s choices. There really is nothing outside of the individual. The baby is there, sure, but it falls to the wayside in the context of what the individual needs/wants/desires/feels. It’s actually very American. Very capitalist.

    May 11 at 10:29pm

  • Lynne She could still decide to have an abortion. Legally depending on where she’s at. She could still miscarry or have a stillborn, which is why, until it’s born, I don’t consider it much.

    May 11 at 10:31pm

  • Patrick No Heather, its #feminism

    May 11 at 10:31pm

  • Tasha Lynne you are absolutely wrong. Babies practice breathing while inside the womb. They eat. They pee…they just aren’t born yet. So YES at this late in her pregnancy…this baby HAS rights!!!!

    May 11 at 10:31pm

  • Lynne Tasha, next you’ll tell me that they feel pleasure and masturbate in the womb, too, no? They do not eat. They ingest what the pregnant person does. They cannot breathe their own air, they do not take care of themselves.

    May 11 at 10:33pm

  • Jeremy Isn’t it individualism to side with the fetus against the mother?

    May 11 at 10:33pm

  • Heather Yeah, but it is actually more feminist (in my opinion) to be attuned. To be attuned to the fact that there is a beating heart inside of your body. I love how that is somehow so uncool: to think about the beating heart. It’s like, how unfeminist of you to think about the beating heart! Like if you think about the beating heart, you are simultaneously NOT thinking about you. If I want a drink, I’ll have one, Lynne says. As if the idea of personal autonomy and choice is somehow inherently in contradiction with the beating heart.

    May 11 at 10:34pm 

  • Sasha a day old baby sure isn’t masturbating, eating on its own, or taking care of itself…and lets remember, i wasn’t against the mother, i asked her a simple question and it turned ugly.

    May 11 at 10:35pm

  • Sasha what if the fetus is female?

    May 11 at 10:35pm

  • Patrick Lynne actually babies do masturbate in the womb, its been proven through ultrasounds.

    May 11 at 10:36pm

  • Sasha http://www.facebook.com/l.php…

    GOP Congressman Wants to Ban Abortion to Save Masturbating Fetuses

    news.yahoo.com

In a preview of the many pronouncements to come on the floor of Congress as the … See More

May 11 at 10:37pm 

  • Jeremy So maybe we should start an anti-smoking pro-choice support group for this woman?

    May 11 at 10:37pm

  • Patrick We should just give her child free birth control and an obamaphone

    May 11 at 10:39pm

  • Sasha she doesn’t want to abort her child. she wants to smoke while carrying it. and she wants to have more children and smoke while carrying them.

    May 11 at 10:40pm

  • Lynne My brain just exploded. Damn you Patrick and Jeremy.

    May 11 at 10:41pm

  • Sasha I’m going to put Lynne in my womb and chain smoke all day!

    May 11 at 10:41pm

  • Patrick I bet she bought the cigs with her welfare money Lynne

    May 11 at 10:41pm 

  • Lynne She might have. I’ve known friends to trade food stamps for alcohol. Sasha, just do it while you’re snowboarding. That way it’s like a joyride.

    May 11 at 10:43pm

  • Tasha You obviously have NOT had a child or gone to the obgyn for prenatal appts. They practice and CAN breathe. They move their mouths, they suck their thumbs, they are alive inside of a person. A person who is supposed to do what’s in the best interest of that child. I won’t lie…I’m ashamed to say I smoked a few weeks out of my pregnancy. But, I quit bc my baby inside me WAS ALIVE! SHE HAD A HEART…A HEARTBEAT…SHE HAD ORGANS, AND BODY FEATURES SUCH AS EYES, EARS, NOSE, MOUTH!!! You just seem like a very ignorant person who should just shut the fuck up!

    May 11 at 10:45pm

  • Sasha ill never do it again. i used to smoke and i quit. i quit cold turkey one day because it was poisoning my body. you know those rooms in the airport where people sit and smoke. those little rooms should be everywhere. and people should have to sit together and inhale everyone else’s second hand smoke while they are smoking. its absolutely disgusting to have to walk down congress st and tell my niece to hold her breath every 10 feet because people are human fucking chimneys.

    May 11 at 10:47pm

  • Jeremy Did someone take a picture of you and post it on social media when you did it? <——— Did you look like this? 

    May 11 at 10:48pm 

  • Lynne You’re right, Tasha, I haven’t had a child because I had an abortion, because I knew myself well enough to know that I’m selfish, and angry, and would make an awful parent right now. I also drank, smoked, had x-rays and an MRI while pregnant. The fact that you’re ignorant enough to start being aggressive shows that you don’t know how to have conversations civilly. Congratulations. You win.

    May 11 at 10:50pm

  • Patrick Lynne you’d suffocate on that joyride, heard that shits tight

    May 11 at 10:55pm 

  • Tasha Oh that makes me want to tell you to SHUT THE FUCK UP even more!!! I always said I didn’t want children. I was selfish too…I wanted to do what I wanted to do, when I wanted to do it. With a child you CAN’T… and I accept that! So while you WERE ABLE to get pregnant some women are out there wanting so badly to have a child and can’t. To me you having that abortion makes you no better than this hot mess!!! No I would not be so aggressive had you not been so ignorant to this post. This is SASHA’S fb…she can post whatever the fuck she wants. If you DON’T like it then fuckin there’s a delete or hide stories from this person option. But you chose to be ignorant and you’re right and everybody else is wrong! Go fuckin kick rocks you selfish bitch! Some woman could have made a great life for that baby you murdered!!!!!

    May 11 at 11:02pm

  • Sara sasha exploiting as in benefiting from lynne? exploit comes from outcome of an action, having advantage, achievement. her achievement here is her voice she can not have that? ego of preg lady is at stake you suggest? true turnaround/healing for anyone causing suffering to themselves and thereby those around them is usually a good slap in the ego the way true self likes it. in this parking lot sasha is participating in her life and those around her. no different than you are here so kudos all. it is an endangered art in a mechanically law abiding sleepwalking world.

    May 11 at 11:03pm 

  • Lynne Dearest Tasha, For your information, I was going to kill myself. If you’d like to read more about that story, it’s here: http://abortionchat.org/why-chat/. It’s why I’m in Maine now, and why I’m a mental health professional. Because you know nothing about my circumstances, or who I was at that time, or the fact that the guy who got me pregnant had left me for my sister, and they are now engaged, or any other portions of that time, the fun thing is, I don’t care what you think. I didn’t murder my “baby”. I kept myself alive.

May 11 at 11:06pm

  • Patrick I feel like “kill myself” and “I’m a mental health professional” shouldn’t be in the same sentence. One of my closest friends was able to commit suicide in a facility due to inadequate mental health “professionals”

    May 11 at 11:09pm

  • Sara if mental health is not holistic it is insanity

    May 11 at 11:10pm 

  • Lynne Truly, I am sorry for your loss, Patrick.

    May 11 at 11:10pm

  • Heather I’m a social worker, and have suffered with different stuff, too. It can actually be really good to carry that understanding of suffering into your work; it can make you much more compassionate and understanding of others. But that is a whole different conversation!

    May 11 at 11:13pm 

  • Tasha Just so YOU know NOT that it’s ANY of your business. I was assaulted in the military in 2007. I suffer from PTSD, anxiety, depression, and fibromyalgia! The whole time I was pregnant I was not able to take any medications for those conditions!! So please feel free to throw yourself a pity party. My opinion of you has not changed! What you went through doesn’t compare to what I endured and still endure! But let me tell you despite all those things…I’m a damn good mom!!! #SorryNotSorry

    May 11 at 11:21pm

  • Sasha ignorant…you keep using this word…i do not think it means what you think it means…

    May 11 at 11:24pm

  • Tasha Did I use it incorrectly?

    May 11 at 11:26pm 

  • Patrick I think she’s talking to Lynne

    May 11 at 11:28pm 

  • Tasha Ohhhh I figured it was me bc I used it a lot!

    May 11 at 11:30pm · Like

  • Tasha  And Patrick I’m sorry for your loss  I was not liking that part of your comment

    May 11 at 11:32pm 

  • Tasha No Jeremy I quit long before I looked like that! And nobody took my picture. I hid it bc I was ashamed, but it was the vice I had at that moment to help with not being able to medically treat my “disabilities.” I’m not proud, but I won’t do it again if I have another child. I lucked out with my child…she was born healthy and is healthy and thriving!

    I believe after I left the conversation that they continued for awhile about things of non-importance. What are your thoughts on this dialog? Was my acquaintance right in taking a picture and posting it on social media without permission? Who had strong points of view? Why?

AWP, WGS, SEWSA, and Grant Opportunity

It has been an incredible last couple of weeks. As many of you know, Alex and I (Lynne) adventured to Seattle for AWP 2014 with our AbortionChat table. We met TONS of men and women of varying shapes, sizes, colors, etc. It was amazing. We asked incredibly personal questions (what kind of birth control do you use? What would you and your partner do if you got pregnant? And plenty more). We gave out brochures and cards. We took pictures which you can see on our Twitter account or our Facebook account. It was a great four days. We met people who shared stories about having three abortions, and not regretting a single one. We met people who didn’t know if they were prochoice or prolife. We met men whose partner’s had an abortion without telling them. It. Was. Great. And we can’t wait for more submissions. (Thank you for those of you who have submitted. I promise we’re going through them!)

Alex at our table!

After we returned home, him to Florida, and me to Maine, we recovered from Jet Lag (yes, capital letters) and I was invited by a member of the ACLU to participate in a Reproductive Justice Panel for the WGS Conference in Maine! There I got to talk about abortion, crisis pregnancy centers, the lovely people who send us death threats, etc. I met some incredible people there. I also met some very brave men and women there.

I was clearly very involved in what I was saying :)

Next up on our list is heading to Wilmington,  North Carolina for SEWSA which just announced their panel line up. Allie and I will be hosting one, discussing writing my memoir, The Right to Live: A Christian Girl’s Struggle through Abortion, Losing Her Home, Job, and Mind, and Recovery as well as how AbortionChat got started. We would love to see you there.

In the meantime, in case you haven’t heard, The Abortion Conversation Project is now open to submissions for grant opportunities. They are the ones who granted us the ability to go to New Jersey for the Sex Ed Conference, as well as host our table at AWP. They are a wonderful organization, and if you know a project or other organization, please submit a proposal to them. The deadline is April 1, 2014 so move fast!

In the meantime, we are still accepting submissions and we’d love to share your stories. Keep up the good work. Remember to use contraceptives, communicate with your partner, and change the world.

 

 

 

 

An Interview with Karen B. K. Chan

Near the end of 2013, I was honored to attend the Sex Ed Conference in New Jersey and meet the wonderful Karen B. K. Chan. During her panel, she showed us her Jam video, and it blew my mind. Thus, I requested an interview with her, and she accepted.

A: What exactly is a sex educator? What are the most challenging parts of your job? The most rewarding?
K: There are many kinds of sex educators… the kind I mean when I call myself a sex educator is that I facilitate people’s learning (and unlearning) about sex and sexuality.
Information giving is only a small part. The parts that are most important (and rewarding) to me are about self-acceptance and transformation, and walking alongside and witnessing people as they move into (and through) difficult feelings. I also love explaining things that are hard to understand, and telling stories about human sexuality that don’t get told enough.
A: Where did you get the idea for your Jam video?
K: It’s based on a fabulous essay by Thomas MacAulay Millar called “Towards a Performance Model of Sex”, published in “Yes Means Yes: Visions of Female Sexual Power and A World Without Rape” (by Jaclyn Friedman and Jessica Valenti). For many months, I insisted on reading it, aloud, to friends and lovers. When the commission from Sex Ed: Chapter 1 (an exhibit about arts-based sex ed curated by Liz Slagus and Norene Leddy) came up, I was so happy to get Thomas’ blessings to make a video spin-off from it.
A: What do you feel is the most important component of sex between two partners?
K: There is an infinite number of ways to connect sexually. What’s important depends on what people are seeking, and what parts of themselves they want to reveal or conceal.
But if I had to pick something – I’d say being present. It’s essential for the kind of sex that is transformative and magical (be that something quick and casual, or something intense and profound). But, it isn’t always magical, transcending sex we’re after. Sometimes we just want to get off, and being present matters little. So this is my long way of saying – it depends!
A: In the video, you mention, “Practice makes us less self conscious, more knowledgeable, more skillful and more in the moment.” How would you encourage a person faced with self-shame to engage in a healthy sexual relationship?
K: I would encourage them to figure out what they want. I don’t think everyone needs to be everything. We all have demons, and we choose to live with some of them and tackle others. Noticing one’s shame doesn’t, to me, mean we must get rid of it in a hurry. There’s no shame in shame… so to speak.
But, if someone decides for themselves that the shame is getting in their way, then I’d encourage them to gently head into and befriend the shame. That could be through any number of things: reading, therapy, talking with friends, having sex differently, not having sex at all, telling and hearing stories, masturbating (more/differently/not at all), ritual, movement, song, art, performance, seminars, documentaries, medical interventions, self-medicating, and endlessly on. The modality can be different and multiple; that’s not the key. The key is to find a way to be kind to the parts that are most shameful within ourselves. Often when people notice shame and want to change it, they are doing it out of aversion and disgust. So it can feel counter-intuitive, but I truly believe that the only way to dissolve and transform shame is to love the shit out of it.
A: Do you have any advice to offer to those who have faced abortion and are reluctant or feeling ashamed to have sex again?
K: I really empathize. Many people feel guilty, shameful, self-blaming, “bad”, angry, scared, regretful, or irresponsible after having therapeutic abortions (it is also common to feel relieved, empowered, self-loving, calm, at ease, grateful…). I would encourage folks to talk about their experience, to unpack the meaning of it, to figure out where those meanings come from, to reframe it, and to find a way to forgive themselves (if that’s what’s needed).
Often, people hold onto guilt so that they can punish themselves and not repeat something they deem to have been a mistake (like, not using a condom that one time). In those cases, it can help to mark the “mistake” somehow – through a ritual, storytelling, making art, a tattoo – so that the act of forgiving and forgetting can be separated, and one can happen without the other.
A: At the Sex Ed Conference, you’d mentioned how to ask for consent over and over. Do have have any advice about different ways to approach this?
K: Asking for consent explicitly can be through questions during sex, or frank conversations not during sex. This is something that gets easier through practice – the awkwardness fades over time. So the advice for that would be simply to do it.
Another piece of the puzzle is to readjust expectations of what sex looks and feels like. Sex is awkward, stilted, messy, goofy, funny; it’s nothing like what we see in movies. So my advice would be to do the best you know how – ask awkward questions; check in with words, gestures, eyebrows, muffled grunts; talk about things before and afterward.
Finally, as much as possible, don’t make assumptions. Feelings and preferences and limits differ from person to person, and changes all the time. Which is not to say you have to check in about everything constantly. Great consent, to me, is a balance between the implicit/intuitive and the explicit, both of which are conscious and thoughtful. Particularly, that whatever you leave to intuition or habit or previous knowledge about someone isn’t out of accident, neglect, or fear.
A: In the video and during your presentation, you’d mentioned that people are not “damaged goods” because they have sex. How can we encourage men and women to realize this?
K: The concept is very gendered. When we talk about damaged goods, almost always we are talking about women. So, to challenge this concept we need to counter some serious, deep-seated sexism. The truth is that, often, when women have sex with men, they don’t enjoy it as much as the men might. The problem, however, is not that women don’t enjoy sex as much as men. This is a pervasive belief that is normalized in all aspects of life. The problem, instead, is that people don’t expect women to feel a lot of desire or pleasure, so no wonder that it doesn’t happen.
What I’m proposing is, countering the assumption that women don’t/can’t enjoy sex counters the assumption that women are used, and somehow ruined, by sex.
If we believe, know, and manifest the reality that there is a lot in it for women during sex, that a woman would logically decide to have sex because she enjoys it, then her body is not simply a consumable object, but a subject with agency. This won’t solve all our problems, but cultivating a society’s belief, trust, and respect for women’s sexuality will change the “damaged goods” situation radically.
A: At the Sex Ed Conference, you touched on the Levels of Nervousness, the Comfort Zone, the Stretch Zone, and the Panic Zone. Can you elaborate on these and what is healthy vs unhealthy in a sexual relationship?
K: This is an excellent model I learned from an organization called Yes! World in California. They put on amazing gatherings (called “Jams”) for people invested in social change.
The model is 3 concentric circles: the innermost is the “Comfort Zone”, the next larger one the “Stretch Zone”, and the final, largest one the “Panic Zone”. The Comfort Zone is, obviously, a place of ease and rejuvenation. Both the Stretch Zone and the Panic Zone are uncomfortable places. The difference is that in Stretch, we are challenged but still engaged. We are wrestling with new information, shifting our points of view, making decisions. In Panic, however, we are beyond our limits and we shut down. Nothing is getting in, nothing is shifting, and we are just surviving.
Ideally, within a sexual (or any) relationship, we can be in the Comfort Zone most of the time, and venture into the Stretch Zone regularly. And both people would know themselves well enough that when they are in the Panic Zone, there is room to scale back into Stretch or Comfort. This can apply to sexual or any other kinds of experiences, or even the exchange of ideas. It’s also important for both people to care for themselves so that they can maintain (or develop) a good-sized Stretch Zone.
A: During your presentation you’d brought up the idea of being able to listen to your partner. Do you have any tips on how to communicate more effectively with your partner?
K: There are many ways to communicate well, and it depends to some degree on the people involved. A great model I like is Non-Violent Communication, which is also called Compassionate Communication. But I’d be a fan of any model that encourages empathy and listening.
A: Anything else you’d like to add?
K: Thanks for asking, AbortionChat! It was a joy to share space and ideas with you!

Karen B. K. Chan is a sex educator, facilitator, speaker and taiko drummer. She is based out of Ontario,Canada.

Recently she hosted a panel at the National Sex Ed Conference in New Jersey. You can find her on twitter: @karenbkchan, or at her website:fluidexchange.org

8 Things Not to Say to Someone After Abortion by Kassi Underwood

After I had an abortion, nobody knew what to say to me. Not even Larry, my therapist. Poor Larry. Looking back, I would not have known what to say to me, either. One in three women will have an abortion in her lifetime. Men, too, deserve to be heard. Yet we are not taught how to talk to people who have experienced abortion.

The first thing to know is that everyone experiences abortion differently. Many of my friends never looked back. Having an abortion just wasn’t a big deal for them. But I had a lot of feelings. Relief. Regret. Confusion. Doubt. Apathy. Curiosity. Confidence. Overconfidence. Contentment.

It takes a courageous, patient, and empathetic friend to listen to someone share about her or his experience with abortion. As researcher Dr. Brené Brown explains, “Empathy is feeling with people.” Thank you for coming over here and feeling with us.

1. But weren’t you unstable before the abortion?
We’re smart people. We are fully aware of the lives we’ve led. If our state of mind beforehand seems relevant, then we will discuss it in our own time. We came to you because we would like to talk about how we feel right now.

What to say: I’m glad you came to talk to me about this.

2. That was years ago, dollface. Isn’t it time to move on?
We know exactly how much time has elapsed. If we could have moved on already, we would have. Some people see their abortion as the loss of their identity, or their child, or their chance. While it is important to make no assumptions about why someone is having feelings around their abortion, you can tell us you know how normal we are for feeling the way we do. We are completely acceptable as-is.

What to say: I know this happened years ago, and it’s okay if you’re still really, really sad.

3. All this sadness makes you sound like you’re against abortion.
Our emotions may have nothing to do with our opinion about abortion. I know women who have marched on Washington for their right to choose while privately regretting their own decisions. I know women who believe very deeply that abortion is wrong while feeling that abortion was the right decision for them. Our personal stories do not always reflect our political beliefs. When we come to you, please do not match our emotions to a political narrative.

What to say: There’s no right or wrong way to feel.

4. You weren’t ready for a baby.
This tells us that we are inferior, irresponsible, and immature, which is simply not true. We made the most mature, responsible decisions we could at the time. Some of us feel proud of the independence we gained from all the footwork this decision required. If we tell you we didn’t have access to the resources we needed, feel with us. Remember a time when you didn’t have what you needed. Acknowledge that we are worthy of having everything we need. All of us.

What to say: Sounds like you know what’s best for you.

5. Well, I support your right to choose.
This one sounds like support, but it ends the conversation. What we need is space to connect with you. If we would like to know your political views, please trust us to ask you. If we don’t ask, then perhaps we don’t need to know.

What to say: Take your time — I’m listening.

6. I don’t support what you did, but I’m here to support you.
It can be difficult to feel unconditionally loved and supported by someone who condemns what you did. You don’t have to support what we did, but when you are supporting us, please leave your opinions and expectations at the door. Then come in, listen to what we are saying, and try to put yourself in our shoes.

What to say: I’m here to support you.

7. No — it was actually a baby/child/fetus/embryo/zygote/clump of cells.
Many of us have done the research. We know the terminology. Sometimes it takes nerve to use the word we like best. Please don’t correct us. Instead, use our terminology when you talk to us.

What to say: You’re allowed to call it a fetus or a baby —it was yours and you can call it whatever you want.

8. But are you really happy now?
Some of us really are very happy right after the procedure for reasons so vast and diverse that I could write about them for pages. Even if we’re not happy right afterward, many of us become happy in our own time. If we tell you that we’re happy, we may have done a lot of work to reach this extraordinary place. Please celebrate with us. Do a little dance. Hip-bump. Yay.

What to say: I’m glad you feel relieved and rejuvenated.

If you have experienced abortion, what would you add to this list? What would you change?

 * * *

An AWESOME resource for anyone who has experienced abortion — and for the people who love them — is exhaleprovoice.org. Check out the “Pro-Voice Counseling Guide” for more information about how to support someone after abortion.

I read an earlier version of this list at “Clear Eyes, Full Hearts: Can Choose!,” a variety show for the women of Texas, hosted by comedians Sarah Silverman and Lizz Winstead. This piece was first published on Medium.com and exhaleprovoice.org.

 * * *

Kassi Underwood is a Pro-Voice Fellow who writes and speaks about abortion all over the place, including The New York Times, The New York Daily News, New York Magazine, Exhale’s Pro-Voice Blog, and on UpWorthy.com and MSNBC’s “Melissa Harris-Perry Show,” among others venues. Follow her on Twitter: @kassiunderwood.

Adult Sexual Acts

Welcome to 2014! My apologies about the mini December hiatus, but we’re back at it!

Reverend Debra Haffner spoke at the Sex Ed Conference and said many incredibly insightful things. One thing she mentioned is that there are five key components of Adult Sexual Acts. Those are:

~The act is CONSENSUAL
~The act is UNEXPLOITATIVE
~It is HONEST
~It is MUTUALLY PLEASURABLE
~It is PROTECTED

Each of these components will look like different things in each and every relationship. It is important in a healthy relationship to address each of these and make sure each partner is feeling comfortable with how things progress in the sexual relationship.

Consent:
Let’s break this down a bit more. Recently there has been a huge push for what consent is. It means that both parties are willing to participate in the act. Personally, I would encourage first sexual encounters between partners to have each person enthusiastically say a verbal, “Yes.” A quiet, “Maybe” or “I don’t know” should not be mistaken for consent. Yes should be the answer you’re looking for, especially if it’s the first time you have gotten together with this person. If there is apprehension, you can always postpone the activities for another day.
As a sexual relationship progresses however, that verbal Yes may quiet down. You and your partner may know each other well enough that a certain breath, touch, look says, “Yes, let’s do this now.” As long as both parties are still willing, there is no harm in the verbal Yes disappearing. There’s a delicate balance of different ways to ask for consent without continually asking, “Is this okay?” or “Can we do this?”
You and your partner may begin to use safe words–words to be said in moments of unease, apprehension, fear, etc to stop the momentum. It’s okay. Just be aware of how you feel, and how your partner may feel.
Remember that no matter what NO ALWAYS MEANS NO.

Unexploitative:  
Does your partner make you feel like you’re a piece of meat in the room? Have they taken pictures of you when you’ve asked them not to? Have they taken videos?
To me, this goes hand in hand with consent. Some people don’t like to have intercourse with the lights on. Some do. Striking that balance between you and your partner so that neither feels violated is difficult, but healthy. Neither should feel as though they’ve been manipulative, pushed, or used. Remember that.

Honest:
I’m not going to preach to this one. What honest sex looks like to you may be different than what it looks like to me. I want you to take a second, maybe even take that second with your partner and consider what this may mean for your sexual relationship.

Mutually Pleasurable:
A fun fact that Charlie Glickman touched on recently is that in order to have a round of “successful sex” both parties do not have to reach an orgasm. Sex can just feel good. It can make you lose your breath. It can make your heart race.
BUT
You want it to feel good for your partner, too. This isn’t a one person show…
Unless you’re hanging out with your hand.

Protected:
As a sexually active member of society, places like Planned Parenthood help assist people with obtaining birth control. There are condoms available. You don’t want to expose your partner to STI’s, and you don’t want to be exposed to them, either. Protect yourself, your partner, and your future partners. Get tested, use protection.

Abortion in High School, An Interview

I had an interview with high school student, “A”, today. Her friend obtained an abortion last summer. Here is “A”‘s side of the story:

Something to always keep in mind
Q: How old are you?
A: 17.
Q: How old was your friend when she sought an abortion?
A: At the time she was 16.
Q: Did she tell you she was pregnant, or that she had an abortion?
A: She didn’t tell me she was pregnant, she just told me through the summer that she was having a really rough time and she couldn’t wait to see me. When I finally saw her, she told me all about it.
Q: How did she tell you?
A: We were having a heart to heart, we were talking about summer. She got a little quiet, not really shy, but she said she had something to tell me. Then she told me not to judge her. Then she told me. It was shocking to me.
Q: What was your reaction?
A: I was shocked. I was kind of heartbroken for her because she told me she’d had a terrible summer, and I thought it couldn’t have been that bad. I was just like, really surprised that something like that could happen to one of my best friends in the whole wide world.
Q: How did she handle her abortion?
A: It happened in the summer, so she had a lot of time to think about it. She went to her mom’s and told her mom. She had a therapist for a little bit. She tried her best to contain her emotions, it was one of those decisions she didn’t make for herself. She was sad. Really, really, sad. I feel like she handled it like any other person would. She was generally upset about it. She was drugged by her significant other at the time, but she insisted it wasn’t rape, and then she got pregnant. She knew she had sex, but she didn’t remember it. She thought they used a condom, but they didn’t.
Q: Did she tell her parents?
A: She told her mom first, and then her dad. Her mom insisted abortion was the only option.
Q: Did she tell her significant other?
A: Yes, and he like too many males out there just kind of fled from it. They couldn’t press charges because she didn’t say it was rape. The age of consent is 16, I think he was either 19 or 20.
Q: Why did she decide to have an abortion?
A: Because she knew she was way too young to be a mother, she wasn’t ready, it was either this baby for the rest of her life, or she goes and tries to live a teenage life. She really just wanted to be a normal teenager. She knew if she had the baby it wouldn’t happen. She was scared, she knew the significant other wasn’t going to stick around. It was one of those “I’m going to hurt this child if I have it. If I have it, it won’t have a good life.”
Q: Do you feel like she was pressured into her decision?
A: No. Not at all. She was not going to have this kid. She wants to have kids when she’s old enough and ready, but at that time she just wasn’t.
Q: Do you support her decision?
A: I definitely support her decision because I know it’s the best for her right now, even if she gets sad about it. I know she thinks about it every day, but I think it’s best for her. If she’d gone through with having a child, she wouldn’t have been happy.
Q: Did any member of the school district know about her abortion? Do you think they should have?
A: Yes, a few of her teachers knew about it. I think her mom sent an email. Definitely her counselors knew about it. I think some people should have known in case she broke down in class so there was someone to go to. It’s not one of those easy quick fixes. It’s been over a year since her abortion, and we’ve had countless conversations about it. She just needs to be supported.
Q: What were the hardships surrounding your friend and her abortion?
A: Oh, man. Seeing little kids, and interacting with small children. She told me a story, one of her teachers
Photo Credit:
Allie Rosnato

has a kid with curly blond hair and blue eyes, and she thought her child could have looked like that and asked, “What kind of monster am I?” Her relationship with her mother was definitely tested. She really liked this guy, but she pushed him away because he was the cause of all this.

Q: What do you feel were the important aspects of supporting your friend?
A: Texting, that was an important thing. Communication, talking to her, asking her how she felt today. I think the most important thing was having her be able to talk about it. A lot of the time people try to sweep it under the rug, I think it’s something that needs to be talked about because it did happen. She told me she doesn’t talk about it with her mom, and I think I was that person she went to to talk about it and her feelings.
Q: Is she okay now?
A: Yes, I mean, there’s going to be that one little part that will always, always see a kid and feel that guilt, and that pain, and that sorrow, but I know for a fact she’s going to be okay. I know when she has kids someday and she’ll know she made the right decision because she’ll give that child the life it deserves.
Q: What is your sexual education curriculum like at your school?
A: Um…well…we have a freshmen year health course, but it’s not really that technical.
Q: Do you feel like this is sufficient?
A: Not at all. I mean, I honestly think we should have this course our junior or senior year. I feel like only 2% is sexually active freshmen year and as you get older it’s more relevant in your life. Freshmen year it’s kind of a joke, and you don’t really care about what’s going on. Freshmen are immature and you can’t take it seriously. When you’re older, it’ll matter to you.
Q: Do you know how to operate a condom?
A: Yes.
Q: Are you a virgin? If no, when did you lose your virginity?
A: No, and April 2013.
Q: What would you do if you were to get pregnant now?
A: Um, well, I’d probably do the same thing as my friend just because I have the same opinions as she does.
Q: Have you told your partner this?
A: Yes, and they agree.
Q: Anything else you’d like to add?

A: I think that people need to be smarter. If you don’t want kids, do everything in your power to not. Use a condom. Get birth control. Use Plan B if you need to. It’s fun to have fun, but I can’t stress it enough: BE SAFE.
Also, Relationships take two people, and when it ends up one sided, things go wrong. It’s important to know what you’re getting yourself in to.

Betrayed By Your Body

People tell you your whole life how great of a thing your body is. They tell you to eat right so everything can work right. They tell you to take care of it, because it’s the only one you have.

But they don’t tell you what to do when your body betrays you.

Most girls begin menstruating by the time they reach eighth grade. Around that time, most are subjected to “Always Changing” videos about how they should take care of their bodies, and just because a period means that your body is capable of having sex and therefore creating a child, you may not be ready for it. They tell girls about choices; do you want to use pads or tampons? They explain the risks and things like Toxic Shock Syndrome. It is one of the first decisions a girl makes in what makes her comfortable with herself.

After awhile, as a female, you become accustom to “Aunt Flow” visiting once a month. You learn to wear dark pants for a week, carry extra pants/pads/tampons in your car/backpack/locker. You learn to hide the fact you’ve just bled through your pants onto your chair in chemistry. You learn to adjust to your cycle, because there is nothing else you can do.

Typically, your body becomes like clockwork. Some are so in-tune with their bodies they can tell you down to the day when their period will start.

Until it doesn’t start.

You can be as proactive as you like. You can use all the contraception in the world, and it can still fail.

So what then?

What do you tell a girl who’s known her body well enough to predict her cycles? The girl that’s always eaten the right foods to keep her body running properly. And the girl, who because she took care of herself, got pregnant. It doesn’t matter how; a night of passion, a one night stand, rape, whatever. She trusted her body. She took care of her body, and suddenly, she’s staring at a test that’s reading positive.

How does this question change when the girl is twelve years old? Seventeen? Thirty-six? Is there an age degree where one abortion is more acceptable than another? Why is that?

What about the circumstances? A one night stand verses a night of romantic passion verses a rape? Is one unwanted pregnancy like another?

School systems support taking care of your body. Physical education tells you to stay active. Health class, especially, teaches you to eat right, stay active, stay healthy. But the problem is, if you take care of yourself, your biology takes over. Women can get pregnant.

And if you don’t want to be pregnant, it can be like your body has just betrayed you. The thing you’ve taken care of all your life, the thing you thought you’d made some unspoken agreement to, has ulterior motives. In that moment where the tests turns pink, turns into a plus sign, turns into ugly black letters that read PREGNANT, your life changes.

To me, part of supporting a healthy body is supporting a healthy mind. You’re taught, literally, your entire life to take care of yourself.

Shouldn’t part of taking care of yourself consist of the ability to choose what is right for your body and your life?

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.

Protesting Crisis Pregnancy Centers, an Interview

Men and women stand outside of Planned Parenthood establishments holding signs

of bloody fetuses, screaming at women as they walk in to the clinics. When I went in for my abortion, I was screamed at. The woman’s voice haunted me for months. 

So someone suggested, “Why doesn’t anyone protest Crisis Pregnancy Centers?” Thus our protest was born.

The reason we’re doing this is not to persuade women to have abortions. It is simply to persuade the workers at the Crisis Pregnancy Centers to offer valid information to women seeking their assistance, especially when it comes to abortion. 

For today’s article, I interviewed four protesters, Echo (yes, that is actually her name), Jennifer (you met her here), Nicholas, and Damien, before they went to protest. If all goes well, you’ll find out what happened at the protest tomorrow.

What and why are you protesting?
Echo: I am ProChoice because I believe a woman should be able to choose what happens in her own body.
Jennifer: I believe in women’s rights and don’t believe that other people have a say in what goes on in a woman’s body.
Nicholas: I’m mostly protesting because Jen wants to go, and because I’ve never been to a protest before.
Damien: The right to do what you want with your body. The right to be educated in ALL of your options.

Have you protested anything before?
 Echo: Never ever!
Jennifer: I have not, but I’m excited to see what the turn out is!
Nicholas: See previous answer.
Damien: No

What are your expectations?
 Echo: I hope I convert somebody~I’d like to convince people to be ProChoice. It’s better to support a woman if she has a baby, or if she seeks an abortion.
Jennifer: I’m not sure. I don’t know if people will violent, or if they’ll be open to other opinions, etc.
Nicholas: I expect McDonald’s on the way, other than that, I’m not sure what to expect.
Damien: I have no idea…

Do you have any fears?
 Echo: None whatsoever!
Jennifer: I’m afraid I’m going to get shot in the face…seriously…
Nicholas: No
Damien: No

What are you looking forward to?
 Echo: I’d like to know what the other side is like. Will they yell at us?
Jennifer: Other people who feel the same way as me!
Nicholas: I feel like it’ll be fun, like I said, I’ve never been to a protest before.
Damien: Protesting and supporting my girlfriend.

What are your feelings on abortion?
 Echo: I don’t think anything is wrong with it. The woman is mostly affected. It’s her body. Her significant other may be affected, too, but he should be supportive.
Jennifer: I feel like I’m not in to, “Killing the baby.” But if the person isn’t under the right circumstances (there are a lot of situations children shouldn’t be living in)….I think it’s up for the woman to know what is best for her and her fetus.
Nicholas: People should be able to obtain an abortion until it becomes a breathing infant.
Damien: I’m squeamish with late term abortions, but I understand that they’re sometimes necessary.

Honk For Choice
Your Body Your Choice

What does your sign say?
 Echo: I wanted my sign to say, “If I wanted the government in my womb, I’d fuck a senator,” but they won’t let me make it. So my sign simply says, “TRUTH”
Jennifer: “Come talk to me!”
Nicholas: I’m not sure I’ll have a sign, but I’ll stand and be supportive with everyone else.
Damien: “Your body, your choice!”

How do you feel about people who protest at Planned Parenthood clinics?
 Echo: I think it’s awful that they judge women based on one decision. Especially when they don’t know the circumstances of the woman walking in.
Jennifer: I think it’s inappropriate. The protesters don’t know what’s going on in that woman’s life.
Nicholas: There area always two sides to things. There will always be extremists, whether they’re right or wrong.
Damien: I think it’s bullsh*t because of the things they say and the disgusting signs of dead babies when women walk in to the clinic. An abortion is a big decision, it’s not like she says, “I can’t wait to get knocked up and have another!”

Do you think you’ll protest anything again?
 Echo: Yes! I want to go to a bunch of them! People need to be more educated about what’s happening in the world!
Jennifer: It depends. I really am afraid of getting hurt. If it’s not as intense as I think it’s going to be, probably.
Nicholas: Maybe, if there is a protest to help legalize marijuana in the state of Maine. Medicinal marijuana is already legal, I feel like there won’t be much more of a step.
Damien: Yes!

Do you think what you’re doing will make it into the paper?
 Echo: I hope so, that’d be cool! There’s a lot of coverage for ProLife in the media, where is the representation for the other side?
Jennifer: No, I think people will just look past what we’re doing.
Nicholas: Probably not, but I don’t know how big these things get.
Damien: If more people join, maybe.

A lot of people refer to abortion as, “Baby killing.” Where do you believe life begins?
 Echo: I think it begins when a woman is 6-7 months pregnant. Though if the life of the woman or child comes in to play, I may still support an abortion IF THAT’S WHAT THE WOMAN WANTS.
Jennifer: I think life begins after birth.
Nicholas: I think life starts when you start breathing. When you’re breathing, you’re alive. When you stop breathing, you’re dead.
Damien: Sometime during the third trimester because the fetus can move and kick. Though in circumstances, I would still support the right to terminate the pregnancy.