AbortionChat A place to talk about abortion; why you're for it, why you're against it, firsthand, secondhand, or curiosity. All we ask is that you keep an open mind.

I’ve Never Told Anyone by Angie Boudreau

The following blog post is a mix of emails AbortionChat received and was given permission to share from Ms. Angie Boudreau. Until now, she has never shared her story with anyone. The reason she told AbortionChat we could share? 
I am willing to share my story if it would help even just one person.”

So thank you, Angie, for sharing this personal story with us and with the other members of the AbortionChat community. This is her story in her own words: 


Thank you for taking the time to read this. I have no idea where to start. Until last year I never told anyone about the abuse I endured as a child and into my teen years. I finally decided to seek therapy, and have shared a lot with her over the past year, but not about my abortion. Why? It’s not shame, or guilt, or even anger. I can’t explain what it is. Thinking about it is something I have tried to avoid as much as possible. For years I had refused to let myself believe I actually went through it to begin with.

See when I was 15 I was attacked by 4 older guys. I knew one of them as a friend’s older brother. The other 3 guys wore ski masks and I don’t think I knew them. Honestly there isn’t much I remember. However I do remember the moment I woke up naked, bruised head to toe, and with an ache I just can’t put into words. I was alone. I think I must have passed out a few times because by the time I managed to move, and get myself dressed.. it was night. I called my Grandfather (my Parents were out of town for the weekend looking at houses). My Grandfather came to pick me up, and took me to the hospital. I had a bad concussion, broken collarbone, and multiple fractures in my face. The ride to the hospital seemed very long, and we didn’t say a word. My Grandfather is a very quiet man. He never did ask questions as to what had happened.

At the hospital they checked me out, and said I had to stay for observation. A very friendly nurse with bright red hair came into my room. I remember her so well. I believe she was a nurse, and not a doctor. My memories are very broken as to the events that day. I do remember how soft spoken she was. She was trying to get me to talk about what had happened. I would only tell them I fell down the stairs. I always stuck with that story. Up until this point in my life I had always been abused by a Great Aunt and Uncle. They threatened me, and I felt like it was something I deserved, and to me it was normal. I didn’t know anything else. After 2 days in the hospital they sent me home. I stayed with my Grandparents for a couple of weeks. That wasn’t out of the norm. I stayed with them quite a bit. I was very close with my Grandmother.

Some time passed, and I wasn’t feeling so great. I was always sleeping, and always sick it seemed. My Grandparents took such good care of me. They didn’t give me a hard time about missing school, and they didn’t pressure me to go back home. Although they never said anything I have a feeling they knew things weren’t the best at home. It wasn’t long before my Grandmother figured I was pregnant. She didn’t even tell me at the time. She told one of her brother’s. Then one day he picked me up, and took me to the doctor’s. Everything had been arranged for me by my Grandmother. Once they talked to me and I found out what was happening I freaked. I tried to leave, and I tried to talk to them. They wouldn’t listen to anything I had to say. I had already drank a glass of water when I first arrived there (it was a very hot day out). Something must have been in that glass because it didn’t take long for me to start feeling very weak, and I just wanted to lie down. I felt as though I couldn’t move or talk. I felt like I was screaming inside, but nobody could hear me. I woke up sometime after and eventually my Uncle took my back to my Grandparents. It was never discussed. I never mentioned it to my Grandparents.

Then when my Grandmother became ill a few years later she had written me a letter explaining why she did what she did. She didn’t want my life to be ruined. She said nothing good could have come out of bringing a child into this world under such circumstances. She apologized as well.

To this day the only regret I have is having that abortion. I am now unable to have children due to scaring, and complications from the abortion. Then again I can’t get close to men so I probably wouldn’t be able to have kids anyway.

I am not against abortion! please don’t misunderstand. I am for women’s rights. Everyone is different, and every situation is different. Women should have a choice what to do with their body. It is HER body after all. Even though I wish I had gotten to keep the baby (I ache for a baby), I know at the time it was the right decision made for me.

I apologize this turned out to be so long. I don’t know where it all came from. If you are still reading… thank you for listening, and giving me an outlet to get this out.
Angie grew up in a small town in Eastern Canada. She was an only child with 2 very busy parents who she rarely saw. She lived there until the end of Grade 9. That’s when everything fell apart for her. Eventually she moved to Toronto, and have been there ever since. She am now 37, still single, have a few really great friends, she is happy with her job, and does a lot of volunteer work for numerous organizations. That was until this past year when memories became triggered, and the nightmare started all over again.

If you’re reading this and have any questions for Angie, she can be reached through AbortionChat’s email (abortionchat at gmail dot com) or through her twitter account: @TherapyAfterCSA

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

Things Both Sides Agree On

On January 18th, 2014 I was able to attend a ProLife rally in Augusta, Maine.

Pastors, priests, and political officials spoke in favor of dismembering abortion, while I sat in the audience shaking in fear. They made places like Planned Parenthood a target. They said that abortion is murder, and x-amount of babies have died since Roe v Wade was passed 41 years ago. They marched with stop signs that read, “Stop Abortion Now” to the capitol building.

A counterpart and I took several ProLife pamphlets for research and attempted to engage with people to gather an understanding of why they’re so adamantly against abortion rights. And while the two sides have many differences, today’s post is going to focus on the similarities that both sides are fighting for that rarely get recognized because we’re all so focused on how ignorant “The Other Side” is.

*Support
One thing I was incredibly impressed by at the rally were some pamphlets that addressed, “How to talk to a friend who’s had an abortion,” or “Father No More, Where are the FATHERS of abortion?” Both pamphlets say things like, “There are counselors, priests, deacons, support groups and retreats prepared to help.” They address giving yourself time to grieve. They say, “Assure the person of love and support.”
This is incredibly similar to what Planned Parenthood, ProVoice, and what AbortionChat does. Everyone involved recognizes that this is not an easy decision. People will need support after their abortions.

*Pressure
Both sides are adamantly against the person who is pressured into seeking an abortion. Whether it is a significant other, a family member, or a friend telling the pregnant person to seek an abortion, both sides fight against the coercion.

*Lowering Abortion Rates
One side venomously opposes abortion. The other supports a person’s right to choose. Both, typically, work to lower abortion rates. One side does this by comprehensive sexual education, and having people understand the wonder of contraceptives. One side does this by prayers and picketing. Either way, both sides fight to lower abortion rates.

*Families
Governor Paul LePage spoke during the rally and identified himself as “ProChild.” As he talked, he spoke of broken families in Maine, young men in correctional facilities at young ages, and child abuse. He addressed the fact that families need help.
Again, Planned Parenthood and several ProChoice activists rally for this cause, the assembling of a family. Bringing a child into a broken household is dangerous and destructive. Helping families come together and be ready for a child is a miracle that both sides appear to recognize.

*Ending the Shaming of Single Mothers
LePage also spoke of lessening the shame and stigma of a single working mother. Many who support abortion rights also attempt to do the same thing by offering support, counseling, and government programs to assist single mothers.

*Older Generations Are Set In Their Ways
Though both sides often try to change people’s minds, typically there is one thing both recognize: The older generation is typically set in their own ways and belief systems. It is incredibly difficult to engage them in conversation, especially political, without feeling some form of wrath.
Therefore, it appears that both sides aim to reach out to the youth.

This is a small list, but it is a list that at least starts the conversation of how we can all work together to lower abortion rates, mend broken families, support single parents, support people who’ve sought abortion, and end the pressuring of a person to obtain an abortion.

What else could we add to this list?

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.

Sex Ed and Stigma Busting

As we announced a couple of weeks ago, AbortionChat received grant funding to go out into the world, talk to people, and start getting people to talk about their experiences around pregnancy, whether it be preventing it, terminating it, or causing it. So if you’re wondering what we’re doing, I’m about to tell you:

From December 11-13, we will be in New Jersey for the Sex Ed Conference. I (Lynne) will be wearing an AbortionChat t-shirt. I would love if you would stop and chat with me.

Beyond that, Alex and I have received our confirmation for our table at AWP 2014 in Seattle. That conference runs from February 26-March 1. We will have a table and be wandering around the conference, so please, don’t hesitate to stop us!

Outside of those two things, there is also a small reminder that the Stigma Busting Contest deadline is rapidly approaching. If you haven’t heard of it, you should check it out. The information is HERE.

Hope to see you all later this week!

New Beginnings by Courtney Weaver

Hi, my name is Courtney. I am 24 and the mother of an incredibly chubby miracle baby named Penny Grace.

As I read through the stories posted here, stories written from the heart and often places of deep brokenness, I became overwhelmed with anger at the kind of world we are living in where women have been abused, abandoned, and filled with such loneliness and fear that abortion would appear as a friend and source of hope. From what I’ve read here, abortion is not something girls dream of getting when they grow up, but is rather a last resort when all other hope of survival (be it physical or psychological) has faded away and it has come down to life or death.

I’ve never been faced with the decision to abort, because when I hit absolute rock bottom, when death looked like a friend compared to the life that loomed in front of me, I was not pregnant or even capable of becoming pregnant because I had shut off my body’s cycle of ovulation with extreme exercise and food restriction. I was 17, anorexic and paralyzed by two opposing fears: gaining the weight I needed in order to survive, or losing my life because I could not let go of my need to always be one pound thinner. I hated myself and all the people around me who kept telling me that what I was doing was wrong, that I was killing myself for some false dream I had made up in which I could only be happy if I was thin. I knew it was wrong and I would have done anything to be free, but I couldn’t stop. That’s what no one understood. Because I believed life wouldn’t be worth living if I gained even an ounce of weight, all their arguments made no difference to me; I would have rather died than dealt with the shame and hardship choosing life would mean for me.

At some point I believe we all have to choose what really matters to us, what we will live or die for no matter what. Not all of us will come to the same conclusions or have the strength to follow through on the conclusions we’ve drawn, for I know of many women who never planned to become anorexic, but became enslaved to it anyway when feelings of worthlessness could no longer be kept at bay, and I know of many women who opposed abortion until their conviction was challenged by the reality of their own unplanned pregnancy. Whatever we may cognitively believe about something, the moment of choice will always reveal to us who we really are. Whatever pain and hurt brings us to this place and however much we want to wake up from the nightmare, we are here nonetheless, forced to find out what many others will never know until the day they die.

What I knew when I was faced with the choice to give up the thinness I had sacrificed so much to achieve was that 60-70% of anorexics never recover, no matter how hard they fight. So I had no assurance that if I chose life I would actually be able to live it; I had no true hope that if I chose life I could finally move away from the past into a new and better future. And I wonder if that is in some way how the women faced with the decision to choose life or to abort feel too…defeated before you’ve even begun. Why keep the baby if it will almost certainly be doomed to experience the same abandonment, trauma or shame that you have undergone? If you choose life for her, what odds will you and the baby have of surviving in this bleeding and broken world? Such fearful odds mean some of us will choose abortion because we believe that whatever kind of life we want to gain or avoid for ourselves or our child is worth the cost of our unborn baby’s life, however much we hate the fact that it has come to this.

They also mean that many of us will never break free of our eating disorders because the deadly comfort of thinness seems more certain than the life we may or may not be able to live if we give it up.

One of the reasons Penny is a miracle baby is because the doctors couldn’t guarantee that I would be able to have children after what I did to my body through my eating disorder. But the other reason is the fact that I am here, that I chose life instead of death when everything in me revolted against it. And it isn’t because I had what it takes, or because someone shouted the truth at me and presented me with arguments about how I was killing myself, but because Love, in the form of a letter from God, found me and gave me a way out.

In the end gaining weight was not the true battle that I had to fight against anorexia, but rather the belief that I was worthless and unlovable apart from my thinness. No matter how much weight I gained, until I began placing my hope and value somewhere other than in the number on the scale, I was not truly free. What I found in God’s letter – the Bible – was the promise that God loves me simply because He made me and that He chose to love me even before I was born. His love for me is so strong He was willing to die so that I could be with Him. This kind of radical love gave me hope to believe that my value is not determined by my ability to be flawlessly thin or good or smart, but simply by the fact that the God who created me was willing to die for me, even though I have never been a perfect person.

This is the hope that I clung to as I fought against anorexia and that I still cling to every day. When I discovered that I was pregnant with Penny I had been married to my husband for just over a month and my anorexia had been in remission for nearly four years. We had prayed that God would be gracious enough to give us children and I was overjoyed to discover that there was a little life growing inside of me, yet along with the joy was mixed the creeping fear that I was not truly ready to have a baby. I had finally learned to accept my body as it was and was afraid that I would not be able to force myself to gain the weight I needed to keep my baby alive and wondered how I could possibly live with the weight if I did gain it. As the weeks went by I battled every day against the lie that because of my pregnancy I had become fat, ugly and worthless and there were times when I would get on the scale and cry, promising myself that I would never eat again, but those would be the times when I had lost sight of God’s selfless love for me and the hope that He had poured into my life. To have refused to give up my body for the sake of my unborn child would have been to deny the very hope that had freed me from anorexia and that gives me a reason to live each day: the hope that every human life has value independent of human opinion. Holding onto that hope is what allowed me to choose to love my daughter before she was born and I prayed daily that through my sacrifice she would grow up to know the selfless love of God that had saved my life.

Knowing that in choosing life for my baby I was affirming God’s unconditional love for me gave me courage to accept each of the 32 pounds I gained carrying my baby and I believe that the Lord used my pregnancy to grant me even greater freedom from my eating disorder and distorted body image than I had ever known before. As Penny grew inside me I began to view my body not as an enemy, but as a home and place of safety for this new little life. There are still days when I am tempted to resent the sacrifice I made, days when I look in the mirror and cringe at the stretch marks that are still there, but in those moments I am reminded that Christ also still bears on His body the marks of the sacrifice He made for me allowing His hands to be nailed to the cross. Instead of focusing on what I have given up, I now bring Penny to the mirror with me, hold her close against my chest, and force myself to remember that it is because I let go of my need to be thin that she is here. The joy of knowing I can raise my daughter to find her value in nothing less than the steadfast love of the God who made her is more valuable than any of the things I have sacrificed for her and I will never cease to be thankful for this child God has given me.

You who are reading this may also have a life-or-death decision to make now or soon. I don’t want to shout at you; you have been shouted at enough. And I don’t want to tell you that I know the hurt, pain, and loneliness you have faced, because I don’t. But I want to tell you that the letter I read was also written to you by a God who knows and loves you unconditionally, and in that letter it says this: We do not have a Savior “who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our great need” Hebrews 4:15-16. God understands your situation; He knows how hard it is to choose life and that it’s not a choice you can make on your own. But He promises that if you make that choice, He will give you the strength and courage needed to face the consequences.

What any truly hurting person needs is not an external and temporary solution, and especially not one that promises us life as it takes life away from another, but rather love, support and a hope that will not disappoint. That hope is Jesus Christ. He will not let us choose death for ourselves, for our unborn children, or for anyone else, because Death is what He came to conquer through His own life, death, and resurrection. But neither will He allow us to face alone the very real hardship that choosing life in this messed up world may bring upon those who choose it.

God’s forgiveness and healing from sin (that is, our captivity to choices that lead to death) are available to anyone who asks. He made this possible by becoming a man (Jesus Christ) while still being fully God, and taking the consequences of our sin upon Himself on the cross. I happened to grow up going to church and hearing the Bible’s message, but anyone can understand it if they are willing to entrust their whole lives to it. God will adopt us as His own sons and daughters if only we will allow Him, the loving Father, to direct our lives according to His law of love. His forgiveness means that we no longer need to be defined by what we have done or who we have been and can leave behind labels like anorexic or experiences like abortion, for He calls those who turn to Him beautiful and beloved. This is the hope I have found and that I want to share with you.

Biblical References:

Psalm 139:13-18

Romans 5:6-8 and 8:14-16

Ephesians 1:3-6

1 John (the whole letter)

My name is Courtney Weaver and I live in Venetia, PA with my husband
Sam and our six-month-old daughter Penny Grace. Sam and I graduated
together from Geneva College and got married in August 2012. Penny and
I spend our says at home together playing, baking, singing, and
getting to know other new moms in the neighborhood.

Granted Ability to Find Stories

The Abortion Conversation Project announced six successful grants totaling $5,000 in its Fall 2013 round of mini-grants. “All of the awards focus on amplifying the stories of abortion and the voices of those who have experienced abortion,” noted Peg Johnston of the Abortion Conversation Project Board.
The Abortion Conversation Project’s mission is “to challenge the polarization that characterizes abortion conversation, lessen the stigmatization of abortion, and promote speaking and listening with empathy, dignity, and resilience about even the most difficult aspects of abortion.”
Cindy Cooper of Words of Choice has proposed a walking tour of Reproductive Justice in New York Citywith their award. Another NYC based award went to Project Voice a website created by Maya Pindyck that would promote the site and also “talk back” to anti-abortion propaganda on the streets and subways. Another blog about abortion, AbortionChat will get funding to do outreach to writers to include the complexity of abortion in their writing.
Our Bodies, Our Bikes: Women’s Health and Wellness On and Off the Bicycle is an upcoming anthology and will include a chapter on abortion as a result of an honorarium funded by an ACP grant. Funding was also awarded to Blue Mountain Women’s Clinic in MissoulaMT to create local original theatre to tell women’s abortion stories. And in Atlanta, the Feminist HealthCenter’s Lifting Latina Voices Initiative will use their grant to train Promotoras to discuss abortion in the Latinacommunity.

 

The Abortion Conversation Project was founded in 2000 and spent its early years defining post abortion emotional health, de-stigmatizing abortion through handouts for parents, partners, and patients themselves, and staging community conversations to have deeper conversations among diverse prochoice audiences. After helping to launch the Abortion Care Network, ACP explored conflict transformation techniques and decided to offer small grants to engage many more people in its mission. The Abortion Conversation Project has a website at www.abortionconversation.com and a blog at http:// abortionconversationproject.wordpress.com/, as well as a Facebook page. Supporters can also receive an e-newsletter by clicking on the link on the home page of the website.

Effective Immediately

Just before the hearing

Last night Portland Maine’s City Council met at 7pm to discuss passing a 39 foot patient safety zone around Planned Parenthood. After weeks of hostile protests that seemed to only get more hostile with time, the city and its people had had enough.

During the first public hearing about a month ago, dozens of men and women took the podium to ask the partial council to move forward with the safety zone. There wasn’t one voice of opposition. The four members who were present decided to listen to their town.

Last night, however, there were voices of opposition. The people claimed that the protests were “ministry” and that they were “peaceful.” One voice stated that walking through the protesters is merely “inconvenient” or “a little uncomfortable.”

However, men and women in support of the buffer zone recounted times of being screamed at, of needing police officers present to feel safe. One woman shared a story of having such intense anxiety that she no longer utilizes Planned Parenthood and travels 20 miles out of her way to seek reproductive healthcare. I spoke of protesters in Virginia screaming at me when I sought my abortion. There, I didn’t have to face people standing close enough to touch me. I was still terrified.

Religious advocates, military, workers and volunteers from Planned Parenthood, and ordinary citizens spoke in support of the patient safety zone.

After nearly three and a half hours, the motion was unanimously passed with an amendment to go into effect immediately.

It’s a small step, but it’s one that allows women seeking reproductive freedom safety from harassment. Yes, the protesters will still exist, but now, at least they will be across the street.

Many states are under fire right now with access to reproductive healthcare under attack. This post is a small, “Don’t lose heart.” There are still people fighting for women’s rights.

Coping Mechanisms

Something I don’t think we’ve addressed quite enough on this blog is the importance of coping mechanisms. Why are they important? Because if you’re a woman and you’ve just gotten pregnant, you may panic, get angry, get sad, get happy, get….something you don’t quite know what it is, but you sure know you’re feeling. It’s important to be able to process emotions.

Many prolife/antichoice advocates point to the fact that many woman who seek abortion don’t handle it well. And sometimes they don’t, primarily because of poor coping skills (along with a multitude of other stressers.)

So for your enjoyment, here is a small list of coping strategies that may help you, whether you’re male/female/pregnant or whatever else you may be:

*Allow yourself to feel.
If you need to cry but you don’t want to, go somewhere private and allow yourself to. I’ve read articles that state hormones are released when you cry, which is why sometimes you feel better afterward. If you’re angry, allow yourself to be angry, but also address why you’re angry.

*Journal

*Go for a walk/run/bike/dog walk
Fresh air can do wonders for your emotional state. Even if it’s just sitting outside and closing your eyes, that helps, too.

*Scream
Sometimes, burying your head in a pillow and screaming until you can’t any more helps. Sometimes sitting in your car and screaming until you can’t anymore helps. Your throat may be sore after, but hey, there’s always tea for that, right?

*Petting Pets
If your pets are anything like mine, they like to snuggle and be loved. Just having the contact with something fluffy and nice feeling may help you feel better.

*Color

*Sing. As loud as you can.

*Draw.

The bottom line is that there are many things you can do to help yourself feel better. If the feelings aren’t going away, perhaps seeing a counselor or therapist may help. Your priority no matter who you are needs to be your mental and physical health.

Make sure you take care of you.