Em-URGE-ing Voices

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Abortion Shouldn’t Be Rare and It Isn’t

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September 4, 2019

From the most recent data available from the Guttmacher Institute and the American Journal of Public Health, approximately 1 in 4 women will have had at least one abortion by the age of 45. While this statistic does not include research around trans men and non-binary people that obtain abortions, it still goes to show that this is a very common procedure; but people do not choose to talk about it that way.

I’ve seen protesters outside of clinics with signs that say “women regret abortion” and “men regret lost fatherhood”, and other anti-abortion phrases. In my early exposure to organizing around and for abortion rights, I found that many people I worked with, and even myself, would say things like, “No one wants to get an abortion…it is such a tough decision to make.” My peers and I were essentially conditioned to say that abortion should be “safe, legal, and rare.”

Looking back on these early experiences, I realize how anti-abortion these statements and ideologies were. They did absolutely nothing to uphold and protect the idea of reproductive justice. Instead, this language was just putting us at the same level as the people who actively try to pass legislation to ban all abortions, and that is not a level any organizer should be on. When we try to succumb to “antis” (people who are against abortion) to get them to see “our side”, and entertain the argument that we need to control the number of abortions that occur, we are policing and telling people what they should and shouldn’t do with their bodies. This just pushes us further and further from the right to bodily autonomy that we are supposedly fighting for.

I have found that most mainstream and self-proclaimed “progressive” narratives are given to appeal to those who oppose abortion. Using the approach that if they people don’t support abortions, they should at least focus on bettering sex education and access to birth control to decrease the number of abortions. I used to be that person saying this over and over at lobby days at the Texas Capitol, trying to convince representatives to vote on laws supporting and bettering abortion access. I later realized that the hypothetical assumption that better sex education and birth control access would limit the number of abortions, was completely dismissing every single person that has ever had an abortion–especially the abortion that my close friend had. Although they had received quality sex education and had access to birth control, their birth control pill had failed them, as it has for many other people. My friend needed an abortion and did not think twice about their decision to get one. The story of my friend is true for many other people who have had exposure to quality sex ed and relied on at least one contraceptive method. Sometimes condoms break, sometimes you miss a pill. Some abortions are a result of a failed contraceptive method, and that is ok.

It is not our duty as people who provide abortion care or who protect abortion rights/access to limit the number of abortions that occur. This goes against all tenants of reproductive justice (a framework for organizations like URGE and SisterSong) and intersectional feminism (a term coined by Black feminist Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw) and will do nothing but inevitably bring us back to square one.

It is our duty to make sure that these abortions are accessible, affordable, and available wherever and whenever someone needs one—period.

Abortion is healthcare and we need to start treating it as such. If anyone can go and set up an appointment because they have the flu, anyone should be able to go and get an abortion without any restrictions or limitations. No questions asked.

People get and need abortions for a variety of different reasons and we need to cater to uplifting, supporting, and encouraging these people to get them. It is idealistic to think of a society in which everyone will have quality sex education and access to birth control and other contraceptive methods. We need to be realistic and make sure our language reflects this realism. Not everyone has access to education and therefore, can miss out on sex education typically provided in schools, and may even miss out on community talks/events due to prior commitments and responsibilities. Not everyone wants to take or can afford to use birth control or other contraceptives.

We need to be honest with ourselves and our communities when we speak about abortion, and we need to start saying that abortion needs to be safe, legal, free, accessible, and readily available.

Free abortions and unlimited abortions for anyone and everyone.

That is the abortion forward and abortion positive language we can all start using.

A special thank you to all of the QPOC (queer people of color), especially WOC (women of color), that have taken the time to teach me how to be abortion positive, and how to embody reproductive justice and intersectional feminism.

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