Every year this blog participates in NARAL’s Blog for Choice Day on the anniversary of the Roe vs Wade decision. This year’s theme is “Tell your story about why you’re pro-choice.” This year is memorable because it is the 40th Anniversary of the decision. We are honored to participate again this year.
Since escorts in Louisville are a diverse group of individuals, we wanted to give voice to different viewpoints from everyone wanting to contribute. It has become an interesting collection of different stories.
I am French but have lived in the Midwest for 6 years. I had previously spent time in New York, and the culture shock of being in the U.S. was not really felt there. Only when I came to Indiana and saw anti-abortion protesters marching on the town square, carrying gory, photo-shopped pictures of aborted fetuses, did I begin to realize the kind of environment in which I was living.
In 2007, while in my 1st year as a graduate student at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana, I became pregnant and made the choice to have an abortion. Soon after making that personal decision, I was faced with Indiana laws. It first hit me when I placed a call to Planned Parenthood and, rather than being scheduled and told how to prepare, I was asked if I wanted to speak to a minister and arrange for an ultrasound, and told that by law I had to wait a minimum of five weeks — long enough for the heart to start beating. None of it made sense to me; I had already made my decision, after much soul-searching and personal anguish. I didn’t need help with the decision, nor did I need time to think it over. I needed medical assistance.
I had also seen the protesters in Bloomington. Their aggressiveness and ravings were a very real deterrent, particularly since I was feeling so vulnerable. I had made a very personal decision, and I felt they were trying to make me feel accountable to them for it, to run a gauntlet of shame and guilt just to get to the clinic door — unless you’re lucky enough to have wonderful escorts standing by to help, like the ones here in Louisville. So, with my very limited finances and the help of friends, I arranged a trip to Chicago, where I was still shown an ultrasound photo but was at least helped without having to clear too many other obstacles.
It was still an ordeal: I opted for mifepristone, or “the pill,” but my uterus never emptied after the misoprostol. By that time I had returned to Bloomington and began to experience increasing pain. I needed to visit Chicago again, a task made nearly impossible by blatantly pro-life psychiatric staff in Bloomington who, fearing I was suicidal because of their own preconceptions, locked me in isolation, gave me yet another unnecessary ultrasound, and refused medical treatment, though they were fully aware of my condition and knew that I needed immediate treatment for infection. Only after friends in Bloomington noticed my absence and threatened legal action was I able to escape the hospital and return to Chicago for a D&C, all the while having missed classes which resulted in my being put on academic probation.
Thinking about this experience still makes me shudder, no less so since in France abortions are now free, and even in 2007, they were cheap and readily available, with no protesters or legal obstacles to cause guilt, stigma, and difficulty. I don’t mean to glorify my country, but I did take my freedom of choice for granted in France, and only after my ordeal in the U.S. did I realize how dearly I cherish it. I think also about the gender biases inherent in the whole abortion discussion, and in society in general, about how we glorify the “self-made man,” never leaving room for the self-made woman. How can there be such a thing when she is required to carry a child, but there is no requirement to support her when she does?
In the end, I feel I was lucky. Many other women succumb to stigma and pressure from those around them, in spite of their own feelings and misgivings. I had enough support, and I felt empowered enough, that I was able to take control of my life. I still plan to have a family, albeit under different, better circumstances, after I have achieved the means and the stability to raise children with all the opportunities they need and deserve. My life, and my children’s lives, would be much different, had I not had the freedom granted by Roe v. Wade.
Because I believe in democracy.
“Pro-Choice”, to me, sounds like “Pro-Gravity.” Self-determination, especially in an arena as personal as parenting, simply IS. Laws can pass, obstacles erected, dogmas cast, social memes evoked. When, if, and how often someone becomes a mother has always, is now, and will forever be, that person’s choice.
I escort at the local clinic, contribute to our local A-Fund, hound my representatives to stop anti-access legislation because safe, unobstructed reproductive health care is healthy and humane. And the State and churches ought to be concentrating their efforts on bigger issues in which their influence may actually bring about some good.
And I am optimistic that this day is coming. Because unsupported beliefs in such things as “one-right-way” fall just as sure as unsupported objects fall to the centre of the Earth.
There was a confluence of factors that caused me to embrace Choice. Strong women in my family. Vatican II which threw open the doors and windows of the Roman Catholic Church to winds that buffeted the rigid patriarchal dogma and tradition. The righteous, confrontational actions of the Civil Rights heroines and heroes. The writings and speeches of the feminists in the late 60s and early 70s. My partner who supported the evolution of my belief in the absolute right of every woman to determine what happens to her body.
When I first thought about the subject for this year’s Blog for Choice, I started trying to remember when I knew terminating a pregnancy could be an option. It is a subject I have difficulty separating from when I first felt passionately about women’s rights. From my first awareness of the double standard applied to men and women in assessing blame for unwanted pregnancies (woman=slut/bad; man=boys will be boys/couldn’t help themselves) to today, I have constantly reacted with, “It’s not fair.” What is fair is access to reproductive choices for everyone. Only the one with the potential to be pregnant or carrying a pregnancy knows the right decision for them. We need to fight for access to whatever that decision might be..
How could I not be pro-choice? In 1945 my younger sister was born, and my mother nearly died. Doctors told her she was not in good enough physical condition to ever have had babies. But they refused to sterilize her. What was she to do, a married woman with two young children, terrified she would get pregnant again? Doctors had no solution for her. So when abortion was legalized in 1973, I was so glad, and thought it was a whole new world for women and our reproductive issues. It was good to know my two daughters would have control over their own bodies. Little did I know that 40 years later we would be fighting to keep these rights for our health and our lives. We somehow need to make the general public aware of the dangers of women losing their reproductive rights.
I’ve written before here about my reasons – girls I knew in high school, women when I was a young mother. Yesterday, at an abortion speak-out I heard twenty amazing stories of why women chose to abort a pregnancy. Each of the stories by itself was a compelling argument for access to abortion. Combined, it was almost overwhelming. If I multiply that by all the women who have their own stories, their own compelling reasons, then it’s clear. Abortion IS a woman’s decision. We must keep it legal and safe.