I read a powerful blog post the other day by The Abortion Gang. It’s entitled “Telling Abortion Stories Without Disrespecting People Who Have Abortions.” You can read it here.
But the point of the post is just what it sounds like. Telling other people’s abortion stories, without their permission or participation, is not ideal. Even if you don’t use their name, they would recognize the story. And it probably is a kind of violation.
See how I’m hedging on this? It’s “not ideal.” It’s “probably a kind of violation.”
I tell other people’s stories of what happens to them on the sidewalk. I’ve felt really good about what I write here. Now I have to take a step back and question whether what I’m doing is disrespectful to the client.
I try to tell my own story here. I started writing for the blog because it was helpful for me. I process through writing, and I need to process my experience at the clinic. To try to make sense of it.
Often, I start writing with no idea where I’m going to end up. As I tell the story, my perspectives shifts. I gain new insight, discover a way to look at it that hadn’t occurred to me before. Sometimes, I get feedback from other people that helps me learn a new way of thinking about things.
I like to think ~ I do think ~ that what I write helps. I think it gives other people understanding of the experience on the sidewalk at the clinic. I hope it inspires people to be more active in supporting the right to access abortion.
When I write about what I see happen at the clinic, I think of the client’s strength, their wisdom, the power of their choices, their ability to navigate a difficult and unpleasant experience on their own terms.and how they respond. I feel so much respect for them and their companions. It’s hard for me to judge whether or not telling the story is disrespectful.
I think I probably am disrespectful to the antis here in the blog. I try not to demonize them ~ after all, that’s not really so helpful. But I laugh at them sometimes, and that’s not very nice. I get angry with them, and I unleash that anger here sometimes. But this is my “safe space” to do that. To say what I feel.
When I first read the article – the blog post on disrespect – I tried to think of a way to involve the clients in this process. But the walk down the sidewalk is so short. Of course we look for people to tell their stories if they choose, but involving them in this process is a long term project, I think.
Really, I had hoped that writing this would lead me to some magical solution. That I’d be able to say, “Ha! New perspective! New insight! Here’s the right way to handle this!”
But no. That hasn’t happened. Darn ambiguity.
So here’s my plan. I’ll work toward the model the group in Chicago uses, where people who have used the clinic’s services are more involved in supporting these efforts and telling their own stories.
I’ll continue to tell my own story, and if it is wrapped in the client’s story, I will tell that too. I’ll think about it first. I’ll weigh whether I could tell the same story ~ make the same point ~ without the client in it. But if I can’t, I’ll tell the story.
I’ll make sure that I’m telling the story of what I saw and what happened, not details about the particular client. I will be intentional in how I write it.
Storytelling is a sacred activity – one of the contemplative practices. If I limit my story to what I see and hear on the sidewalk, then maybe the story is mine, no matter who else is involved.