When we escort clients to the clinic door, we are actively showing our belief in everyone’s right to make a choice for abortion. We walk the sidewalk to support a client in their choice and try to create a space for them to walk without being harassed or shamed for their choice.
When we write on this blog about abortion, escorting, reproductive rights or other human health and rights issues, we are voicing our belief that everyone should have autonomy regarding their bodies and their health.
There have been a few conversations among escorts recently that have me thinking about relationships and when or if we tell our friends and family members about our escorting activities. Some escorts are able to tell their friends and family members when they start escorting. Other escorts do not feel as comfortable with these conversations at first. Some escorts will have these conversations with friends, but are never comfortable having them with some or all of their family members. Some escorts can have these conversations openly at work. Other escorts have to keep quiet or lose their job.
Abortion is not a dirty word, but the subject is so stigmatized in our current society that many of us are hesitant to bring the subject up to our friends, coworkers and family members. The last thing you want to do is start a heated argument when you participate in get-togethers. Worse, what if you bring it up to a co-worker and then lose your job because of your belief that abortion should be available for any reason with no apologies? Balancing when and how much to tell about involvement in escorting can be a daily exercise and the result if you tip the balance can be life-changing and even unsafe. This is how I talk about abortion and reproductive rights. It isn’t an approach that is an option for everyone.
One escort says when he meets new people, it is one of the first things he talks about. It is a type of litmus test for gauging whether a lasting friendship can be formed. This is the approach I take when meeting new people who I would like to get to know better. If they are anti-abortion, it is likely they are anti-choice in a lot of other social areas important to me. In my opinion, it is better to lay out the deal breakers early, especially if you are on a first date.
Long-time friends and family members are often approached differently. I felt the desire to be open with these individuals after I had been escorting for a short time. It became a need to discuss it with them in order to be honest about an important part of my life. Once I experienced firsthand the antis, this commitment came with a desire to talk to friends and family members about what it is really like in front of the clinic. I needed to start conversations to help de-stigmatize abortion in the corner of the world I live in.
Every person except one in my circle of friends and family have had my discussion about abortion, escorting and reproductive health. Some people have had the discussion with me while in a group of friends, but many of them have had the discussion one-on-one. Friends and family who are very devout or more conservative have had the discussion privately so they would feel free to really discuss their feelings about abortion with me. This has led to some really great conversations. To date, I have not lost a friend or been shunned by a family member for my views. I like to think I choose my friends wisely, but we don’t choose family so it can’t all be attributed to that reason. Having such family support is a privilege not all escorts can claim.
The one exception who has been spared my talking about escorting is a family member. He is elderly, in poor health, a staunch Republican and a constant Fox News watcher. We talk infrequently and abortion has never come up in our conversations. I have not felt the need to bring it up, but have not avoided it either. I feel confident when abortion does come up, it will result in the standoff for other political and social issues we have discussed. The conversations always end up with me saying, “You watch Fox News too much. You are repeating their talking points,” and he will say to me, “You don’t watch Fox News enough. You might learn something.” We agree to disagree.
The most interesting thing about the discussions I have had, is that every single private discussion has led to an abortion story. Some of the group discussions have led to private abortion stories later. Many of them have been very emotional talks. The storyteller is sharing with someone they know will respect their safety and dignity. They feel they have a safe space for telling their story. For some it is the first time they have ever told about their experience because of the stigma and shame attached to just the word abortion, let alone someone who has had one.
It isn’t surprising my honesty in expressing my feelings concerning the subject of abortion elicits these numbers of abortion stories. “One in three American women will have an abortion by age 45.” We all know someone who has had an abortion, or they know someone who has had an abortion; friends, sisters, mothers, or other family members. The more we talk about the right to abortion for any reason, the more stories we will hear.
I would encourage everyone to have these discussions when and if you can safely. When we keep quiet about our beliefs concerning abortion, we help to perpetuate the stigma. If everyone keeps quiet, we might miss a great potential ally. I have found these discussions grew my friendships to a deeper level and my appreciation and respect for my family has been made stronger. The abortion stories you will hear will give you a greater understanding of why access to abortion is so important.
Abortion is not a dirty word. Let’s talk about it.