Only so long as they can use them as political ping-pong balls.
The latest example is none other than Dawn Eden.* Dawn has done some nasty things in the past, but this is particularly disgusting. She found a pro-choice feminist’s very personal blog about her abortion and she’s now using it as “proof” that abortion is psychologically harmful and should therefore be illegal.
In medias res, the pro-choice blog, is written by a particularly brave woman who has decided to write honestly about an abortion experience that doesn’t fit into the ideal pro-choice narrative. Here is her story. What she experienced is not universal, and there are many other abortion stories out there, but it is hers. She is owning it, and she is sharing it, even though it doesn’t fit neatly into any ideological boxes. Her abortion sucked. It was painful. It was long. She got a rare infection. She feels a sense of loss that conflicts with her feminist politics. She writes:
I lost a baby, a baby that never got a name. Lost it on purpose, days after the thirty-fifth anniversary of Roe v. Wade. It was my first, one accident dropped into years of carefulness. I had wanted it in an abstract way for several years, but it came at a time that wasn’t right, and it didn’t have the father I would want to raise a child with. The feminist in me shrinks away from talking about the pain of that loss. Even though my heart believes I sent it back so it could return at a better time, there’s fountain of pain and a kind of aloneness I had never experienced that seems to gush interminably.
The interminable is relative, of course. Time has passed. I cry less. My body that for five weeks swelled in anticipation fits into my clothes again. I’m no longer avoiding the hugs of friends to protect my sore breasts.
I dream about the baby, the one with no name. In the dreams, I am overwhelmed with trying to find someone to help me care for it, of hearing it call the babysitter “mama” because its mother can never be there. When this happens, I feel like I made the right choice for myself and the children that will come. But I still grieve.
And I am more pro-choice than ever.
Her feelings, and her experiences, are valid. And she is not the first feminist I’ve spoken with who feels loss or pain after abortion. Unfortunately, there are huge disincentives for women to be honest about their abortion experiences. Women who don’t grieve, or who simply feel relief and not pain, are accused of being selfish, heartless, or deluding themselves, assumed to be putting off the real pain that’s bound to come. Women who say “I had an abortion” without mentioning guilt or pain are accused of “bragging.” Any woman who isn’t apologetic is at the very least an irresponsible whore. Women who do admit some ambiguity in their emotions are inundated with religious anti-choice rhetoric about how they’re surely grieving about killing their baby, and they should join this or that “pro-life” or “post-abortive” ministry. Whenever pro-choicers try to create a space for women to speak about abortion, it’s infiltrated and abused by shameless anti-choicers with an agenda.
And that’s exactly what Dawn is doing here. The blogger at In medias res has asked that her story not be used as anti-choice political fodder. And despite Dawn’s supposed concern for the blogger’s mental health and well-being, she puts up a post that the blogger in question has made clear is doing her emotional harm.
The writer has said that while the experience was painful, she learned from it and she feels she’s stronger for it. She has written about feeling better. Despite her words being twisted around to support an ideology she vehemently opposes, she still has the courage to write honestly.
I hope she’ll continue, and that this experience with self-righteous assholes doesn’t make her censor herself. I hope she knows that she has the support of pro-choice feminists like myself, and that we will respect her experiences and her feelings — even if they don’t fit perfectly with all of our ideals. I hope she keeps writing.
I hope Dawn is ashamed of herself. She should be.
(And just so we’re clear — I have In medias res’s permission to write about this, and if there’s something she objects to or is causing her further stress, I’ll take it down).
As a final note, I wonder how anti-choicers would react if stories of post-partum depression were trotted out as “evidence” that child birth is horrible, and forced abortions are the right “choice” for some women? To reference a comment to this post, Is there any childbirth experience ever so horrific that any of you would look at it and say, “Yeah, in that case maybe childbirth wasn’t such a good idea after all”?
I say leave it up to women to decide whether childbirth or abortion is the best choice — and I have a whole lot of scientific data to back up the fact that psychological trauma goes hand in hand with being forced to take a particular reproductive route, whether that’s forced childbirth or forced abortion. But to argue that gives anti-choicers too much credit; it assumes that they actually care about women’s psychological health. Clearly, they don’t.
*A bit of background: Dawn is the author of The Thrill of the Chaste, a book telling young women to wait until marriage for any sexual activity. She has a long history of misrepresentations and flat-out lies to further her political agenda. You’ll see more than a few if you casually browse her site. Perhaps most notably, she was fired from her job as a copy editor at the right-wing New York Post for injecting her anti-choice views into a reporter’s story about in-vitro fertilization (something that copy editors are very clearly not supposed to do). She’s been embraced by anti-choice groups ’round the country, and spends her says criticizing Planned Parenthood on her blog, mostly because PP has the audacity to offer contraception and realistic, sometimes funny, accurate sexual health information. Like many establishment “pro-lifers,” Dawn claims to oppose abortion, but she also is against standard birth control — the most effective way to decrease the abortion rate. And she isn’t above using other women’s very personal and painful stories to her own advantage.
- Requiring Women to See “The Truth” by Jill April 30, 2007
- Pro-Choice Congressmen More Likely to Have Slutty Daughters by Jill June 18, 2007
- Abortion: It’s All About Teh Men by Jill January 7, 2008
- Not Getting It by Jill January 2, 2008
- Pro-Lifers: Increasing the Abortion Rate in Your State by Jill February 2, 2008