Wednesday, September 23, 2015

UNPOPULAR OPINION: The #ShoutYourAbortion Campaign Is Some Rookie Shit

I am pro-choice. I have been pro-choice my entire life. Let's just get that out of the way right now.

I considered letting go of the #ShoutYourAbortion hashtag trend with just a scowl and head-shake, but I can't. Every time I jump on the Internet or Facebook, it's there staring me in the face. And it really, really bothers me.

In case you've missed what's happening in the dignified world of Twitter this week, on September 19, three female activists - Amelia Bonow, Lindy West, and Kimberly Morrison - started a social media firestorm when West shared Bonow's Twitter post in an attempted show of support for Planned Parenthood (I'm sure you know by now why this IS a necessary organization, but if you're unconvinced, please read here, or, if you're better with numbers, click here.) #IStandWithPP

Additionally, the Tweet took aim at the stigmatization of women who have chosen to have an abortion but feel forced to hide it for fear of lashback. I get it. And I agree with the purpose. I do not condone shaming or treating these women as lesser human beings for electing to have a medical procedure performed on their own bodies (with a strong preference that it's within the scientifically recommended timeframe to avoid pain for the fetus). Nor do I feel that they should be boo-ed and hissed into feeling regret and humiliation. For reference, here's the Tweet:

The problem with this social media campaign and the accompanying #ShoutYourAbortion hashtag is the utter glibness and thoughtlessness with which it is being conducted, both initially - by Bonow - and subsequently by others jumping on the bandwagon.

Good for Bonow that she was able to make this kind of decision so lightly and carefreely. Should she be forced to feel regret or shame? No. Should she be forced feel sad instead of "happy?" That's her call.

Consider for a moment, though, why would she or anyone else NOT feel a certain amount of sadness? Whether you believe that an 7-week old embryo in the womb is a living, thriving being or not, something ended. A potential person - living and breathing person - ended it before it started. A potential face that will never see the world nor have any impact on it. A potential snot-nosed, screaming thing. A baseball-playing thing. A homework-doing thing. A driving, voting, talking, walking thing. Someone with her ears and her laugh. Someone that would one day say "shit" for the first time and make her spit soda out of her nose.

I'm sure if you asked her, she would say she didn't want any of those things to start with. I mean, she has straight up said she didn't want children. But every pregnant woman runs each of the aforementioned images through her mind at least once - if only briefly - and, no matter how you want to frame it on Twitter, permanently dismissing the potential of this future person is a loss. In another life, another situation, another dimension, your life could have looked very different had you chosen to go forward with the pregnancy instead of terminating it. Every woman with whom I've spoken about her own abortion experience has, to some extent, "wondered" what life would have been like had they gone a different route. I wouldn't call it wistful (most believe they made the right decision); but it's undoubtedly a symptom of the loss. Sadness would be a perfectly normal and healthy reaction to that loss (like any loss). But do I think she's a bad person for saying she doesn't feel sad? Not as long as it's 110% true. If you don't feel sad, that's fine. But do I think we are getting the whole story? Doubt it. #ShoutYourHonesty

Glibly tweeting "I'm happy about my abortion! And you can't force me to be sad about it!" doesn't convey the real and raw emotional process involved with making this kind of decision. It completely ignores that a pregnant woman really should consider (and usually does, IMHO) a thorough soul-searching before drawing her own personal conclusion. It, instead, just infuriates the pro-life group even further and compounds the conservative suspicion that women who have abortions are careless in their decision-making. I certainly wouldn't want my daughter to get the impression from this campaign that abortion is no big deal. Normalizing a woman's choice to have an abortion (and supporting Planned Parenthood) is not synonymous with brashly declaring on social media that you're stoked that your potential child never saw the light of day. You fight taboos like this by showing the world that you're thoughtful and measured and reasonable in making decisions and in exercising your right to have control over your own body. #ShoutYourControl

And that's the part of her story that is conspicuously missing - the piece that pregnant women really need to hear. You went through the steps of deep self-examination, wrestled (or just felt a twinge of conflict?) with your decision, felt some tangible loss, but still felt confident in your own decision to move forward with the procedure because that's what you've decided is best for you. When pregnant women truly contemplate their options, reflect on their emotions, and come to the conclusion to still move forward with an abortion, they will inevitably feel justified and righteous in advocating for themselves and their decision. Under this scenario, there isn't a possibility of feeling shame or regret - no matter what anyone else says - because you are self-assured that you've done the right thing for you. Why not tell that story? #ShoutYourConfidence

There's another facet to this #ShoutYourAbortion thing that bugs me: I, along with my many pro-choice friends, have repeatedly said that the decision to have an abortion is one that is personal and should be between a woman and her doctor. I would take odds in Vegas that these gals have said the same thing. So if the decision is a deeply personal one between a woman and her doctor, why is there a need to shout it on Twitter? You can't really have it both ways. Either it's private and personal or it's social media fodder. You cannot, on one hand, tell folks to stay out of your uterus-business, and, on the other hand, push it in their faces, fully knowing that folks will be waiting to jump on the slightest whiff of a hot button issue. This grand, misguided #ShoutYourAbortion display is hurting the Choice cause, not helping. #ShoutYourPrivacy

Let me also speak to their point of supporting Planned Parenthood. As I mentioned, I'm a supporter. It's baffling that Congress has taken the defunding of the organization to the extent it has (seriously? you're going to shut down the government over it?), knowing that it's a vital organization in the world of women's healthcare. There was a time in my life when Planned Parenthood was the only option I could afford for birth control and medical consultations, and so I stand with these women in their support of the institution. However, I'd like to suggest something: This campaign is using the Planned Parenthood issue to push its own agenda (addressing the stigma against women who have an abortion) in the same manner that conservatives are using it to push theirs (defunding an organization that offers one service that doesn't align with their beliefs). Instead of helping spread the word that Planned Parenthood is a necessary component of women's healthcare in our society - for birth control, breast exams, pap smears, disease treatment references - this "supportive" campaign completely misses the mark by instead discussing the ONE service that isn't even central to (nor a majority of) Planned Parenthood's services. Why not keep the focus where it should be? On the incredibly important healthcare services they offer. #ShoutYourPlannedParenthoodPapSmear

Lastly, and, perhaps, most importantly, this campaign is completely and utterly lacking in fucking respect. To all those folks participating in the Twitter raucous, I sincerely hope you have NO friends or acquaintances with fertility issues, prior miscarriages, or otherwise critical health issues who are more than willing, but unable, to conceive. While you so loudly profess that the general public should respect your right to choose and feel however you want about your choice, you are poignantly neglecting to respect the feelings of those who would chop off their right arm to have the very same chance that you were given. You don't want to feel shame? Fair enough. But my friend who spent many years and thousands of dollars on fertility treatments doesn't want to feel disappointment. Or self-hatred. Or wistfulness. Or jealousy. Or the injustice and unfairness and, yes, rage, that you were given an opportunity that you chose to decline (which is your right) - an opportunity that they will never have and that they so badly, badly want with every fiber of their being. That's not to say that you aren't entitled to your own personal feelings and experiences (you are), but is it necessary to teeter on the edge of gloating or, at a minimum, being naively flippant and insensitive to the women who would have stepped into your shoes in a heartbeat? #ShoutYourEmpathy

If, after all of this, you still really do think #ShoutYourAbortion is making any sort of important statement about the Choice movement, then that really is some rookie shit.

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