I am the 95 percent. Are you?
An op-ed piece in the NY Times by Katha Pollitt resonated deeply with me. In it, the author spoke of the way a culture of shame allows the misinformed and misogynistic to continue to be the leading voices in matters of women’s health.
Then I saw a graphic going around with a quote from a Benedictine nun about what it really means to be “pro-life”, and went hunting for #iamthe95percent or #nomorestigma on Twitter and other sites. I found only silence, or a handful of scattered, irrelevant tweets on other topics. Of course these hashtags weren’t already trending, I reminded myself — a culture of shame, and all that implies, is creating a cone of silence once again.
Talking about issues of women’s health as normal is important. Whether you have been silent about an abortion, an adoption, a miscarriage, deciding to be child-free (or to have kids at any cost using IVF and other options), STDs from unfaithful or careless partners, suffering through endometriosis, or any other health issue any woman can potentially face — it’s [past] time to speak up.
What can I say about how this fits in my life story? I know a self-flagellating approach is expected. That is how we are taught to discuss abortion — as if shame is the norm. We’ve come to expect trigger warnings, weeping and lengthy lists of traumatic “reasons” whenever someone is brave enough to tell their story. That’s not how I feel, and that’s why the NYT op-ed resonated with me; not feeling shame or regret about this decision is already my norm. We just don’t feel safe, as women, framing the discussion that way when that is our story.
There will be no trigger warnings here. In fact, I’ll take the Dragnet approach (‘Just the facts, ma’am’). In my early 20s, thanks to an all-too-common birth control mishap (seriously, why is it so hard to make decent condoms), I got pregnant. Young, broke, already certain I didn’t want children regardless of circumstance, with a lover who was also young, broke and who felt the same call never to have kids, the decision to have an abortion at 7 weeks was clear. Thanks to my local Planned Parenthood it was also accessible, affordable and woven seamlessly into all of my other health care decisions. This was especially true since I was already using Planned Parenthood for all of my medical care at the time (cancer screenings, sexual health education, yearly physicals, and much more).
I was so incredibly lucky in so many ways. I had a supportive lover (the importance of this can not be overstated). I lived near a clinic (so many people don’t, especially now). I am not religious (simply meaning that I didn’t have a dogma to overcome when making this decision). I was broke, but not so broke that I couldn’t scrape together $300 in time (another important fact we often overlook — cost of care, for all medical procedures). I’d already decided kids were not for me (the timing of having to make that decision concrete was earlier than planned, but the decision to be child-free has been firm for decades). I was surrounded by incredibly supportive friends, and have always had a network of strong women (thank you, ladies, truly, for a lifetime of strong hearts, strong minds and outstretched arms). I trusted my health care provider to give me accurate information.
We must get past the stigma of talking about having an abortion. At issue here is more than just the normalcy of a medical procedure — at issue here is also the inequality inherent in access to it. How can we talk about that larger issue, if every time we say the word abortion we must also say “trigger warning” and frame our words not to be heard.
I’d love to hear your story, so we can let the world know that women’s health is a simple fact of life, not a stigma. Consider a Medium or Twitter reply using #iamthe95percent and/or #nomorestigma as one of your tags? I’d love to hear and support you.