Abortion: An Act of Bravery and of Beauty
In Jennifer Baumgardener’s book of interviews and photographs “Abortion & Life,” Gloria Steinem (groundbreaking feminist icon of the Second Wave) finishes off the tale of her abortion with these words:
“Far from feeling guilty, it was the first time I had taken responsibility for my own life. It was the first time I hadn’t been passive. That I had said, No, I’ll take responsibility for my own life, I am going to make a decision. And you know, to this day, I would raise flags on all public buildings to celebrate the chance I had to make that decision.”
There’s a lot of mythology surrounding how women who have abortions feel after the fact. Most anti-abortion activists are quick to say that all women are depressed and guilty after their abortion, but the truth is that there’s a greater risk of depression after giving birth- the most common and pervasive emotion after abortion is actually relief. (http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/gpr/09/3/gpr090308.html)
Obviously some women do experience depression, guilt, etc. after abortion (especially in cases where it was a wanted pregnancy that had to be terminated for other reasons), but I’d think that this is largely due to the social stigma surrounding abortion. And for so many women, like Gloria Steinem, or many women writing to this blog (http://plannedparenthoodsavedme.tumblr.com/ ), abortion literally saves lives, in that it enables women, mostly young women, to choose the lives they couldn’t have had with a full-term pregnancy and/or child to raise. Abortion can be an opportunity for the patient to realize their bodily autonomy, and accordingly take renewed control over their life.
The painting above was created last week in response to an assignment issued by my “Political Painting” teacher, who told us to “create a painting that utilizes the concept of beauty.” In the wake of 2011, otherwise known as “the war on women,” and in the midst of Susan G. Komen’s defunding of Planned Parenthood (though they’ve since retracted that decision), some pro-choice art seemed appropriate. So I wanted to create a scene in which abortion can be seen as a beautiful thing. An umbilical cord nourishes a fetus during pregnancy- but when a woman chooses abortion, she can choose to nourish herself. I wanted to show abortion as an act of bravery- or, in the words of Alice Walker, “Abortion, for many women, is more than an experience of suffering beyond anything most men will ever know, it is an act of mercy, and an act of self-defense .”
But we should not have to suffer. We should be able to take control of our own bodies with agency and with joy.
*note: check out the blog “The Abortioneers,” as well as “Exhale” and the like, for authentic abortion stories. If we tell our stories, we will be that much less alone.