Twitter lit up like a bonfire this week with #ShoutYourAbortion.
Let me be clear: Every person is free to share or not share her experience. I do not believe in censorship. Neither do I believe that women who have chosen to have abortions should be called names or threatened with violence. Waving around giant pictures of aborted babies doesn’t help anyone.
But let’s be honest: Twitter – 140 characters – is not the ideal place to have this conversation. Like it or not, the topic of abortion is a deep one, whether one is pro-life or pro-choice. It’s impossible to address the complexities in such a limited format.
Of course, the proponents of #ShoutYourAbortion say that there need be no controversy. That it need not be a delicate issue. A woman should be able to say “I did this” with neither explanation nor context, which I suppose is fair enough. Such a stance turns away from the ideas of good storytelling, but all right. If you really want to take to Twitter and share, that’s your choice.
There has been a good amount of backlash regarding the hashtag, evenly divided (from what I have seen, which is, of course, not every single tweet ever) between the pro-life and the pro-choice crowd. The basic point is that #ShoutYourAbortion comes across as combative, prideful and does nothing to actually further the conversation or foster understanding between people of opposing views. Such objections have been met with “stop policing,” “the medium doesn’t matter,” “you’re an idiot,” “concern troll,” “I hate pro-life people,” and “moron.” (Again, just what I’ve seen).
Those responses are ridiculous. One does not start or engage in a controversial “movement” and then stick one’s fingers in one’s ears and scream at people – even people who agree with the position – who say that there are better ways to go about it. That amounts to nothing more than willfully ignoring constructive criticism.
Because the medium does matter. The way a message is communicated is important. Why else do writers spend so much time laboring over sentences? Why else would history be split on the Kennedy-Nixon presidential debate; those who listened on the radio believed Nixon won, those who watched on television gave the victory to Kennedy. Why else do costume designers spend hours locating just the right fabric for a dress?
So, by all means, share your story. Just don’t be so shocked when people react negatively when that story is so very limited and without any kind of context. Don’t be surprised when you’re told that you come across as celebrating what so many – pro-life and pro-choice – see as an incredibly tragic moment.
I did have two “laugh out louds” as I responded to some of what I was seeing under this hashtag. One gentleman (which I thought was odd, because aren’t men supposed to have no voice in this at all?) slammed me for tweeting to Lindy West (one of the women who orchestrated #ShoutYourAbortion) that Twitter was not the best place for the conversation. When I told him that I had my own story with Planned Parenthood, he then told me to go ahead and engage. Except that I was already engaging. He just didn’t like what I had to say.
The second came when I saw someone, I don’t remember who, compare #ShoutYourAbortion to the efforts of First Wave feminists. That is nonsensical. First Wavers were a diverse lot, to be sure, but these were the women who fought for the right to vote, equal status and protection under the law, the right to attend college, the prosecution of rapists and the perpetrators of domestic violence, prison reform, reducing the length of the workday, child labor law and the abolition of slavery, to name a few.
Things that we could and should still be advocating, for women and girls around the world. But instead #ShoutYourAbortion. (And, you know, #FreetheNip).
I am disheartened to see the focus of feminism so narrowed in on “reproductive rights.” Abortion-on-demand has nothing to do with equality. If it was about equality, then men would be allowed financial abortions for children they do not wish to support. No, I’m not a champion for deadbeat dads. They are despicable. But if we’re going to have a standard, then it should be applied across the board. A woman can literally sever all of her ties to a child. So, too, should a man be allowed.
But that will never happen (nor do I actually believe it should) because this isn’t about equality. Abortion-on-demand is about escaping responsibility. No, I am not speaking of pregnancies that endanger the life of the mother. I’m not even speaking or rape or incest. I am speaking of women who have access to more forms of contraception than ever before. I am speaking of women who attempt to hijack the philosophical concept of bodily autonomy by saying that the baby “has no right” to “live off of” her. (Ignoring that the act of sex invites the creation of a child. Ignoring that the bodily autonomy argument is never applied to women who drink or use drugs while pregnant). I am speaking of women who have attended college in greater numbers than at any other point in history, meaning that they have probably taken biology and thus know that the genetic material of the developing child is entirely unique and separate from her own and that the “it’s my body” reasoning falls short. I am speaking of women who live with the cognitive dissonance of deeming an aborted baby as “merely tissue” while going on to have children at a later point. I am speaking of women who insist that life does not begin at conception, but then have no consistent answer for when it does begin. (Why should a toddler not be “aborted?” After all, she continues to rely on her mother). I am speaking of women who passionately yell “save the trees” and “eat vegan” and then, somehow, disassociate themselves from “products of conception.”
I’m saying that women know better. We are too smart, too informed, for this.
If feminism is about acknowledging and championing the equality of women, if it is about opportunities and choices, then it must also be about responsibility. We cannot blast men for shirking their responsibility to women and children while doing the same thing ourselves. If a woman chooses to have sex, then she chooses to open herself to the possibility of a child. She does not have to parent the child, but she cannot say that the child has been deposited within her womb without consent. Sex is the consent. (I am obviously not speaking of rape or incest victims).
Abortion-on-demand is neither the exhibition of independence or power. It is sad. It is motivated by fear and selfishness. I can say that. Once more, I have my own story. So here’s where I turn to the pro-life community:
We must do better. We must embrace and uplift women. We must refuse to name-call or judge. We must be the support system every pregnant women needs, whether she’s unmarried or not. We must be the shoulders to cry on, the arms to hold and the ears to listen. We must be available. We must provide transportation, job references, babysitting. We must adopt when possible. We must help women to shoulder the burden and celebrate their courage and tenacity in stepping up to the plate.
Let us be the true culture of life in a world promoting death.
For a look at the feminist case against abortion, please check out this article. (Yes, it appeared in a Catholic magazine. You can handle it).
Addendum: I have been told that this piece comes across as condemning. Stating that pursuing abortion is motivated by the desire to escape responsibility is not any more condemning than saying that a kid commits theft if he steals candy. It is no comment on the character of the person. We all have done things in order to escape responsibility; we are all entirely equal that regard. I am not throwing stones at women, attempting to silence them or rubbing my hands together with glee and hoping that someone will feel sooooo bad after reading this.
I linked to my own story twice in this post. Though I did not have an abortion, I have been down this road. I have talked with women and read testimonies. I completely understand the thoughts and the feelings. I don’t think I’m better than anyone else. Yet this does not erase the fact that, bottom line, aborting a child because you don’t want to carry it to term is a selfish act. It is the only logical conclusion that I can draw when the reasons women give for pursuing abortion are “I was in school,” “I wanted to advance my career,” and “kids would hinder me.”
Addendum #2: Over on Twitter I continue to be picked at for my “tone policing.” Let me just reiterate that I never once said women should not share their stories. I thought I was clear in saying that Twitter wasn’t the best place for the conversation due to it’s sensitive nature. That the hashtag comes across badly, regardless of original intent (attempting to give the benefit of the doubt here). Watching the hashtag explode (implode?) into name-calling and threats (from both sides) confirms this for me. But again, if you want to go that route, go ahead. Just don’t get your knickers in a twist and promptly cast yourself as a victim when you don’t get a universally positive response. (Note: That’s not me defending the awfulness of people posting photos of aborted babies or making death threats. That’s completely wrong. I’m talking only about those who share an opposing view).
Addendum #3: The charge of “tone policing” leaves me shaking my head. I’m wrong for saying that there’s a better way to do have this conversation, to share these stories – literally nothing about content, just the medium. Fast on the heels of this charge comes the accusations of “judgmental” and “controlling.” Basically, others can say what they want, how they want, where they want…but I can’t.
We’ll just let that “fairness” sit and marinate for awhile.