Amanda Marcotte has a piece on RH Reality Check that I agree with 100%. In this piece she explains how adding that tiny but loaded word “but” to the end of the phrase “I’m pro-choice” can serve to enforce a barrier between the person speaking the sentence and those ~other~ women, the ones who have abortions, the naughty ones.
This article is timely for me, as I just experienced the birth control incident days ago. And what Amanda says about women maintaining they are pro-choice yet distancing themselves from being looked at as a woman who actually would have an abortion, is directly related to this woman who rode the bus with me and felt the need to insist she does not have sex when I saw her packet of birth control pills.
A lot of us might still have internalized hang ups about sex. If you were raised in the United States like me, then it goes without saying that you were most likely not raised in a sex-positive environment, or maybe in an environment where sex was not discussed at all. Further, if you were raised in the Christian school system (also like me), then there’s a good chance you were a teenager with conflicting attitudes towards sex and sexuality, and a definite attitude towards abortion: something sluts do. I thankfully overcame a lot of cultural and religious brainwashing in order to hold the beliefs I hold now, yet even for women who have done the same, some of us can still find ourselves contemplating everything that is implied with the use of that little word “but.”
In the piece, Amanda says:
But even if you are absolutely positive you’d never have an abortion, you have to ask yourself: If you’re pro-choice, why do you need to exclaim about how you’d never do it? What purpose can it serve but to stigmatize abortion further?
Exactly. Commenting on someone’s freedom to do something (in this case, a woman’s right to abort) really doesn’t call for you to include your own personal commentary, unless you want the person or people you are speaking with to explicitly know that you do not identify with the group of people who would do it. If you are so concerned about being lumped in with those people, I think it’s worth asking yourself why, like Amanda suggests.
I would love to be able to say with certainty that I will never have an abortion. However, as I am not abstinent nor do I have my tubes tied, that isn’t a statement I can make in good faith. I use contraceptives that do not come with a 100% guarantee, and I’m thankful that abortion is an option available to me should I need it. I hope I won’t ever need it, but our lives simply aren’t able to be put in neat little boxes.
I know that women who get abortions are women just like me. We aren’t different, I am not better than them. I know this because I’ve been the person driving my pregnant, terrified roommate to the abortion clinic at 8:00 in the morning, while she fidgeted in the passenger seat, hoping we didn’t see anyone we knew. I know this because I have had a pregnancy scare, and without a moment’s hesitation I started to look for a clinic in my area. I know this because I’ve been the shoulder that a childhood friend has cried on after deciding to have an abortion, while saying she never thought this would happen to her.
The danger in distancing yourself from women who do have abortions by exclaiming that you never would is that 1) it is a statement I feel you can’t make with complete certainty unless you are in the situation yourself and 2) it reinforces the oppressive social stigma that women who seek abortions are doing so because they did something bad: they had sex. Anti-choicers want the general public to believe that all of us slutty sluts are out here having sex every moment of the day while laughing to ourselves and saying, “Oh, fuck the condom, I can just get an abortion, ha ha ha!”
The reality is a lot of women who find themselves sitting in the waiting room at the abortion clinic are women who didn’t think it would happen to them. I guarantee you some of them have said, “I’m pro-choice, but…….”
They are me, I am them.