I remember sitting in front of the TV as an 9-year-old listening to one of the Presidential debates between John Kerry and George W. Bush. At the time, I didn’t have a great understanding of politics (and well, I was quite young) but remember the topic of abortion being brought up. I asked my mom what exactly abortion was and she said that it meant killing babies. Of course, the idea sounded horrifying and scary and it solidified by then love of Bush, since he was “against killing babies” and I knew I definitely was too.
It was at this moment that I first learned about abortion. It was something I would again hear about at my Lutheran school when I was a bit older. It was also characterized as shameful and disguising and at that time I didn’t ask questions either. It just sounded morally repulsive to me and I had no idea how anyone could think it was okay to kill a child. It wasn’t something I questioned or thought critically about, but rather just accepted.
Fast forward 4 years…I was a fierce feminist, social justice activist and a new blogger. I came across this campaign run by Advocates for Youth called 1 in 3 in which women shared their experiences and stories of abortion, in order to lessen the stigma and shame around the subject (called 1 in 3 since 1 in 3 American women will get an abortion in her lifetime). I remember trying to remember how exactly I learned abortion and that scene of me sitting in front of the television popping into my head. I felt such rage and distain towards both myself and my mother. I just wondered how I could have ever learned about such an important and sensitive subject from someone who framed the issue from the bias of religion. I was outraged; I wanted a parent that nurtured my young womanhood and who would be in solidarity with me.
I then did the wrong thing and wrote an angry blog post in which I bashed my mother and expressed my absolute shock at how I was taught to view abortion. Naturally, she saw it and was upset by it, as she didn’t intend to cause me harm but was just talking about it in the only way she knew how. At the time, I didn’t know to accept it and told her off. But, in time, I saw the error of my ways.
I had several conversations with her afterwards about abortion and yes, some were angry and filled with passion. The important thing is that we have talked about it in a civil way and heard one another’s views. I have learned to respect her opinion on the issue and her mine. While we have fundamental differences in our values, I have learned to still respect her as my mother and caretaker.
As I reflect back, I think this is the key to being able to frame this issue as feminists; we have to learn to tread the waters of pro-lifer’s with compassion and understanding and not always be on the attack. Because that is when people stop listening and we are stuck in a polarity. Respect is the key and if we do learn to approach things this way, maybe, just maybe, we can grow together as people. Maybe we can lessen the stigma around abortion because it won’t be as heated; it can be another issue that we discuss from our differing perspective and have a cultural conversation about it. I am not saying don’t advocate or fight for your rights…but try to do so in an approachable way. Where people won’t write any of us off as crazy feminists but as people with a strong voice. A strong voice that is willing to listen, love and respect. Because in the grand scheme of things, that is the most important thing we can be.