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Should Doctors Be Required to Show Fetal Images to Patients Before Abortions?
by Causes
33,991 actions taken this week
  • Grace
    Voted No

    Abortion, despite consistent ongoing legislative attempts to ban it, is one of the most common medical procedures for people with uteruses. Almost 1 in 4 people with uteruses will have an abortion by age 40. For 2015, the most recent year available on the CDC website, “The abortion rate for 2015 was 11.8 abortions per 1,000 {people with uteruses} aged 15–44 years(1.18%), and the abortion ratio was 188 abortions per 1,000 live births…” This is a drop from previous surveyed years. “91.1% of abortions were performed at ≤13 weeks’ gestation; a smaller number of abortions (7.6%) were performed at 14–20 weeks’ gestation, and even fewer (1.3%) were performed at ≥21 weeks’ gestation. In 2015, 24.6% of all abortions were early medical abortions (a non-surgical abortion at ≤8 weeks’ gestation).” The majority of people getting abortions were aged 20-29 years old (58.7%), with people age 30-40+ accounting for an additional (31.2%), and adolescents age 15-19 coming third with 9.8%. For the math geeks in the crowd, the remaining .3% were performed on adolescents under age 15. There’s a lot more stats where those came from… But stats only tell the beginning of the story. As Amanda says, “You know the statistics, Jill. Even though they may not help.” A larger cultural narrative is brought to light with “Voicemail for Jill” and its proximity to Alabama’s “heartbeat” bill. Anti-choice activism and legislation are at a 45-year high. Multiple states are passing wholesale bans, “heartbeat” bills, or “medical safety guidelines” that bear no actual relationship to medical safety. Legislators blatantly talk about how embryos created through invitro fertilization can be destroyed without consequence, because conception only matters when it happens inside a uterus, while ignoring that the “heartbeat” the bill discusses is not actually the beating of a heart. I’m not here to talk about whether an embryo is a person. Not in this forum, and not anywhere else. Because I’m done having pointless arguments that aren’t really going to change anyone’s mind. If we’d had time, I’d love to have shown the second video that also inspired this talk. That video, for anyone who would like to check it out, is called “This Video Will Make You Angry,” and it is produced by the channel CGP Grey. In it, Grey describes not specific debates, but how debates – especially angry ones – work in symbiosis with each other to spread like diseases. The very act of debating anti-choice activists gives them power, influence and platform. And I’m not going to do it anymore. What I really want to focus on is how the pro-choice movement really treats people who have abortions. How we form our arguments, how we talk to and about the people we know who have had abortions, how we approach the idea of not having children. Abortion has been on my personal radar for almost 30 years, since I was 8 years old and accompanied my mom and newborn baby brother to a follow-up appointment, where she told the doctor about the number of times she had been pregnant between the two of us. The following decade of listening to NPR and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, kept it in the back of my mind, a constant buzzing of voices for and against. Over time, the refrains that keep repeating are: “we’re not advocating for abortion/we’re not pro-abortion/we just want people to have choices” or “what about rape/what about incest/what about child abuse and neglect/what about genetic disorders incompatible with life?” All of these are offered as counters to the primary position that anti-choice advocates take: that there is some “right” to birth that supersedes the right to bodily autonomy for the pregnant person. Due to the tautological nature of that position, there is no argument anyone outside can make to change the mind of anyone who holds the position. It is only when they are confronted with their own choices that they are ever willing to concede, and then they are more likely to behave hypocritically than they are to experience a change of heart. So why do we continue these arguments? I think it’s because it’s easier. It’s easier to focus on that external argument than it is to truly focus on changing the cultural silence around people who have abortions. Amanda writes “no one’s gonna celebrate you, no one’s gonna bring you cake, and no one’s gonna shower you with flowers.” When our friends and coworkers announce pregnancies, we throw parties, offer congratulations, and track their health and well-being. When they terminate pregnancies, we stop talking. We create zones of silence. They become cautionary tales we tell, no longer individuals worthy of celebration. Remember, more than one person with a uterus in every three will have an abortion in their lifetime. That means everyone here has known at least one person who has had an abortion, and we don’t necessarily know about it. There is a linguistic assumption in most debate forums that abortion is happening to someone else, the great faceless mob. Very rarely will you see an assumption that the individuals in the conversation have any firsthand knowledge of the experience of abortion. This assumption is highly isolating. It is also a difficult one to overcome, however when we retain this assumption and fail to reach out to those who have experienced abortion firsthand, we leave out critical voices. More importantly, through our assumptions and our discussions, we tell people who have had abortions that their choices are both open for debate and are worth less than the choices of people who have continued pregnancies. We open the door for the “courtroom inside of your head, where you’re acting as judge and accused and defendant and witness.” Seeing “Voicemail for Jill” was a visceral experience for me. Here was this song that reached out and grabbed my heart, that said everything so clearly. This woman was the face of my best friend, who got her abortion at 17 right before she joined the Army, because a child would have trapped her with an abusive boyfriend for the rest of her life. She was my college roommate, Faerie, as she got an abortion at 18 because she couldn’t afford a child while supporting her boyfriend too. She was my doula, Marcela, who got an abortion around the same time I got pregnant, and knew she’d be unable to finish med school and raise an infant at the same time and her partner was unwilling to give up his school to be a parent. But the song was more than just a face for the people I’ve known. Here was a song, talking about the cultural silence that surrounds people who choose not to be pregnant, in the same cultural moment when Alabama passed their “heartbeat” bill. Here was this simple language: “I support you.” To write “Voicemail for Jill,” Amanda drew on both her own experiences having abortions, a miscarriage, and a child, and then she opened the door to the internet. She asked her Patreon followers, if they could say just 12 words to a friend or family member who was on their way to an abortion, what would they be? If they could hear just one sentence from a friend or family member while making that journey, what would they say? And their responses, over 500 comments that became “Voicemail for Jill,” have a common theme: “Your heart also matters.” Amanda’s lyrics are as much instructions for us as pro-choice advocates as they are for Jill; “You don't need to offer the right explanation, You don't need to beg for redemption or ask for forgiveness.” The time has come to stop arguing minutiae with walls. The solution is surprisingly simple: We believe in the right to abortions, the right to terminate a pregnancy, because we believe in bodily autonomy and freedom from oppression. And that is all we ever need to say. Except, if we want to truly end the cultural silence around abortion, we need to take it Amanda’s step further: “I’ll be back in Boston by next Thursday, why don’t I come over? I can bring some friends if you want us to come. We can bring you cake, and we can bring you flowers. We can bring you wine and we can talk for hours. Ukelele by request. We’ll throw you the best, Abortion Shower.” It’s time to celebrate the power of choice.

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