By Bailey Borchardt, Planned Parenthood of New York City PPGen CUNY Organizer
Abortion is normal. Let me repeat that: abortion is normal.
Since the most recent wave of attacks on safe, legal abortion began, people have taken to publicly sharing their personal abortion experiences as an attempt to appeal to the humanity of the legislators passing these bans. This effort has been emotional, and for some, triggering. Because some of these abortion bans do not include an exception for victims of rape or incest, many are tying the narrative of abortion to sexual (often gender-based) violence. By doing this, abortion is being painted as a reaction to sexual violence, like in the instance of the 11-year-old in Ohio who is pregnant with their rapist’s baby, while erasing the stories of those who got an abortion because they made a conscious decision to.
There are a million reasons why a person might seek out an abortion, and all are valid. Networks like Shout Your Abortion have created a safe space for anyone and everyone to share their abortion stories. Some of these stories share how getting an abortion wasn’t even a second thought. One individual writes “Abortion was the first time I chose to support myself.” Another person writes that she knew before getting her first period that she didn’t want children. Having an abortion provided her with the freedom to be childless. One writer shares how close she was to achieving her Ph.D. when she found out she was pregnant, and how her abortion was a necessary step to ensure the completion of her degree, but how she hoped to become pregnant again someday when the time was right. Another writer shares that she was susceptible to societal pressures from her parents and her boyfriend and it took her three months into the pregnancy to decide that she wasn’t ready for a child. She traveled two hours to choose life — her own.
Though personal decision making is a pinnacle part of reproductive rights, we must always look at things through a lens of reproductive justice. The term reproductive justice was coined by SisterSong in 1994 — a collective based in Georgia founded by Black, indigenous and trans people. The very intention of coining the term reproductive justice was to highlight the intersection Black, indigenous, queer women face in the realm of reproductive health care.
Oftentimes, the conversation of reproductive rights focuses heavily on the dichotomy of pro-life vs. pro-choice. In doing this, we are disregarding the complicated nature of reproductive health care and erasing the fact that as long as America has existed, Black and indigenous communities and people of color have had less opportunity to exercise bodily autonomy. There is a level of privilege in ending a pregnancy simply because one can and wants to. There are people who would very much like to have children, but due to socioeconomic reasons, may have to decide against doing so. It is no coincidence that the states passing these abortion bans are also states that have high levels of poverty, and it’s Black women who are most affected.
For trans men and non-binary folks, abortion can be a necessary procedure that is physically and mentally affirming. In the fight against abortion restrictions, we cannot gender abortion as a “women’s” issue, when in fact everyone with a uterus is affected. There are so many barriers trans and non-binary folks already face to receive health care that is affirming: from poverty and homelessness rates that disproportionately affect trans people, to the denial of health care coverage due to gender status, abortion access should not come with another barrier. This includes the many abortion funds that are set up to help women fund their abortions. There are very few options for trans and non-binary people to seek when in need of abortion funding.
Whatever your reason for deciding to have an abortion, it is valid. Abortion is not only a constitutional right, but it’s also a personal freedom. With abortion access being used as a tool in an all-out attack against bodily autonomy and self-determination, we must amplify all of our stories and ensure that no one is being left behind in this fight.
To support those in the south affected by these bans, you can support SisterSong in Georgia, Yellow Hammer Fund in Alabama, National Network of Abortion Funds (which helps folks all over the southern states fund their abortions), the Mississippi Abortion Fund, and Planned Parenthood.
As the fight continues, listen to and amplify those who are most disenfranchised by these bans and support them in the ways they need. Though the news cycle can seem grim these days, just know that there are some states fighting as hard to expand reproductive health care as other states are fighting to dismantle it.