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When I wrote my master’s thesis, I took a lot of heat for not being feminist enough. In fact I was charged with having “misplaced priorities,” by the then director of the program. At the time, this was incredibly painful to me. I’ve mentioned before that this charge felt like such a betrayal to my activist and very feminist roots beyond academia. And while I was writing my mater’s thesis I was newly re-married, struggling through the nightmare of a ridiculous custody battle for the ePrince, and at the end of my studies learned that I was pregnant with my second child. I was writing about Roe v. Wade and experiencing a high-risk gestation.
And then I read this article last week in the New York Times Magazine. It seems that the first wave of female doctors, providing abortion procedures and reproductive rights services to their patients, are also dealing with the embodiment of the reproductive rights argument themselves. One doctor has been widely criticized for expressing her feelings in providing an abortion to a woman with the same gestational timeframe of the fetus she was also pregnant with and very much wanted. The doctor, described the experience as being, “… an overwhelming feeeling – a brutally visceral response – heartfelt and and unmediated by my training and pro-choice politics.” My point in writing about my personal experiences through my thesis work, was to expose the fallacy that there is no conflict in abortion provisions, even for the very people who strongly believe that abortions should be safe, legal, and available to women who feel that they need them. Like the conclusion that the doctor and many of her colleagues have come to, I myself continued my activist and academic work in the area of reproductive rights to ensure that women who wanted babies could have them and that women who did not want to rear children could make their own choice.
Many of the initial comments to the NYTimes Magazine story reflected the same sentiments from other mothers, like the following:
Like Sue, the writer of the comment above, I really think we need to expose the material and emotional concerns of would-be mothers to care for and love their children so that those individuals whose bodies and lives are on the line can make fair and informed decisions about whether or not to proceed with a pregnancy. The division of resources is a factor here, but also the psychological, emotional, and social toll of raising children is a difficult prospect for some women, at some points in their lives. The parties responsible for the consequences of their decisions to carry a pregnancy to term should be the very parties who are deemed responsible enough to make that decision. I believe that if more pro-choice mothers, like myself, are given a voice in the feminist or the reproductive rights activist community, the overall societal concern about abortion might be somewhat assuaged.
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just wanted to let you know i enjoy your blog. and if it’s any consolation, i think there are few of us who felt we were given that degree from that university willingly, you are definitely not alone in this lack of support for your very valid and interesting research. just wanted to let you know. xoxo. L
I popped over for a look from SITS (was so intrigued by the name of your blog), and this post really touched a chord with me.
This was so well written and touched on so many things that I also feel are very important in the reproductive rights issue. I also was intrigued by the blog name and came from SITS and will definitely return.
As a mother who would never consider abortion for myself, I couldn’t agree more with your post. I just wanted to quote this statement, because it is so eloquent: “I believe that if more pro-choice mothers, like myself, are given a voice in the feminist or the reproductive rights activist community, the overall societal concern about abortion might be somewhat assuaged.”
Visiting from the 31dbbb challenge.
My best friend, who is in her early thirties like I am, has an eleven year old daughter. Over a year ago, she found out she was pregnant a second time. Horrified, she scheduled an abortion. She ultimately reconsidered, realized she wanted another baby in her life, and is a happy parent to two adorable girls.
But she feels adamantly that if she had not had the choice, she would not love her second daughter so unconditionally. If she had felt trapped in the pregnancy, she would have lingering resentment. She needed that choice in order to be the best parent possible.
Opponents of reproductive rights so frequently fail to acknowledge the nuances of what it means to be pro-choice. That’s to be expected. But, as you discuss above, so do supporters of the movement. I think partially this stems from fear. What if, by admitting that having an abortion is a complex and emotional experience, we allow cracks in the armor that the opponents can blast through?
I’m fascinated by your post and website. I’ve definitely added you to my favorites!