Last week I attended an incredible workshop with my colleagues, where we talked about the emotional side of abortion work. About ten of us, all working in different roles within our affiliate, shared with each other how we cope with the stigmatized nature of our work, and how we deal with protesters both in our communities and in our personal lives (friends, family, etc.). I learned so much about the strength, courage, and absolute commitment to helping women that my colleagues and I share. It was really emotional and absolutely inspiring to recognize the commitment we have to this work. I am so proud to be a part of in the struggle of women; in the herstory of women.
Having said that, it was ironic that a few days later I became involved in a confrontation about my work with a distant relative through, of all places, Facebook. While I honor and love this family member, and have incredibly fond memories of our time together in my childhood, we just don’t agree politically or socially now that I’m an adult. Specifically, when it comes to social issues and the issue of a woman’s right to decide. So, I posted something about an interview with anti-choice protesters, and was issued a moral citation via comment box.
A few days later he sent me an email about the better choice being adoption. I now felt like I needed to explain myself without apologizing or igniting personal defenses. I do not want to fight with family about the work I do. And I will not apologize. Having spent time discussing such awkward and uncomfortable interactions with family a few days before at the workshop, I felt like I was prepared to respond. Awkward? Yes. Impossible? No. In summary:
…I’ve been working one-on-one with women who choose abortion for the past 5 years. I’ve met with hundreds and hundreds, perhaps thousands of women in my office, and my beliefs about choice stem from listening to them and learning their stories. For many, adoption is an excellent choice, and I whole-heartedly support women who choose that route. I am most excited when I meet with a woman who has planned her pregnancy, and is ecstatic when the pregnancy test comes back positive. There is so much joy to share in life.
Though the organization I work for only sees about 10% of clients for abortion services, I travel to our different locations and work predominantly with those clients. I do family planning education and give emotional support to women who are choosing abortion. I feel I am an angel for so many of the women I see, who are ashamed, afraid, stigmatized, guilt-ridden and desperate. I accept them, I accept their choice, and I honor them as human beings trying to do the best they can for themselves, their families, and their futures.
Having said that, I speak with each and every single woman who is considering abortion about adoption. That is a requirement; we talk with women about adoption and how to continue their pregnancies for parenthood, along with abortion education. Over and over and over again, when I talk with women about adoption, many give the same response: there is no way they could spend 9 months becoming emotionally attached to their pregnancy and give it away. The guilt and resentment they would feel knowing they had a child in the world that they had “abandoned” is a worse choice for them than to prevent the pregnancy from continuing. These are their words, not mine. For others, adoption is an opportunity to give their child to a family who is ready and able to provide a quality life for their child. Every woman’s view is valid.
In many cases over the years, I have helped women choose to continue their pregnancies. I support their choice, regardless of the outcome. It is their body, their life, not mine…. Having said that, our perspectives on this issue are different, but I respect your opinion, as your beliefs are just as valid as mine.
This line of work is both incredibly challenging and incredibly rewarding. Our greatest hope and mission is for all children to be wanted children, and for the need for abortion to no longer exist. However, we do not currently live in a world where this is possible, and abortion is a safe option that 1/3 of U.S. women make in their lifetime. I emphasize education and prevention. I will not apologize.