my first encounter

Sex education in my high school consisted of a simulated baby and scary pictures of sexually transmitted diseases;  both negative consequences of having sex. The simulated baby would cry, require feeding and diaper changes.  At the time, I assumed that the simulated baby was a tactic to teach us not to have sex and how difficult it would be to have a kid at the age of 16.  However, methods to protect ourselves against STDs or how to prevent pregnancy were never discussed.  Moreover, what happened when one did become pregnant, what it meant to continue a pregnancy or terminate one were also never discussed.  I knew there had to be more to sex than virtual babies and frightening STD stories.  It was obvious to me that people were having sex in high school.  I learned about “real” sex from talking to my classmates in locker rooms, glossing over articles in Cosmopolitan Magazine and sharing Harlequin novels.   But even in those conversations we never talked about abortion. I can’t exactly remember my feelings regarding abortion; I just remember that I wasn’t for it or against it.

My feelings about abortion changed my last year of high school.  A friend of mine found out she was pregnant and wanted to terminate her pregnancy.  She asked me to drive her to the clinic and, of course, I said yes.  I remember that while walking into the clinic, a group of people holding signs and screaming at us stood on the other side.   They were taunting anyone who walked into the clinic.  I was immediately disgusted that there was a group of people berating women and making them feel guilty for making the decision to terminate their pregnancy.  I stayed with my friend for the remainder of the day to provide her with support.

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The faces of abortion

When you think of someone who has had an abortion, what comes to mind?  For many people the first images that might come to mind may be of someone who is promiscuous, selfish, young, single, and/or irresponsible.

Samantha’s story highlights that there is not one image of WHO gets an abortion and the difficulty in choosing an abortion when that choice comes with society’s stereotypes. When Samantha shared with others that she was getting an abortion, some people questioned her; asking her, “Why are you getting an abortion? Aren’t you marrying this guy?” Samantha’s decision to obtain an abortion was seemingly unexpected since she didn’t fit the stereotype.  The media doesn’t portray images of individuals like Samantha getting an abortion.  Even Samantha herself didn’t think that she would ever choose to get an abortion.  Many people in Samantha’s life believed that she should have felt happy that she was pregnant since she was in a committed relationship.  However, Samantha made a different choice for herself.  She chose to have an abortion in order to live the life she was creating for herself.  Samantha and many women like her should have the opportunity to make this choice.  This choice could mean continuing a pregnancy or it could mean terminating one.

In her story, Samantha also shared that she struggled with that lies she would need to tell her co-workers since she didn’t want to tell them that she was obtaining an abortion. Abortion is not something that is openly talked about, especially in the workplace. So it is understandable that Samantha felt conflicted about sharing her personal choice to have an abortion with her co-workers.  When I listened to Samantha’s story, I asked myself, why is there a silence around abortion if abortions are happening on a daily basis?  Why is the word abortion still a “dirty” word?  How can something so common be so taboo?  I wondered about the reaction that Samantha would have received if she had been more candid about choosing to get an abortion. Surprised?  Supportive? Angry?

While I believe that we should be discussing abortions more frequently, isn’t this a private matter that is decided on and done behind closed doors?  Yet by listening to Samantha’s story, what I came to understand was the importance of not feeling alone and of talking honestly about making the choice to obtain an abortion.  What if her experience was normalized?  What if she had felt comforted, understood, and supported? Think of how many other people have probably felt like Samantha.  Through the sharing of abortion stories,  people may start to feel safe enough to share their experiences with loved ones, friends and other people in their lives. When people start sharing their stories on public platforms, such as The Abortion Diary, and we all start listening, we can all make a difference in experiences of people who choose to have an abortion.

stay sharing. be daring.

sheila

Listen to Samantha’s story here.

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