How Many More Tears?

18 Jun

There are days as a pro-choice activist that I close my computer, go sit down on my bed, and cry.

Truth be told, there’s nothing the anti-abortion movement can do that really surprises me after eight years of doing this work. I know how it feels to have “baby killer”  screamed menacingly from across the parking lot and to wade through protesters with gruesome signs to give a speech about sex education. I know what it’s like to hide my trembling hands in my pockets and look calm and resolute for the cameras as I evacuate a pro-choice meeting because of a bomb threat. I’ll never forget what it’s like to cry with a room of advocates, gathered to celebrate a woman’s lifetime of service to the movement, after learning that yet another doctor had been gunned down for trusting women.

I know the more political ins and outs, too. I know that after the anti-abortion movement figured out that America really is a pro-choice nation and it would be harder than they thought to overturn Roe, they turned to chipping away at access state by state. TRAP laws. Parental notification and 24-hour waiting periods. Legislating the denial of access to reproductive health services for poor and military and Native women. The list goes on and on.

So no, I’m never surprised anymore. But that doesn’t mean that each and every time, it doesn’t make me overwhelmingly, incredibly sad.

The particular instance that set off the waterworks recently was hearing that Louisiana became the 13th state to pass a law mandating ultrasounds before abortions – paid for by the woman. This one stipulates the ultrasound must be performed even in cases of rape.

This is a favorite tactic of the anti-abortion movement and a cruel, ridiculous one. No woman chooses abortion lightly, or comes into a clinic without a list of reasons why this is the right decision for her life and situation. It’s a tactic that, based on the anti-abortion rationale that preventing a woman from having an abortion is a win, simply doesn’t work – showing a woman an ultrasound beforehand doesn’t make her change her mind about having the procedure. Given that, it seems these laws serve little purpose beyond traumatizing women and making them feel guilty.

That there is the difference between anti-abortion activists and me: there is a real, living, breathing, feeling woman behind every choice that’s impacted by these victories in the name of a fetus.

his time, the woman is a rape survivor in Louisiana. Her violation has replayed in her mind and in her nightmares since it happened. When she finds out she’s pregnant, she cries. She cries because there is a physical manifestation of her assault to go along with her emotional bruises. She cries because she wants to be a parent or already is but this is not how it was meant to happen. After more tears and prayer, she makes an appointment to have an abortion, scrapes together the money, and goes to the clinic. Shielding her face from screaming protestors outside, she makes her way in, where she’s told the law says she has to look at her rapist’s spawn on a screen. When she sees it, she’s thrown back to smells and sounds and feel of the day she was assaulted and she cries some more. This woman has the procedure and goes back home. She doesn’t regret it – there’s no way she could have raised a child born of that horrible violence. But now, an image of exactly what a man’s penis forced inside of her created plays along with her nightmares, forever burned in her mind.

I may sound dramatic. It may piss you off that I’ve given a hypothetical situation before this particular law has even been put into effect. Fine. Real women are impacted by these laws every day and for some their lives are never the same.

It’s not for these women that I cry but with them. I cry because the onslaught is never ending and I’m afraid that I will be surprised someday soon by yet another tactic to control women’s reproductive decisions that will kill some and harm many more. I cry for the anti-abortion activists whose lack of empathy will be foisted on the women in their lives and ones they’ll never know because they don’t see them as human enough to know what’s best for their own selves.

I don’t cry for too long. I get up, write this post, and get ready to go to a fundraiser for an abortion access fund. If I can’t wipe away that rape survivor’s tears the least I can do is make sure she doesn’t cry because she can’t find the money for an abortion she wants and deserves.

Scientists say that we’re the only species that cries due to emotion. I just wonder how long it will be before our tears can be used to prove, for once and for all of time, that women are human too?


11 Responses to “How Many More Tears?”

  1. cmb June 18, 2010 at 12:58 pm #

    This post brought me to tears.
    I was raised in a liberal family and my mother is a midwife, so being pro-choice was never anything I really thought about, I just always was.
    I’ll never forget the first time that those pro-choice feelings came to a head.
    It was almost exactly nine months after my rape. I was walking to class on my college campus, and I came face to face with a group of pro-lifers with big fetus picket signs. Before I even realized what I was doing, I walked up to them and said, “I was lucky enough not to get pregnant when I was raped, but if I had, you can bet your LIFE I would’ve gotten an abortion. If I’d gotten pregnant and kept that baby, I’d be home breast-feeding my rapist’s baby instead of going to school.”

    Pro-life? Pro WHOSE life? Pro-life ideology certainly does not benefit the lives of the women it punishes. And that’s exactly what this mandatory ultrasound policy is — a punishment for women who dare to make their own decisions about sex and reproduction.

  2. Neener54 June 18, 2010 at 4:11 pm #

    While I am far from pro-choice in the general sense, I agree that it should be available for rape, incest, and when the pregnancy threatens the life of the mother. There may be outliers in the gray zone on the rest but yeah.

    That being said, my only question would be; besides the ones listed above, how is not allowing them an abortion a punishment? That’s like saying that a gambler who loses everything should be bailed out. Sex is a gamble. If a person has sex they should realize that they can get pregnant. Use protection, birth control etc., but in the end the person will have to deal with any stupid mistakes they make. None of this applies to those who had this choice taken from them obviously (rape, family abuse, etc.).

    I have a lot of sympathy for rape victims, I agreed with much of what was said in this article. I agree with you that you should keep fighting for rape victims rights to have access to an abortion without a big ordeal.

    Seriously, what does the ultrasound law accomplish? Perhaps they had good intentions when they made the law, but they definitely didn’t think it through.

    Good luck changing minds etc.

  3. Katey June 19, 2010 at 10:05 am #

    Yeah, it’s an interesting thing – here in Australia, where abortion is free and legal (and rates are much lower than that of the US) they do an ultrasound before the D&C procedure.
    What they don’t do, however, is make the woman look at it. In fact, they make an effort to not show the image. The “procedural” argument for the law- I understand somewhat- but making it compulsory viewing is completely unecessary (particularly in the example described above).
    crazytown, eh.

  4. placenta sandwich June 19, 2010 at 10:47 pm #

    Yeah, and people who get into a car are taking a gamble and shouldn’t be bailed out if they get in a wreck. WTF @ “Neener” dot com.

  5. Not Guilty June 20, 2010 at 10:11 pm #

    @Neener54 Have you seen the recent stories about counterfeit condoms being sold under trusted brand names such as Trojan? How about the women who get pregnant because they unknowingly used a counterfeit condom? What about the women who have their tubes tied, but it failed? 1 in 200 do fail. Abstinence is the only 100% effective BC but women are entitled to have sex and not be condemned to motherhood for the decision. You control your body and I’ll control mine.

  6. Shayna June 21, 2010 at 9:18 am #

    Neener – Are you actually suggesting and promoting pregnancy as a punishment?? Are you saying that you would like to see children born, not because they were wanted, or will be loved, but to punish their mothers? That’s ridiculous, and represents a level of misogyny that literally leaves me breathless with shock.

    Not Guilty – I agree — not to mention women whose husbands’ vasectomies failed, teenagers who were slipped spiked drinks… and about a zillion other scenarios that frankly are no one’s business but the woman’s in question. I always laugh though when I remember that abstinence is the only 100% effective method of birth control, because (and I’m Jewish, fair warning), but wasn’t Jesus the product of abstinence? Making it less than 100% technically 😉

  7. Natasha June 22, 2010 at 9:52 pm #

    I felt sick.. instantly sick.
    As if the woman will not live with her choice as it is…
    God my heart goes out to them… I have just re pledged to Planned Parenthood.

  8. Corey July 30, 2010 at 9:42 pm #

    I have worked in a large American university hospital and watched numerous abortions performed. Contrary to popular belief, many pregnant women look at it like an inconvenient form of birth control and a personal inconvenience…”how long is this going to take? I got shit to do.” -verbatim transcript- Albeit anecdotal, in 30% of cases there was no remorse, no regret, no understanding, no introspection. People are not all poor souls. Most are and that’s why I’m pro choice. However, please save your sympathy for individuals and not blanket statements.

  9. mdizzie August 26, 2010 at 2:38 am #

    You are wrong about some woman who have abortions. I had one when I was 17 and it took place just down the street from the university I had been accepted to the following year. I could not raise a child and from watching people around me and in my own family have babies young, I knew I was in trouble. What made me cringe was the girl who said “it didn’t hurt as bad as the last time.” I will never forget that girls face. I married the father and we have been happily married for two years. Knowing what I know now, my child would have been raised in an unstable home in their early developing years. IT would be cruel to raise a child I knew I could not take care of. I took responsibility for my actions. I did not want to be responsible for ruining someone elses life. At least I’m not every other teen in this country who thinks raising a child is easy at 16 because it’s not.

  10. Sweet Marmot October 28, 2011 at 2:12 am #

    Yeah Shayna, you’re right. The birth of Jesus is one time where abstinence failed. However, that situation is not likely to repeat itself anytime soon. For the rest of us, abstinence works every time.


  1. How Many More Tears? – A Pro-Choice Lament « The Ms. Education of Shelby Knox - June 18, 2010

    […] Many More Tears? – A Pro-Choice Lament Jump to Comments (This post is cross-posted over at The Abortion Gang blog, a fantastic space for unabashed reproductive justice activists […]

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