Talking about abortion with my local coffee grind barista

12 Dec

This morning, I had a talk about abortion and the monster that is abortion stigma with the guy that makes my coffee. It was a wide-ranging conversation and for both of us I think, informative. When I left I was surprised I even had the conversation because for all my tough talk online about being open about abortion and decreasing abortion stigma, trusting people to talk about abortion outside of activist spaces is especially difficult for me.

The conversation started innocently enough, when he asked what I plan to do today. I replied with, “I think I’m going to write,” and the conversation took off from there. “What will you write?” he asked.  I hesitated. It’s a pause I’m sure many pro-choice activists are well acquainted with, that moment it takes to assess whether you trust the person you’re speaking with to not go H.A.M. when they find out you’re pro-choice. In the back of my mind I was wondering if I should just go with the default, “I write about the Blazers and other sports,” or if I should be honest. Hiding the fact that I’m an abortion rights activist is energy consuming and violates the basic tenets of my beliefs. That I am an unrepentant abortion rights activist is a fact that is constantly warring with my need for self-protection and a small mama-bear streak that arises when I feel sharing what I do with people that could pose a threat to my son.

Call it a sad carry over from anti-choice violence and the threats and online stalking I had to deal with after #10forTebow took off.

I paused long enough to elicit a strange look from my the barista and then I just did it. I said, “I’m going to write about abortion access in rural spaces and how decreasing funding hurts poor women and poor families.” I kept my self from cringing, barely. Not because I was ashamed, but because I was nervous. Even though I live in urban Portland, Oregon – one of the most liberal places in the country- I still wonder what the response could be.

“Yeah , thanks Hyde.”

DOINK. Hello floor, it’s Sophia, allow me to get up from this dead faint.

Not only did he not balk at my activism, he zeroed right in on one of the main issues blocking abortion access, the Hyde Amendment. Our conversation sped off from there, and we chatted openly about everything from legislation like the life-at-fertilization bills to how institutionalization of the idea that abortion should be safe, legal and rare creates and perpetuates stigma. He kept saying, “its just so cool that there are people writing about this.” And his coworker, a woman I think is about my age chimed in, “I love this conversation, you guys rock.”

Fine, so a conversation at my coffee shop isn’t earth shattering. But it is a small step for me, in decreasing stigma and overcoming my own fear of discussing abortion in perceived non-safe spaces.  It’s one thing to talk about the need to discuss abortion openly while sitting in a Sociology program’s classroom on a college campus, or while online in an activist-centric forum, and quite another to walk-the-walk.

Today’s discussion could have been awkward, it could have ended in violence even, but I decided the risk to open up was worth it. Talking about abortion can be tough, but small discussions like the one I had this morning, I do honestly believe, can do much good in our quest to decrease a culture of abortion stigma.


4 Responses to “Talking about abortion with my local coffee grind barista”

  1. Oubli December 13, 2012 at 4:22 am #

    So I’m not the only activist who has had talked about it to their barista! All of the baristas at the coffee shop I frequent know what I do for a living – reproductive rights activism and midwifery.

    I’m not shy or nervous talking about my activism with strangers, my friends tell me I get a wily, wild Ricki Ticki Tavi look in my eyes when I speak candidly and factually about reproductive rights.

    L in particular has told me that most people don’t want to disagree with that, my energy is too high and fierce for most people to offer a competing view point. It’s been pointed out to me that this type of interaction and energy has it’s positive (fierceness is great when escorting) and negative attributes (too much stridency can be off-putting to some newcomers to the conversation), so I do have to work on modulating it according to my audience.

    I guess I have the opposite problem, I can be loud, brash and opinionated much to the chagrin of my husband who is easily embarrassed, especially in public. LOL, he also is uneasy about me talking about placentas, IUDs and birthing positions in public also – as an activist and midwifery student I just have too much ammo to fluster him and others but the truth is most women want to talk about birth control, pregnancy, miscarriages, abortions, birth and lactation – they just need to be encouraged to talk about it above a whisper.

  2. Courtney December 13, 2012 at 1:01 pm #


    I recently had a conversation about abortion with one of my classmates in our classroom space. We’re both very much pro choice. I was showing her a newsletter I received from a national abortion rights organization and we just talked about how important it is for women to have access to abortion services.

    One of our classmates is anti-choice and I thought our conversation was just a small way in showing her (and our other classmates) that we’re not embarrassed about being pro-choice.

    I don’t really get too many opportunities to talk about my pro-choice views but as I type this, I’m sitting in my university’s library with a “I’m pro-choice and I vote” sticker on my laptop. If anyone is willing to have a conversation with me about abortion, if I have the time, I’m willing to engage with that person.

  3. Tamara December 16, 2012 at 2:59 pm #

    This is awesome! 🙂 Your post *made* my day! Props to you for having the initial courage to *blurt* out what you planned to write about . . . and I am so glad it turned into a meaningful (though short) conversation!

    I recently tweeted this quote by J.K. Rowling that I feel applies, so I will leave you with that: “Anything’s possible if you’ve got enough nerve.”

  4. Emily December 26, 2012 at 12:04 pm #

    Fabulous! Thanks for sharing & all your hard work!

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