Last night, after a beautiful march in support of abortion rights, a group of close to twenty of us went out for food and drink. About half way through our evening, our waitress asked us why there were so many of us together and what the occasion was. In response to our answer, that we were in town to defend abortion rights and Doctor Carhart, she immediately opened up about her own abortion story.
First, our waitress thanked us immensely for being in town. She explained that her mother had worked at abortion clinics and, despite the two crosses that hung around her neck, she was extremely strong in favor of abortion rights. Then, she explained her own experience. She had been on Depo-Provera for over a year and correspondingly hadn't gotten her period in that entire period. Anyway, she got pregnant before her periods had resumed. Because of the hormonal disruptions that were caused by, and still mellowing out in the wake of, taking Depo, her pregnancy felt different to her than her first (she also has an eight year old son). Additionally, due to these same hormonal fluctuations, when she finally tested herself at home for pregnancy, at two different times the test came back negative.
When she finally sought out a doctor to understand what was going on with her body and discovered that she was, indeed pregnant, she was more than four months along. The clinic that she visited for this information would not perform an abortion at this point in a pregnancy and so she sought out searching for a clinic that would. This search led her to Dr. Carhart and his Germantown clinic.
This is when she got very passionate in her story. She described being followed and harassed by some freakish anti-abortion lunatic as she searched around the shopping center where Carhart's clinic is located. Just when she thought she had ducked out of sight and shook this crazy fanatic, the woman jumped from behind a corner and started haranguing her again. The anti-abortion woman repeated many of the lies we have heard so frequently out here at the clinic in the last couple of days. That Dr. Carhart allegedly doesn't practice compassionate, scientific, and safe medicine. That abortion is murder. That this woman was doing something tragic and sinful by seeking an abortion.
Our waitress was, righteously, furious! She spoke bitterness about this as other tables went unattended. A torrent of pent up anger and defiance. Plus, she was extremely articulate about it. Many women would swallow that kind of shaming and try not to revisit it. Even this woman probably wouldn't have spoken it unless she knew that she was among others who not only supported abortion as a right, but also had sacrificed to step out and take this struggle on frontally.
Think how many millions of women there are in this country who are suppressing this kind of fury. Suppressing their defiance. Not knowing that there are others who would support them, or others who would be moved by them speaking out. Think how many others, having never heard this kind of defiance at all, are instead choking on a shame they shouldn't be feeling. Guilt that has been hurled at them at the doors of abortion clinics, in the churches on Sundays, by the politicians cutting deals about healthcare and the budget over the bodies of women and their right to abortion and birth control.
Think of how much could change – how many women and men could be mobilized if there were always the kind of visible and uncompromising presence that we have been here in Germantown the last couple of days already. Think how many would begin to question and to join in challenging the subjugation they've been swallowing and suffocating under for no legitimate or morally defensible reason.
In just a few days, with just a few dozen women traveling from across the country, we have seen a taste of this. In just one dinner at a random restaurant having greasy food and a couple of beers we scratched the surface of the potential that exists.
Now is the time for everyone to begin talking about their abortion stories unapologetically. Bring it out of the dark and out of the closet. Defy the shame and the stigma. Lets celebrate and defend the lives and the value of the female human beings who choose abortion to continue their lives in the ways they are ready and want to live them. Lets celebrate and defend the doctors and staff who risk everything to make that possible. Lets create a situation where those who stalk women, who kill doctors, who legislate the lives of women into smaller and smaller corners and greater and greater shame feel that they have to hang their heads and attempt to defend their hateful lunacy.
Thanks to those who have turned out in Germantown! Wake up call to all those across the country! This is the time to step to the front lines.