A visit to an abortion clinic is often a middle class girl’s only brush with the brusque, painful care that is the lot of America’s poor. The better funded go to private doctors. They get treatment that’s far more personal and less public. Proper pain killers, no protesters in sight, and your man holding your hand.
When Planned Parenthood opened offices in three shopping malls, Michele Bachmann fumed that women “are doing their grocery shopping, picking up Starbucks… and stopping off for an abortion.” Oh Michelle, if only it were that easy.
My abortion was when my politics become personal. Sure, one can march against the Iraq War. But it’s far more visceral to know that decaying politicians would force you to give birth. That 50 years ago they would have had you, you personally, die in pain and shame.
The ability to have an abortion is as important for women as the vote. It is the basis of fertile women living equal lives. As soon as I could, I raised a thousand dollars for Planned Parenthood. It felt like paying a debt.
What pulled me out of my depression was refusing to shut up. I talked about abortion with my girlfriends. With my acquaintances. With a bluntness that was probably uncomfortable and annoying in retrospect. What I found was that almost every woman I spoke to had had one too. Behind our sleek careers, our prettily painted faces, we had our blood and pain.
One out of three American women has had an abortion. But that’s a statistic, not a face. I’ve never spoken about my abortion publicly. It’s terrifying. One expects death threats, to be called a baby killer. One’s societal training is to be classy, be private, pretend your activism is on the behalf of others. Never let them see you bleed.
Never, ever tell your own story.
But silence, as much as anything, is why abortion’s such an easy target in America. Stories save lives.
I had an abortion. I’m not sorry. I’m not afraid.
On Wednesday, a minority of senators gave into fear and blocked common-sense legislation that would have made it harder for criminals and people with dangerous mental illnesses to get hold of deadly firearms — a bill that could prevent future tragedies like those in Newtown, Conn., Aurora, Colo., Blacksburg, Va., and too many communities to count.
Some of the senators who voted against the background-check amendments have met with grieving parents whose children were murdered at Sandy Hook, in Newtown. Some of the senators who voted no have also looked into my eyes as I talked about my experience being shot in the head at point-blank range in suburban Tucson two years ago, and expressed sympathy for the 18 other people shot besides me, 6 of whom died. These senators have heard from their constituents — who polls show overwhelmingly favored expanding background checks. And still these senators decided to do nothing. Shame on them.
I watch TV and read the papers like everyone else. We know what we’re going to hear: vague platitudes like “tough vote” and “complicated issue.” I was elected six times to represent southern Arizona, in the State Legislature and then in Congress. I know what a complicated issue is; I know what it feels like to take a tough vote. This was neither. These senators made their decision based on political fear and on cold calculations about the money of special interests like the National Rifle Association, which in the last election cycle spent around $25 million on contributions, lobbying and outside spending.
Speaking is physically difficult for me. But my feelings are clear: I’m furious. I will not rest until we have righted the wrong these senators have done, and until we have changed our laws so we can look parents in the face and say: We are trying to keep your children safe. We cannot allow the status quo — desperately protected by the gun lobby so that they can make more money by spreading fear and misinformation — to go on.
Gabby Giffords puts the government on notice, and with just cause.