That Dreaded "A" Word!

At a recent meeting of spiritually minded professionals, a young business owner asked me what I do for a living. I used to tread slowly, explaining my previous job as a small business owner in the real estate industry. This time, I decided to cut out my back-story and just say it.

“I help women who have had abortions and feel alone or ashamed to feel supported and excited to get out of bed in the morning,” I declared.

I could see this business owner’s eyes pop as she took in my words. “Wow,” she said. “That word really triggers me. I’ve had two abortions and have no regrets. I'm fine with it. But, I'm having a hard time dealing with that word . . .” Her voice trailed off.

Ah, that word! The “A” word. 

This word sparked controversy on a national level this week as well. In its thirty year history, there has never been a TED talk on abortion. If we can't talk about it publicly or privately, how will we ever come to terms with that word?

I am awed by women who are so sure of themselves and their own self-worth that they can make this choice and go on to talk about it. A stunning example to me is New York Times best-selling author Cheryl Strayed. In her poignant and riveting memoir, Wild, Cheryl reveals her personal abortion story. Her disclosure is short and sweet with no further mention of it or of any consequences. Aspects of the book that make it such a compelling read is her deep insight and transparency about this subject and her life. Maybe she has more baggage from her abortion than she lets on, but having seen her speak in person, I believe she authentically shares her biggest struggles in her book and that those struggles are resolved.

Based on my experience, Cheryl Strayed’s togetherness is unusual. I have found that most women were raised with a code of values that fostered judgment and shame, as I was, as they struggled in dealing with their choice. Despite all of their self-talk, daily they muster up the courage to remind themselves they did what they had to do and they try to be at peace with their decision.

It is for these women that I write this blog. Insomnia and deep feelings of loneliness or numbness may go on for months or years. These women cannot find it in themselves to talk to their partners, closest friends, or family. They feel unsafe or fearful and are biding their time until the day they miraculously no longer feel guilty. For some of these women, anti-depressants may be the preferred method of coping.

These are my people. I relate to them because of the "A" word that people do not want to talk about, either face to face or in public venues.  It is that "A" word that connects us. Without it, the clarity gained by mutual understanding and experience, does not exist.
“Abortion” is the clearest and most descriptive word there is for our experience. Webster's has no other synonyms for it. My sweet and beautiful grandmother couldn't use the word ten years ago when she shared her experience with me. Isn't it time we got real with each other?

For those who feel secure and safe in their choice, I hold no judgment. I applaud them and hope that together we can make a difference, create a caring community, and offer some hope to those who have not yet made peace  with their decision.

 Abortion defines the experience that we had, but it does not define who we are.  We are one-third of American women under the age of 45. As we become more comfortable with this word, we not only heal ourselves, but we can heal the world.


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