Broccoli or Kale?

My nine year old bristles at the thought of eating vegetables. And I mean any vegetable, except perhaps corn. (Does corn even count as a vegetable… or is it a starch? I don’t know.) But I can tell you this: if I give him the choice between eating broccoli or kale, no matter which one he chooses, it will be a painful meal for him as he equally dislikes both of them. 

Abortion is a choice with a similar dilemma for many of us women, too. Unless we are 100% aligned with who we are and madly in love with ourselves, it is very likely that if we choose to terminate a pregnancy, the pain will haunt us at some point in our lives.

You have probably heard about Emily Letts, the 25 year old woman that filmed her abortion back in March. She said she wanted women to know that making the choice to have an abortion is not painful. She stated that she was clear in her choice and that she had lots of support for her decision. Perhaps she is one of those rare women who is in completely in love with herself. For the most part, I have found that abortion is an experience that challenges us over and over again in our lifetimes with issues of self-love and self-worth.

Mostly, I worry that her extraordinary measures may be misleading – to her future self, her future children, and to others who are facing the choice between having an abortion or giving birth. Physically, I do not remember feeling much pain with my abortion either, but between a strict and Catholic upbringing and the protesters at the clinic where I had my abortion, the emotional pain was inescapable for me. I believe this is true for many other women as well. Just because we choose abortion doesn’t mean that we don’t feel pain from our decision. On levels much more complicated than my nine year olds choice between broccoli or kale, it is not unusual to be in a situation where both alternatives to a particular choice are unpalatable. My nine year old is not going to dance after gulping down his kale any more than I did a dance of joy after having an abortion. Just sayin’.

Last year, I knew deep in my bones that serving women who have had abortions was what I was meant to do. I didn’t know exactly how I was going to do this work, so I applied to an abortion organization that is well known for supporting women by volunteering to work their hotline. It meant giving up a lot of my time for coaching and leaving my children with a babysitter, but I was totally up for the gig. These are the people I wanted to serve. When they found out later that I believed there were real and tangible aftereffects from abortion, they said they were no longer interested in having me volunteer with them. They believed it was disempowering for women to learn there may be aftereffects. 

I wonder, are we really empowering women to make them believe that there is no aftermath from having an abortion? This has been the classic pro-choice platform for years. And while I believe that women deserve the right to choose, the current model of denying the emotional experience does not appear to be helping women. I spent too many years of my life disempowered, not knowing there was a downside and thinking I was all alone. I believe that knowledge is power, and if we educate ourselves more on this experience, embrace it for what it truly is rather than gloss over it as if it is nothing, then perhaps women will stand a better chance of taking their power back. 

Maybe a model of knowledge leading to empowerment might be a new thought to consider. Is knowledge empowering or disempowering?

I’d love to hear your thoughts.


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