The personal essays published in the last issue of Conscience capture the moral arguments and sources of motivation for the providers and activists who shared their commitment to choice. The publication of these deeply inspiring stories is timely.
Reproductive rights and justice advocates have been on the defensive for many years. We have lost ground in the majority of US states. Clinics have closed due to onerous state restrictions, leaving few options for many women with unwanted -pregnancies, especially those needing later abortions. In addition to legislative barriers, stigma and shame have been heaped on women who seek abortions, silencing them and marginalizing those who provide their care.
However, as we learned from the recent successful campaign in Albuquerque to stop a ban on abortions after 20 weeks, if we engage the public in authentic conversations that reflect our values of human rights and justice, we can prevail. Messages used in the Albuquerque campaign moved away from polarizing labels and focused on respect for each woman’s right to make a decision about an unplanned pregnancy based on her own conscience. The campaign concentrated on the complexities of women’s lives rather than on rhetoric. Activists in the community raised up the stories of their mothers, sisters, wives, daughters, lovers and friends, framing the ballot question as one of respect for families and women’s personal decision-making. Although initial polls were discouraging and reflected the national discomfort with later abortion, these conversations built on the values of conscience, respect and justice won the campaign.
The film After Tiller is another example of how the depiction of real people in real situations can sway opinions. The movie is playing to sold-out crowds across the country, providing an opportunity to change the conversations we are having about abortion in general and later abortion specifically. The prochoice essays, the Albuquerque campaign and After Tiller highlight the important role played by sharing stories in ways that reflect our moral core and our lives in all their complexity. Personal experiences can be powerful tools for building empathy and support for women with wanted and unwanted pregnancies, as well as support for the clinicians and activists who make safe abortion care a reality. Thank you, Catholics for Choice, for encouraging us all to speak up and speak out.
Reproductive Health Consultant