Lessons about Later Abortion for the Prochoice Community

After Tiller: Is Anybody Out There Listening?” (Vol. XXXV, No. 1) was a thoughtful film review offering some important insight into the lives of four of our country’s remaining later abortion providers. The DC Abortion Fund, which provides financial assistance to abortion patients who cannot afford the cost of care, has screened After Tiller several times. I appreciate that Ruth Riddick’s review raised important questions about the prochoice community’s understanding of later abortion and women who seek later abortion care. To truly embody prochoice principles, our community must embrace abortion care as an absolute, inalienable right.

The vast majority of abortions in the US happen in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. For the women who seek abortion later, the film paints a picture of just how challenging their situations can be. But no matter how far along a woman is in her pregnancy, there should be no “good abortions” that we support more readily than “bad abortions.”

We must challenge ourselves to recognize that finding an individual abortion patient’s story compelling is not important. Our prochoice principles should affirm these patients as decision makers: not because we agree with their decision or would have made the same one for ourselves, but because we recognize that the reasons women seek abortion are as complex and varied as their own lives.

The bravery of the providers featured in the film cannot be understated. But their patients are just as brave. In my reproductive justice work I am constantly humbled by the strength of character and courage that abortion patients demonstrate. They do not need our permission to access care—they need our support.

Dr. Tiller told us to “trust women” without any asterisks, exceptions or caveats. Prochoice supporters should take his words to heart.

President, DC Abortion Fund
Washington, DC

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