The Truth About Abortion: Women Speak Out

On April 8, Gainesville Women’s Liberation, a chapter of National Women’s Liberation, and members of the community education class, “Women’s Liberation: Where Do I Fit In?”, organized a speakout on abortion. Eight women spoke out about their abortions and against the 18 bills pending in the Florida legislature that would further restrict abortions.

Women testified about the great relief their abortions brought.

“When I woke up the next morning, the sun was streaming through the windows, and it was the most beautiful day…because I wasn’t pregnant anymore,” one woman said.

Many expressed surprise that their abortions were quick and painless.

“I was so scared that it would hurt…but they gave me an IV and when I woke up, it was over.”

The high cost of abortion was decried, and three women had to borrow money from friends or family to pay for the procedure.

“$400 was a lot of money to me…if my friend hadn’t loaned me the money, I would have been forced to have the baby,” one said.

Some spoke out about the need for more support in raising children and the need for publicly funded childcare, health care, parental leave and a shorter work week.

What follows is an excerpt from introductory remarks at the event and one woman’s testimony.

Amy Coenen, Gainesville Women’s Liberation’s opening remarks:

We’re here today to speak out, to tell the truth about our lives as women—specifically, to talk about our own experiences with abortion…

We are told abortion was given to us, by woman-friendly politicians and a liberal Supreme Court. But that’s just not true…abortion was won by women like you and me—speaking out, organizing, marching in the streets—the Supreme Court and legislators followed our lead.

Women Are the Experts

Part of that buried history is what we ourselves will be doing today—speaking out, seeing ourselves and other women as experts on our own experiences with abortion.

In 1969, before the 1973 Supreme Court decision Roe vs Wade, women in Redstockings of the women’s liberation movement busted up a New York State legislative committee convened to consider making small reforms to New York State’s abortion law. Testimony from a panel of “experts”—consisting of 13 men and a nun—weighed in on the advisability of changing the law.

“Let the REAL experts testify—Women!” shouted feminists.

Shortly thereafter, in March 1969, Redstockings organized the first abortion speakout at a Methodist church in New York City. Women bravely spoke out about their illegal abortions to a crowd of more than 300 people.

That’s the spirit in which we are speaking out today. Women are the experts—we know what we need and don’t need. We don’t need a 24-hour waiting period to “make up our minds.” We don’t need to be told we have to look at an ultrasound of our pregnancy. We don’t need our parents’ or husbands’ permission.

Less Rights Now Than in 1973

We have less abortion rights now than we did right after Roe V Wade. At one time, Medicaid paid for abortion…women in the military could get abortions as part of their health care…there were no waiting periods or parental notification laws. Our rights are already restricted. We feminists have been fighting tooth and nail against that.

But they keep coming back…states all over the country are piling on restrictions, making it harder for us to get abortions. They are even making it harder to get birth control—trying to cut off funding for Planned Parenthood, passing “conscience laws” allowing pharmacists to refuse to fill prescriptions for birth control, banning schools from telling teens how to keep from getting pregnant.

It’s as if our government WANTS us to have as many babies as possible!

States are slashing billions from public education, childcare and health care. Here in Florida, Rick Scott has proposed a $3.3 billion cut to public education alone. They are going after our ability to even make a living—getting rid of some of the only decent jobs by attacking unions and collective bargaining.

So, make it as hard as possible to keep us from having children, and at the same time, prevent us from being able to support and raise the children that we have…or to think of it another way, pay as little as possible for the raising up of the next generation.

Work Only Women Can Do

We women are really getting squeezed. We are workers, we keep the society running—it’s you and me going to our jobs every day that keep things running, not the CEOs of Bank of America—and we MAKE the next generation of workers.

Reproduction—making  people—that’s work ONLY women can do.

Just as workers, both men and women, must have the right to control and organize their work and workplace—so women must have the right to control and organize when, if, and how many children we will have. We don’t all have to do it, and we don’t have to do it all the time—but pregnancy and birth is something ONLY we can do.

That fact—that only we can do it—can be a source of horrible and onerous oppression. But there is another way to think of it—it can also be a source of great power. Unions aren’t the only ones who can go on strike.

More than Abortion

We can’t be on equal footing with men if we cannot control when and if we will have a child—that’s why abortion is so fundamental. But we need so much more…we need individual men to pull their weight at home, and we need the whole society to pull its weight. We need high quality education from birth on, national health care, a shorter work week, paid parental leave, vacation and sick time guaranteed by law for all. Taking away abortion not only takes away our right to self-determination—it takes away our strike weapon.

A Woman Speaks Out

What follows is one woman’s testimony at the speakout. She wished to remain anonymous for this article.

I have two children and had two miscarriages between, which were probably the most painful things I have ever been through. As I have moved into my ‘40s, I marveled that I never had an accidental pregnancy, and I had begun to think—this chapter in my life is closing…

Until three months ago. When I found out I was pregnant.

I really couldn’t believe it. When I told my husband, he said, “I think I’m going to throw up.”

At one time we had thought about having a third child. We talked about it —should we have another baby? And I am going to be honest—we could have swung it. We would have had to make some big changes, but if we’d wanted to we could have done it.

But I didn’t want to.

I’m 42 years old. Would have been 43 when the baby was born. 43 and starting over—breastfeeding, bottles. I gave my crib away to my friend who is 10 years younger than me and starting her family…

I would have been one month shy of 62 years old when the baby graduated high school. 62. Now if you want to raise a teenager in your ‘60s, bless you, but that is NOT what I have in mind! I have in mind having the house look the same when I come home as it did when I left it… going to the bathroom uninterrupted…having a complete conversation with my husband that does not take place in bed, in the dark, after 11pm. I have in mind that my kids will be through college, and I can think about retiring…traveling…

My kids are so enjoyable now…I have political conversations with my son. My daughter is learning to read…family vacations are really starting to resemble vacations! All that would end with a new baby in the mix.

My husband always worried that something horrible would happen to me while pregnant, and he was worried this time, too—what if I got an enlarged heart and developed heart failure? I worry about more common things like back pain and incontinence… pregnancy is a risk. It takes a toll.

So we decided. I decided.

But none of my regular doctors, not the one who delivered my youngest, nor the one who does my pap smear every year, would help me. Because they don’t do abortions…

So I called my local abortion clinic and got RU-486 that day. It was no big deal. No different than my other two miscarriages—except this time I was calm, in control, and relieved instead of desperate and devastated. My abortion was BY FAR the easiest of all my reproductive experiences, physically and emotionally.

But I am lucky. I had an abortion clinic right down the street. 89 percent of U.S. counties have NO abortion provider. I got what I needed that day. I didn’t have to wait around for some state-mandated waiting period. I didn’t have to ask anyone’s permission. Maybe most importantly, I was able to pay for it.

Sometimes you hear people say, “I’m pro-choice, but…abortion shouldn’t be used for convenience.”  They might even say that I had one of those “convenience” abortions. Oh really? Forgetting your kid’s lunchbox is inconvenient. A broken dishwasher is inconvenient. Nine months of pregnancy, childbirth, and 18-plus years of childrearing is a lot more than an inconvenience!

I had an abortion simply because I did not want another child. Iwasn’t raped, I’m not homeless, I’m not in an abusive marriage—and I suspect that’s true for the vast majority of women who get abortions. We just don’t want to have a child…To tell me I MUST have a third child because I accidentally got pregnant, that’s not inconvenience. It’s slavery.

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