i came across this interview while googling around for resources on abortion stigma. the article is in a journal called because created by an organization called ipas, which is an international organization that was founded in 1973 and is committed to helping women access comprehensive abortion care and preventing death and complications from unsafe abortions. while poking around their page i read that before it was legalized in 2003 half of hospital admissions in nepal were due to complications from botched abortions. that’s crazy! this is really important work ipas is doing!
they’ve created a journal called becuase, which publishes articles on reproductive health issues around the world and draws connections between them and u.s. policy. lots of great articles in their many issues and all are available for free download in PDF form.
this interview in particular was a lucky find because it speaks so directly to the mission for my thesis project. in this interview titled women are heroes: changing the abortion narrative tracy weitz talks this change and a little about her organizations ANSIRH and CoreAlign, both of which are working to address the stigma associated with abortion by changing the dominant narrative surrounding it.
the interviewer starts out by asking her if she thinks it’s important to change the pro-choice rhetoric around abortion, basically the woman as victim rhetoric. weitz talks about how the current feeling about abortion is at the moment that women are being saved from something, at best, rape or incest, at worst, their own irresponsibility and how that frames the way we see the women who are seeking abortion. of course every victim needs a savior, in this case it’s the physician, but in the anti-abortion camp the doctor plays the role of villain. in either case though, women are the victims, not taking an active role in their “choice”. of course, choosing, or acting on one’s own agency has never been popular for women. when it first became available women who choose to use birth control were stigmatized and slut shamed. (could you imagine if the same logic were applied to men with guns protecting their property….?)
she goes on to say that this is basically wrong. abortion isn’t something that “happens” to women, it’s something they choose and have chosen. for just as long as they have chosen to be mothers, women have chosen not to be, or how often. abortion is something that happens, a part of the whole reproduction picture and we need to accept that as a society.
i thought that tied nicely to what caitlyn moran had to say, life and death, as it pertains to potential for life housed in their uteri might should be the purview of the humans attached to those uteri.
she talks about transistioning to a culture that accepts abortion as a respected choice, where the woman is the hero of the story. and she states that this might meaning losing the support of those who only think abortion is okay if the person getting it “doesn’t really” want it. she points to the immigration rights movement as a role model, saying that despite undergoing fierce opposition, their is a sense of “we belong, we are standing up, we are americans.” i think that tie is an interesting one because as caitlyn moran says it is sometimes easier to appeal to potential supporters as the victim, but considering how far we’ve come, i just don’t think it feels right anymore.
weitz goes on to talk about abortion storytelling, a strategy borrowed from the LGBT movement. based on contact theory, or the idea that if people tell their stories more and more people will realize they are connected to someone who is gay, or has had an abortion, and this knowledge that someone they love and respect is gay or has had an abortion will contribute to them reevaluating their position on an issue.
i don’t know how my project contributes just yet. i do know that there will probably be several iterations and they may all contribute in different ways but i feel honored to get to collect people’s stories and start to see the correlations and parallels that appear.
a couple of side notes:
tracy weitz is the director of ANSIRH, or advancing new standards in reproductive health. ANSIRH is an academic organization at the university of california, san francisco. they are concerned with contributing evidence to policy makers. basically they do a lot of studies so there are facts available to the people who need them. they use a multidisciplinary approach to research and tackle issues like whether or not physician assistants, nurse practitioners and midwives can provide abortion services (most states require a physician to do this safe and straight forward procedure), how barriers on second trimester abortion affects clinical care, and much more.
she is also a founder of CoreAlign (not the exercise!). CoreAlign‘s mission is to build a network of leaders who innovatively change policy, culture and conditions surrounding sexual and reproductive decision making. they have several programs, including a generative fellow program, which is really exciting! check out the current cohort here and look for me next year, because i will definitely be applying!