There are days as a pro-choice activist that I close my computer, go sit down on my bed, and cry.
Truth be told, there’s nothing the anti-abortion movement can do that really surprises me after eight years of doing this work. I know how it feels to have “baby killer” screamed menacingly from across the parking lot and to wade through protesters with gruesome signs to give a speech about sex education. I know what it’s like to hide my trembling hands in my pockets and look calm and resolute for the cameras as I evacuate a pro-choice meeting because of a bomb threat. I’ll never forget what it’s like to cry with a room of advocates, gathered to celebrate a woman’s lifetime of service to the movement, after learning that yet another doctor had been gunned down for trusting women.
I know the more political ins and outs, too. I know that after the anti-abortion movement figured out that America really is a pro-choice nation and it would be harder than they thought to overturn Roe, they turned to chipping away at access state by state. TRAP laws. Parental notification and 24-hour waiting periods. Legislating the denial of access to reproductive health services for poor and military and Native women. The list goes on and on.
So no, I’m never surprised anymore. But that doesn’t mean that each and every time, it doesn’t make me overwhelmingly, incredibly sad.
The particular instance that set off the waterworks recently was hearing that Louisiana became the 13th state to pass a law mandating ultrasounds before abortions – paid for by the woman. This one stipulates the ultrasound must be performed even in cases of rape.
This is a favorite tactic of the anti-abortion movement and a cruel, ridiculous one. No woman chooses abortion lightly, or comes into a clinic without a list of reasons why this is the right decision for her life and situation. It’s a tactic that, based on the anti-abortion rationale that preventing a woman from having an abortion is a win, simply doesn’t work – showing a woman an ultrasound beforehand doesn’t make her change her mind about having the procedure. Given that, it seems these laws serve little purpose beyond traumatizing women and making them feel guilty.
That there is the difference between anti-abortion activists and me: there is a real, living, breathing, feeling woman behind every choice that’s impacted by these victories in the name of a fetus.
This time, the woman is a rape survivor in Louisiana. Her violation has replayed in her mind and in her nightmares since it happened. When she finds out she’s pregnant, she cries. She cries because there is a physical manifestation of her assault to go along with her emotional bruises. She cries because she wants to be a parent or already is but this is not how it was meant to happen. After more tears and prayer, she makes an appointment to have an abortion, scrapes together the money, and goes to the clinic. Shielding her face from screaming protestors outside, she makes her way in, where she’s told the law says she has to look at her rapist’s spawn on a screen. When she sees it, she’s thrown back to smells and sounds and feel of the day she was assaulted and she cries some more. This woman has the procedure and goes back home. She doesn’t regret it – there’s no way she could have raised a child born of that horrible violence. But now, an image of exactly what a man’s penis forced inside of her created plays along with her nightmares, forever burned in her mind.
I may sound dramatic. It may piss you off that I’ve given a hypothetical situation before this particular law has even been put into effect. Fine. Real women are impacted by these laws every day and for some their lives are never the same.
It’s not for these women that I cry but with them. I cry because the onslaught is never ending and I’m afraid that I will be surprised someday soon by yet another tactic to control women’s reproductive decisions that will kill some and harm many more. I cry for the anti-abortion activists whose lack of empathy will be foisted on the women in their lives and ones they’ll never know because they don’t see them as human enough to know what’s best for their own selves.
I don’t cry for too long. I get up, write this post, and get ready to go to a fundraiser for an abortion access fund. If I can’t wipe away that rape survivor’s tears the least I can do is make sure she doesn’t cry because she can’t find the money for an abortion she wants and deserves.
Scientists say that we’re the only species that cries due to emotion. I just wonder how long it will be before our tears can be used to prove, for once and for all of time, that women are human too?