Thursday, June 22, 2006

Women's Stories

I came prepared to share women's experiences, collected through journals that we put in the waiting rooms in the abortion clinic where I work. I left disheartened when they adjourned the hearing before I could testify. It demonstrated once again just how wide is the gap between the abortion "issue" and the abortion "experience." Women's lives and struggles continue to be lost in the debate.

These are the words of Chrisse France, Executive Director of the Preterm Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio after she attended a hearing on Ohio's proposed abortion ban. She's right. It's not about women's experiences and stories. The story has been lost in a quick one-bite visceral message. The creators of this message could care less about women and their stories.

Those that listen and form opinions based on the quick emotional and value laden message need to take time to listen to the stories.

So do all the women that have never lived in a world where abortion was not legal. Talk to your mothers, grandmothers, teachers, coworkers. They're still around. And they all have stories to tell. Listen to these stories and to those told by women who are making the decision to terminate a pregnancy today.

It takes more than a quick message to hear their stories, just as it does to listen to any of the stories that develop as we live our lives.

Please take the time to listen. And if you think the stories aren't available, you are wrong. They are all around you.

After I finished reading Ms. France's commentary, I felt cynical and resigned to the fact that women's stories do not really matter. But then I started thinking about the play that her clinic is performing. Art and human creativity always renew my spirit. Women's stories will continue to be told and spread.

With a click of a mouse, the stories reproduce and multiply.

To my unborn child: When I made the decision to let you go, it was the best for you and your sister. It was hard for me to have a baby at 16 and go to school and work. I don't want you to have to suffer because it is not fair to you. --Journal entry by Preterm client

This wasn't an easy decision, but the right one. I'm sad and hurt, but strong. The tears I cry are for the child I'll never know. If I had one wish … that this child knows it took great love to do this.

And with a click of a mouse, I found even more:

I am a mom, in my mid thirties, with two wonderful teenage boys. My husband and I love our boys tremendously. Every free moment is spent coaching , supporting, and generally enjoying either one son or the other. I absolutely adore babies and have dedicated my life to children.

That said, my husband and I are also looking forward to a time when the boys are independent and we can spend more time with each other.

So, I find myself pregnant, first at 33, then again at 35. Adding a baby to the mix at this point would not be the best choice for my two older children or for my husband and I. Adoption was never really considered, because I don't want my sons internalizing the fact that I am willing to give up their brother or sister. When they are adults and faced with difficult decisions I may share my abortion story with them. It's not something I'm ashamed of, just something they're not ready to hear yet.

I made a choice to end two pregnancies. I made a choice to continue to give my two sons the time and attention that they deserve. I made a choice to not burden our family financially. I made a choice to spend more time with my husband and to help our relationship, as not only parents, but as lifetime partners, flourish. I don't regret my decisions and I'm not sorry.

Thank you for letting me share my story.

This is Alyssa's story. You can read hers and those of others at I'm Not Sorry.Net.

Je seme a tout vent. I believe in the power of the story.

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