My favorite part of MTV’s recent “No Easy Decision” show about teens who chose abortion was the very end when Dr. Drew asked the three young women how they feel about talking about this issue so publicly. I found their responses incredibly refreshing and encouraging.
Katie: For me, the decision to terminate my pregnancy was kind of a parenting decision in a sense, like I acknowledged it as a baby, and for me it was a parenting choice and I feel like that dialogue is not out there at all. People assume that if you have an abortion it’s because you are denying the right, the fact that you’re a parent, but it’s not at all.
I think that this is especially true if you already have a child. In fact, according to Guttmacher, “about 61% of abortions are obtained by women who have one or more children.” But even if you aren’t already a mother, finding out that you’re pregnant awakens something in you that is unexplainable. You can have no possible idea what it feels like to be pregnant until you have had that experience, but once you do, every decision that you make from that point is a parenting decision, whether you choose to give birth or not, and no one can judge you for it because they are not the parent of your child and they cannot know what’s best better than you can.
Natalia: I think that’s certainly part of it. And just the shame. And there shouldn’t be. In retrospect, I’m not ashamed at all. I’m proud of what I did. And sometimes it’s the responsible choice. And I think sometimes people look at it as if you’re shirking responsibility, you’re taking the easy way out, you know, and girls need to know that they’re not alone and that a lot of people go through this and it’s okay to talk about it.
I love that Natalia said this because we have to get rid of the shame surrounding abortion. In 2008, 1.21 million women in the United States had an abortion. With current rates, one-third of American women will have had an abortion by the age of 45. ( Info from Guttmacher.) Abortion is common. It happens every day. Someone you know has had one, even if you don’t know it. But the reason you don’t know it is because we have been made to feel that we’re not supposed to talk about it! No, it is not an easy decision, and a lot of emotions are involved, but yes, we’re allowed to talk about it, and yes, we have to talk about it when we’re ready because there are too many people who are too ready to take away our right to make our own parental/reproductive decisions.
Markai: I just want women and girls to know that, you know, you’re not alone, how they’re saying, and like, that’s a tough decision. That’s the toughest decision I’ve ever had to make. And, I mean, don’t hide behind closed doors because you feel like society is not gonna take it the way that they should. You have to talk about it and it’s okay to cry about it and it’s okay to feel your emotions that you feel.
Part of the way to break down these doors is to speak out. Let our voice and our truth open the doors that “pro-life” people have smashed in our faces because they’re too afraid to hear the realities and truths of our stories. It’s shameful that women who choose abortion are made to feel that they aren’t even allowed to cry, while at the same time they are told, absolutely incorrectly, that abortions cause something called Post-Abortion Syndrome ( a “condition” they made up).
I also want to relate these quotes back to something that James, Markai’s boyfriend, said earlier in the show. It was while they were out to dinner the day after Markai had the abortion. Along with the quotes above, this is the part of “No Easy Decision” that stood out to me most because they define how I view the real issues surrounding reproductive rights.
James: “This wasn’t just a difficult decision for you, because if I did see ten fingers and ten toes I wouldn’t be able to do it. We agreed when we laid out all the options that we weren’t gonna get too attached.”
Right before James said this, Markai was upset and explaining that “a clump of cells” could be their daughter. She knew very well that the “clump of cells” in her uterus could have grown into a child that she would have loved the same way she loves her daughter, which is why she preferred not to think of it as having “ten fingers and ten toes.” But she’s a mother and she knows what it’s like to carry a child to term and she knows how it feels to love your baby and to feel it grow and to feel it kick. She’s been there. She’s not an idiot. She didn’t just forget about all of that. And knowing all of that…she was strong enough to make the decision that James admitted he may not have been strong enough to make.
Women make this decision every day because they have to. It takes strength to be responsible enough to make this important parenting decision, and strong women find themselves in this difficult position every day. They deserve our support, they deserve the right to tell their story so that we may learn from it, and they deserve to make their decision in peace and without judgment.
Maybe if more women like Markai and Natalia and Katie were encouraged to publicly share their stories the climate of shame, ignorance, outright lies, and deplorable violence that surround the right to safe, legal abortion would improve. I’m glad that MTV aired this program, and I hope that they continue to cover this issue with respect. We need an open, honest, safe dialogue about reproductive choice, or we won’t have any reproductive rights left to choose.