Say it, sister: "I had an abortion"

A Ms. petition for a new clampdown on women's rights.

Published August 12, 2006 1:30AM (EDT)

Given the national tension over abortion, and the targeting of clinics and doctors by antiabortion protesters and terrorists, it's understandable that we don't hear much from women who have actually had abortions. Even for those who are pro-choice, there can be a stigma attached to making that choice. And then there are women who just don't feel personal reproductive choices belong in polite conversation.

But it's still too bad that we don't often hear from the choosers themselves, because the debate winds up being defined by people who have no personal experience or particular expertise on the subject (like, for instance, male politicians). Plus, the silence can help perpetuate the stigma, with women who get abortions becoming faceless others rather than familiar community members.

Factors like these led to a feature in the debut issue of Ms. magazine in which 53 prominent public figures, including Billie Jean King, Anne Sexton, Susan Sontag, Anaïs Nin and Ms. founder Gloria Steinem, acknowledged that they'd had abortions (and this was a year before Roe v. Wade). Feminist author Jennifer Baumgardner had the same impulse when she attended the 2004 March for Women's Lives; she had "I Had an Abortion" T-shirts printed up and wore one to the march. (For more on Baumgardner's feelings on the subject, as well as other abortion-destigmatization efforts, check out Salon's great 2004 feature on the subject.) And now, with women's rights under fire more than ever, Ms. is back on the case asking women across the country to sign their "I Had an Abortion" petition. For choice supporters who haven't terminated pregnancies, there's a box to check saying "I have not had an abortion but I stand with my sisters," and the option to participate in a fundraising drive.

Predictably, the right-wing blogosphere has had some vitriolic responses. If you'd like to share your history or express support for choice, check out the petition, here.

By Page Rockwell

Page Rockwell is Salon's editorial project manager.

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