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By: Emily Smith
Coming out as a queer woman was a political experience for me. Intrinsically, our personal identities and experiences are political. When we are able to share our stories and create community, we come together to create social change. Recognizing this, I think it’s time to come out again in a very different way.
In July of 2010, I exercised my legal and inherent human right to choose and had an abortion. I was in my first trimester of pregnancy and my abortion took place around nine weeks. At the time I was in my first long-term relationship, which was both emotionally abusive and sexually coercive. I was struggling significantly with my mental health. My abortion was a painful decision in an unfortunate situation. It is something I have struggled with, though never regretted, for the past five and a half years.
In my four years at McMaster I’ve seen an increasing presence of pro-life propaganda on campus. Although I strongly believe in the right everyone has to an opinion, and by no means seek to eradicate groups on campus, I do think it’s important to recognize the inaccuracies and frankly emotionally manipulative tactics being used to stigmatize and marginalize the people in our community who have had abortions.
Recently I’ve seen some chalk writing on campus tarmac. One stated “your mother chose life.” I don’t know if my mother is pro-life, pro-choice, or somewhere in between, but I do know that I was a pregnancy that was planned, wanted, and prepared for. Had I been a pregnancy that was unwanted or unplanned would my mother have chosen differently? Would it have mattered? Her path would have been different, as would those around her. This tactic is frequently harnessed by pro-life groups and does not reflect the reality of choosing to have children. Pro-choice people have children on a regular basis, choosing choice.
Another quote stated that “the first inalienable human right is to life.” Many justice groups are rightfully up in arms from the moment a child is born about bodily autonomy. We protest the circumcision, cosmetic or surgical alteration, and piercing of infants. In all of these situations, we recognize that a basic human right all children should have is the right to choose what they will do with their bodies, and modifications should only be made when the individual is capable of making that decision. Yet somehow the importance of bodily autonomy diminishes when we start talking about abortion. When we allow women the ability to pierce their own ears but not to terminate a pregnancy, what are we telling women? That their bodies are their own but only to an extent. Women’s bodies are not public property. They are not walking incubators, and no one should have a say in what one person does with their own body.
Finally, a chalk message said “adoption is a loving alternative.” Adoption is a beautiful option for women who choose to carry their pregnancies but do not want to parent children, but it is an alternative to parenthood, not pregnancy. When we talk about adoption in the context of a substitute for abortion, adoption becomes a weapon in a misogynistic political agenda against women. Adoption should not be disrespected and used as a guilt tactic or presented a last ditch effort against abortion.
Every moment that this pro-life propaganda exists on our campus, more and more people are shamed, silenced and provided with false and manipulative information. Perhaps if accurate quotes were shared on sidewalks, accurate signs displayed in our student centre, or accurate pamphlets handed out on corners, we might see a marked change in how women who have had abortions navigate their university experience. If well-intentioned and productive information was being disseminated on campus our pro-life organizations would cease to exist.
When these quotes are publicly displayed the intention is clear. To silence, shame, and deny women spaces to talk openly about their abortions. When we fail to talk about abortion as a valuable and viable option for an unwanted or unplanned pregnancy we force women to see themselves as having shameful secrets. Most people can imagine what it’s like to carry with you a secret you cannot share without fear of disgust, rejection, or humiliation. There is a simple fix to this one: accept abortions.