PERSONAL POLITICS. It's not a novel suggestion that we combat abortion restrictions by sharing real women's (and some men's) stories about why they made the choices they did. This is something the pro-choice movement has done since its inception, starting with speak-outs about back-alley abortions in the pre-Roe era. In the past few years alone, there have been several books, at least two documentary films ("Speak Out: I Had an Abortion" and "The Abortion Diaries"), and an entire monthly magazine devoted to sharing women's personal experiences. Ms. magazine recently published the names of thousands of women who declared, "We Had Abortions." And stories of the "it happened to me, it could happen to you" variety appear in the mainstream women's magazines fairly regularly. Planned Parenthood collects stories of women who have undergone abortions -- and tries to publicize them whenever things like Gonzales v. Carhart make the news. And lest you think that only women have spoken out, read this very moving post by a man who had to make a particularly difficult decision about a D&X abortion because his wife was incapacitated.
Point is, pro-choice advocates work very, very hard to connect personal stories with political actions. But these stories just can't seem to crack the mainstream media or "thought-leader" magazines. Broad, big-picture analyses of how abortion restrictions will affect future court cases and legislation and elections are vastly more common than first-person essays like this one that appeared in Newsweek last week. There are many women -- more than you may think -- who are willing to tell their stories. We just need journalists and pundits who are willing to seek out those stories and consider them when they discuss the abortion debate. The reason the Witteses and Rosens of the media are so appalling is that they NEVER stop to consider the individual women who are actually affected by abortion restrictions.
And other than just continuing to collect and document women's abortion experiences, the pro-choice movement needs to be better about using ownership language -- "YOUR right to choose" rather than "THE right to choose." Realistically, there are many people who are never going to accept that they may one day need to exercise this right. (Case in point: this fascinating collection of anecdotes from abortion providers about performing the procedure on women who are politically opposed to abortion.) But many voters -- women especially, I'd argue -- can and will be swayed by personal stories.
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