Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Defending Ms. Jackson

This may be a day late and a dollar short, but that's only because it's been rattling around in my head for several weeks. In certain blogs I follow there has been a certain story about a certain woman talking openly and honestly about a certain medical procedure.

And probably the worst commentary - screeds of "dumb murdering bitch should have kept her legs closed" do not count - comes from "with friends like these..." former Planned Parenthood director Mary Ann Sorrentino. She states:
But the right we were fighting so hard for -- which was granted only a
short 37 years ago -- was based on what the Supreme Court called 'privacy.'

We wanted a woman to be able to make personal decisions about their
pregnancies in the privacy of their most intimate circles -- her partner,
family, closest friends, physician and religious advisors, if she so chose. Or,
she could decide as a panel of one and discuss it with no one.

Angie Jackson has the right to choose to take RU-486 and then write
about her cramps, her bleeding, and the eventual expulsion of the products of
conception on the Internet. But many of us who have spent our lives on the front
lines of the abortion debate also have the right to hate the fact that she chose
to do this.
The right to privacy regarding medical conditions and treatment does not mean one has to remain silent or "discuss it with no one," if that is not their choice. I dont think it's particularly helpful or healthy not to discuss something if you think it is important. I've been on the listening end of several things that could be considered, on the lighter side, disgusting/Too Much Information, or more seriously, disturbing, disheartening or uncomfortable. However, I would think the fact those people choose to tell me meant that it was something they needed to say for their own selves AND, just as importantly, they trusted me with their truths. Why is someone who is open and honest about their experiences is worthy of "hate" by seeming allies is repugnant.

I'm reminded of the I had an abortion project and subsequent tee-shirt that was released several years ago. There were conflicting opinions then about the nature of the shirt - was it brave? tacky? aggressive? If anything, it put a real living face and body on the topic. One that would be difficult to ignore or forget. Wasnt that the point?

In an interview Ms. Jackson gave to CNN, she stated she read, one of the more popular abortion story websites, but certainly not the only. I found the abortion page of the experience project - where it appears one can discuss just about any "experience" one has. There's also the forums of and the "abortioninfo" community on Livejournal. But these are all in the relative anonimity of the internet.

Does anonmity make it easier to tell an abortion story? I would think yes. The written word on a blog or forum is a mostly one-way form of communication. It can be done over a longer period of time with plenty of room for editting and re-writes. There's greater control over the dialogue, either by choosing where/to whom one discloses or disabling comments. One can cathartically purge, or give a more rational "review." Both can be very helpful to the experiencer as well as the reader. Again, that's the point. And that was the point of Ms. Jackson's tweeting and video (And hell a tweet is something like 140 characters, the videos are a few minutes long. this damned post has taken me several days to hammer out.) Why Ms. Sorrentino thinks we should "hate" her for here media choice is beyond me.

Another thing stuck in my craw is this idea that one on the "front lines of the...debate" is somehow more worthy than the person actually living the experience. Wasn't and isn't the whole point of the vast history of sharing abortion stories to humanise abortion that is often relegated to abstract theory and hypotheticals. You can debate until the cows come home, but eventually those words turn into actions for, or mostly against, real living women and their families.

As I come to a close of this very long, and long time coming, post, I have to think of other stories I've experienced -- birth stories, conception stories, videos of births, pictures in the various stages of labour or post-delivery, babies nursing. These are acceptable themes for women's experience-sharing. They may make some segments of the audience uncomfortable or squeamish, but I know of no woman who would want to discuss her birthing who would be shunned or hated for it, with the exception of a snark/humour blog.

Pregnancy, for all the privacy surrounding it - the act that got it started was probably private, the medical care a woman receives is a private matter - is very much out in the public. Truly, have a huge belly is its own message shirt that practically screams "I had sex with my partner/had anonomous sperm shot up in me/had stressful fertility treatment." It's an open topic for discussion either to the joy or annoyance of the woman.

In the majority of abortion cases, the pregnancy doesn't enter the public discussion awareness sphere. However, it is completely false to assume no one wants to hear it, no one should hear it and, without a doubt, it should never be spoken of.