Sunday, June 26, 2022

On the Power of Sharing Stories

The personal should not have to be political.

But it is.

There are innumerable reasons why someone might terminate a pregnancy. Virtually none of them entail events one wishes to broadcast to the world. That's not a matter of shame. Someone who finds out that their very badly wanted pregnancy is non-viable, and that the safest way to forward is through an abortion proceeding, might not feel especially inclined to share a play-by-play on Facebook. Very often, abortions occur because something didn't go right -- the pregnancy was unplanned, or unwanted, or it was wanted but non-viable, or any number of other permutations -- and people are, or should be, allowed to grieve in private.

And yet. I have been inspired by the number of people in my circles who have shared their stories of having an abortion, or seriously considering having one, or having the immediately live prospect of needing one. As much as the Supreme Court just rolled back the constitutional clock, it cannot do so entirely, because these stories are out there and are publicly shared. The world is not as it was in 1973. Women who quite directly relied on Roe's promise for their own health know what would have been had Roe not been present for them. Women who tomorrow will not be able to access that care will know, in a very public way, what could have been.

Dobbs will bring about terrible things, but those terrible things (what an awful consolation prize this is) will be public in a way they would not have been in 1973. We have language to speak of them, and we know we could live in a world free of those terribles because we had lived in it. What had been countless discrete experiences in isolation, out of the public eye, out of the public discourse, now is a shared reality. Being able to name it, being able to organize around it, being able to know that one isn't alone and that it doesn't have to be this way is an irreplaceable resource. The stories matter, and the willingness to share them matters. It will make a difference. Every story, account, and tale, makes those who suffer these terribles feel a little less alone. Again, what an awful consolation prize. But it is the seed of how we fight back.

It shouldn't have to be like this. Each time I read one of these stories, typically someone sharing a wrenching, emotional, miserable moment at the most intimate core of their personal lives, my heart breaks twice -- first that it happened, second that the narrator now feels obligated to share something so personal with the world. They shouldn't have to. It is, in itself, a massive sacrifice they are making for us. But they are sacrifices that make a difference, and I am grateful for every story.

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