A Funny Thing Happened On The Way to the Clinic: Exhale's Latest Zine Issue
Posted Jan 15 2009 8:17pm
Our Truths, Nuestras Verdades is one of those publications that falls into the category of "too many people don't know about this treasure and should" (full disclosure: I was on the original Board when the publication was an independent zine). The bilingual magazine is now published by the uniquely wonderful organization, Exhale, which seeks to elevate the voices and experiences of women who have had abortions to the top of the abortion dialogue in this country. Artwork by Becky Leonard
In fact, Exhale's Executive Director (and Founder) Aspen Baker's words are featured on RH Reality Check in the post Peace for the Abortion War this week where she writes eloquently about the ways in which women who have had abortions have been silenced, stigmatized and shamed:
The truth is our stories and personal experiences with
abortion are far more nuanced than the simplistic - and antagonistic - debate
that rages around us. After my own
abortion, I remember thinking that the public debate had virtually nothing to
do with how I felt and what I needed. I remember feeling in awe of the fact
that I could safely and medically end a pregnancy and realizing that my whole
life wasn't at the mercy of nature or circumstance. My decision to have an
abortion felt like a decision to play God and that was powerful and scary
beyond words. Choosing to not change my life was a life-changing experience for
me. Afterward, I needed space and time and understanding to process all of this
and reflect on my own values and beliefs about the meaning of life, including
my own. But, when I tried to engage with the broader political debate over
legal abortion, I was asked to simplify my decision and silence the emotional
impact of my abortion in favor of defending my right to have had one in the
first place, or to become a victim of abortion rights and deny my ability to
cope and grow and be whole after such a life-changing experience.
Our Truths, Nuestras Verdades, then, acts as a megaphone, a best-friend, a diary, and a soapbox all rolled into one, for women who have had abortions (and men whose partners have, and clinic workers, and women who are thinking of having abortions, and women who may someday have one...). It is a space for women to explore, honestly, and without fear of judgement, retribution, anger, or shame their own abortion experiences and all of the emotional and mental reflections that go along with that kind of an exploration.
This issue deals with the humor that women have found, hidden or not so hidden, in their abortion experiences or the humor that one can find in the reverberating political dialogue. To that end, our own Amanda Marcotte has a great piece in which she plows right through the myths surrounding women who have abortions entitled, "Placards, Lies and Stereotypes", reminding us all that absurd anti-choice rhetoric in no way matches the reality of women's lives. My favorite?
Women Who Get Abortions Don't Realize What A Great Joy Motherhood Is. This ridiculous idea is so prevalent that many a middle-age mother on her way to a clinic may wonder if she should feel like a college student crashing the prom. Actually, the childless woman getting an abortion is the unusual case. Since 60 percent of women who have abortions are already mothers, the woman sitting next to you at the clinic has probably wiped some butts in her time and knows the difference between the joy of having children and the problem of having them when you just can’t. And many who haven’t had children yet may in fact want to know the joys of motherhood — just not right now.
Ah, yes. The old "women who have abortions don't understand motherhood". And yet, oddly, the men who protest safe, legal abortion access do. Fortunately, Amanda knows exactly what she's talking about.
My other favorite in this issue of the magazine are the snippets from the online survey Our Truths conducted. The question? Did laughter or humor ever help you feel better or cope with your abortion experience? Far from shying away from laughter and humor, Our Truths bravely asserts that for some women, though not all, humor - either before, during or after their abortion experience - is both a coping mechanism and a way for them to feel better. One woman writes:
"As I sat with my feet in the stirrups after waiting for hours to even get into the procedure room, a nurse came in and said, 'Your socks match your eyes.' Laughter and humor helps me feel better about everything."
While still others yearned for an escape that laughter may have brought but did not find it:
"I wish there could have been something funny or humorous surrounding (my abortion), but I kind of fell apart."
For as many women as there are who have abortions, this is how many different experiences of abortion there will be. Far from pretending that abortion is something that needs to be hidden away, stripped from women's lives as soon as it's over with, wiped from their memories or relegated to a deep, dark place to be revisited only in a dream or in a moment of self-recrimination, a woman's abortion experience needs to become part of the fabric of her life. It does not mean that every woman need write about her experience, or share her experience with family or stranger but that it need not occupy a place of shame - in fact exploration of the experience can bring a sense of catharsis that allows for one to see moments of humor or relief.
This issue of Our Truths, Nuestras Verdades can be found here (PDF). But if you want an actual physical copy head to www.4exhale.org.