By Dave Andrusko
Can you imagine, I agree totally with a passionate abortion advocate? Or, better put, at least with the headline: “One by One, Our Abortion Stories Can Change Debate”? Written by Aspen Baker, the opinion piece appeared on the womensensenews.org website.
Here’s how her account is introduced: “Finding out about a friend’s abortion gave Aspen Baker the courage to make the best decision for her, she says in the anthology “Nothing but the Truth So Help Me God.” In this excerpt, she advocates for more story sharing.”
“Story sharing” is short-hand for “the voices and stories of women who have had abortions, along with the stories of our loved ones affected by abortion.” Ostensibly, the objective is “to transform the political debate from one of heated talking points to one of understanding” which can “usher in a new era of peace around the subject of abortion.”
Well, as you can imagine, it’s not quite that simple. The real objective is to make it as difficult as possible—if not impossible—for anyone to speak against abortion. But that’s another story. Let’s stay with Baker’s contribution.
As is often the case, when Baker became pregnant she was unmarried. Guess who brought up the abortion option? The boyfriend.
What makes me agree with Baker is we both appreciate the decisive power of one person, speaking to a woman who is vulnerable, to change the course of that decision. Even more so in this case, perhaps, because there was a backdrop for Baker’s initial ambivalence which she does not tell us about until she gets to the part of her story where she has decided to abort.
Baker told a friend and co-worker her “secret” [that she was pregnant], and that she didn’t know what she was going to do. Her friend said, without hesitation, “I’ve had an abortion.”
“Polly’s admission was a revelation. The old saying that you can’t judge a person until you walk a mile in their shoes came alive. It would become my credo, shaping my future leadership. But that night at the bar it was exactly what I needed to hear. Polly gave me a gift in the knowledge that I was not alone in my experience.”
Not surprisingly Baker does not allow the boyfriend to come to the abortion clinic: they were barely talking and he was not going to a part of the rest of her life. But she did invite her friend, Heather.
“I told her that I might back out at the last minute, unable to go through with it.” Why?
“I said this remembering a beautiful surfer girl from high school who had told me one day while we were out in the waves off San Clemente that she was alive because her pregnant mother had walked out of an abortion clinic.”
At some important level, Baker knew what she was about to do was wrong. Very early in her account, she tells us
“Even then, when I knew we wouldn’t be together forever and faced that parenting would be mine to handle alone, I could better imagine myself as a struggling single mother before I could picture myself as a person who had an abortion.”
But, having learned from Polly that Baker was “not alone in my experience”—that someone she knew had gone through an abortion—suddenly that commonality functioned to finish the transformation from a red light, to a flashing yellow light, to a green light.
If that shared experience made it possible, or at least easier, for Baker to abort, well then…
“Not long after that, I founded Exhale, an after-abortion talkline where women share their stories. At Exhale I have seen again and again that sharing and listening without judgment to stories that had previously been secret can bring women together, create new relationships and strengthen existing ones. At Exhale, we call this storytelling approach ‘pro-voice.’”
Imagine, however, if that “voice” had been from a woman who’d had an abortion but compassionately worked to help Baker understand that it had not been the right decision, certainly not for the baby but also not for her. Imagine if the voice was someone who helped her understand there are better ways, including adoption. Imagine if that voice helped her truly grasp that she was about to silence her baby’s voice forever.
Imagine if that voice had helped her understand that the courageous decision was not to end her baby’s life but to fight for him or her. Imagine if the shoes she refers to were the shoes she placed on the feet of her little one.
Agreed, “Our Abortion Stories Can Change Debate.” The difference is our stories affirm life and provide the assurance that there is forgiveness after an abortion.