Yes, abortion, okay

2014-07-24 17:45

The news makes me tired. The world makes me tired. It's my dearest wish that the Awful People™ of the world would take to wearing sandwich boards identifying themselves as such, or at least some kind of lumo vest thing. At least I'd know who to avoid, because I value my sanity. (Although it has to be said, I'd probably have an easier life if I was trying to save the rhinos. People like rhinos. They don't like teenage mothers)

When I speak to people working in the reproductive justice field in the US, for instance, it's mind boggling how in 2014, so much seems to be going backwards, especially when it comes to women's health and rights. The battles they're fighting now, we all thought were settled 40  years ago.

Yes, abortion. In SA, safe legal abortion is a legal right and that's all there is to it. If you don't like it, don't have one, basically. And yet... some people still think that because we're called Young Mom Support, we're an anti-abortion organisation. "At least she's not aborting her baby", they'll say to me. Nope, not the point. Not the point at all, dearie.

Many of the pregnant teens we speak to haven't yet made their final decision about what to do. Some choose abortion and to a lesser extent, adoption.

Invariably, so far, once a girl comes to us with the idea of abortion at the forefront of her mind - that's what she ends up doing. Because she's already been thinking about it. She's already been through all of this a million times by the time she speaks to us. Because she hasn't been waiting for someone else to do her thinking for her: this is all she's been thinking about, sometimes for weeks or months.

An unplanned pregnancy (at any age) is a time for reflection and questioning yourself - for most of us, this decision is the biggest one we'll ever make and could change the course of our lives forever. Sometimes, the answer to "Can I be a mother now" - is simply no. There are a million reasons why someone would choose abortion - and guess what - it's not our place to question that. It's not our place to "talk her out of it" or convince her to do anything else. Just as if she's leaning towards parenting, it's not our place to dissuade her from that either. All we're here to do is to ask: What do you WANT? Your first choice, your gut reaction, before you overthink it. Yes or no to being a mother, right now, in this time and place in your life? That's it. That's all we do. Ask the question that allows her to express her feelings, blurt them out, no judgment, no expectations, nobody's preferences to consider. Then we go from there. What CAN you do? What are you willing to do? No matter what you choose, tomorrow's not going to be the same as today. You have to be willing to accept what comes along with your choice.

We have only one agenda - her happiness and well-being, today, tomorrow - the rest of her life.

ALL choices are valid. Parenting, abortion, adoption: she knows her own life best. She knows what she's capable of and willing to do. She knows the right answer. It might take a little time to get to it, there might well be practical or logistical challenges in the way - for example, if she would prefer abortion but has passed the cut-off point, she has to rethink her options. Likewise, if she wants to parent her child but knows she will have zero support, she'll have to figure a plan to make it work - or rethink her choice again.

We call ourselves pro-choice, and we are, in the truest sense of the word. There is no right answer - there is only the answer that's right for her. So when the answer is "I really can't"  or "I don't want to"  - that is fine, no explanation required. We'll be with her, taking our cues for what she needs from her - because there is no blueprint for how everybody experiences abortion. Sometimes it's an easy choice for her, sometimes it's not.  What she needs, we'll try to provide. And we'll never ever say that she could have, should have, if only she would have - chosen something else.

Because all choices are valid. And because women know their own minds best, and that is all.  

21 years ago, I was a pregnant teen. Abortion was still illegal then, although I was taken to a doctor who might be willing "To Do Something". He asked me straight - what do you want? I told him I didn't think I wanted to abort. He told my mom, well that's it. It's her decision. This choice is so huge that nobody - NOBODY - can be trying to steer your decision in any direction. It was a big thing for him to say in those days, and an even bigger thing for my parents to accept that.

And so we got on with it. The rest is history.

Our job is to be kind, and that's all. That is the only point.

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