Dear Defenders of Choice,
We have spent the past year aghast, horrified, and enraged. We have marched, and protested, donated and registered our friends to vote.
But there remains one weapon that we must obliterate if we expect to be able to effectively champion the cause of reproductive choice: Stigma. Abortion is the #MeToo that we still can’t talk about, even though it’s more common among women (1 in 4 over a lifetime) than breast cancer (1 in 8 over a lifetime), or Alzheimer’s (1 in 6 after age 65).
Sometimes art can break down barriers and erode stigma in ways that other approaches can’t. Two weeks ago, we started filming “The Choice,” based on a short-short story I wrote about the choice to have an abortion. You can read the story here. Each line of the narrative is a new speaker with a different back story and a different journey to the decision to terminate her pregnancy. Each one has a different emotion in the aftermath. Just like real women, the choice is different for everyone—which is why we have to trust women to make it in their privacy of their own homes, in counsel with their own doctors and loved ones.
A few months ago, I decided to turn the story into a short film that could be shared widely to evoke a discussion about choice. I had no idea that on June 27, Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy would announce his retirement—a vacancy that will no doubt threaten the future of Roe v. Wade. Neither could I have imagined that a week after that announcement, nearly 40 Detroit-area women from all walks of life would gather to provide on-screen support for my film, “The Choice.”
Not all of these women have had abortions. Some were even virgins. One had seriously considered becoming a nun; some had lost their only pregnancies to miscarriage. Some were able to risk having children because they knew that abortion would be an option if the fetus had a serious genetic disorder. Many women (and a few men!) came with no stories or personal stake whatsoever, except that they trusted women to make their own decisions about their bodies.
One person who has helped both behind the scenes and on-screen was Jeannie Weiner, a warrior for justice her whole life. She wrote this after the filming:
“On the way down to the studio, I was recalling the day I found a girl bleeding in my roommate's bed in my dorm room,” Jeannie said. “She had to tell us about the dreadful abortion she had at the hands of a ‘volunteer butcher.’ I kept thinking I did not want to live to see us return to those times…Driving home, I felt that at least I could be a tiny cog in an effort to do something to prevent going back. I'm grateful not to feel alone.”
And then there was Cierra Anthony, who, in her 20s, is new to this battle. (Part of me feels sad that there’s even a battle for Cierra to join. The other part is grateful that new generations of women are not resting upon their rights.) As a high schooler, Cierra saw abortion as a black and white issue, apart from the myriad health, social, economic, religious and family issues that bear upon a woman’s decision to bear a child. She emerged transformed:
“When I participated in this project I expected for it to be this very sad serious mood, but it wasn’t,” Cierra said. “It was actually a positive mood and an empowering moment because I was reminded of the fact that I have a choice to determine my destiny. That is what this is about: Having the choice to say yes or no.”
Together, we shared an unforgettable two days of mighty sisterhood. Thanks to you who have supported us thus far; WE ARE ON THE WAY to addressing abortion stigma!
It’s not too late to donate to this project, which we hope will be completed in September so that it can help motivate voters for the midterm elections. Please donate online HERE. Share this blog with others and encourage them to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with their help, encouragement or suggestions!