Aborting Alarmingly

Reading Liberally Page Turner
by Amanda Milstein, Living Liberally

There's very little to say about Abortion Without Apology: A Radical History for the 1990s that isn't actively nauseating. Between a step by step guide to how to fill a vagina with blood and bits from a cow's liver in order to get a hospital to perform a D&C, and realizing that the dreams of the initial pro-choice activists would never be filled, the whole book was somewhat distressing.

The book talks about the three women who gave birth to the organization that eventually became NARAL and their impetus for becoming abortion activists. One of them married at 15 because of her family's extreme poverty, was told she would probably die if she gave birth to a second child, and then wasn't given information about or access to birth control.

The book also discusses groups like JANE, a Chicago-based women's liberation group that provided low cost abortions done by laypeople in a friendly and cookie-filled atmosphere before being shut down by the government, and feminist groups that encouraged their members to learn more about their bodies and think about how they would like to change their role in society.

I don't want to have the government controlling my body and when I reproduce (they'd have to start by giving me a federally-mandated dating class—did you know that when a guy offers to pay for dinner you're not supposed to say "Sorry, that would make blood pour out of my eyeballs?" I had no idea.). On the other hand, there is something to be said for having federal standards for medical care. I don't think I'm a radical right winger for thinking it might be safer to get an abortion from a professional, instead of by having a women repeatedly stick her thumbs through her cervix, or with an apparatus made with "a mason jar, a cork with two holes in it, two lengths of fish tank tuning, and a syringe." Do I think people who practice medicine without a license should be penalized? Absolutely not, but unlike the author of the book, it's not what I would hold up as an ideal--although with fewer medical students learning how to perform abortions it might be the only option in the future.

Abortion Without Apology ultimately conjured in me a kind of nostalgia—not for the days of living-room abortion classes or feminist abortion collectives, but for eighteen years ago when the author, Ninia Baehr, thought it a somewhat obtainable dream to hope for a day when there were no laws regulating or controlling abortions. I just hope that my daughters aren't going to have to give themselves abortions with their thumbs. Baehr's dream of a world where women have complete reproductive freedoms seems to be retreating behind a phalanx of voters who place no value on a women's right to control her body and her future.