Revolution #165, May 24, 2009

Reader Writes About Hampshire College Conference:

“I Am Furious!...”

“I am furious!”

I really didn’t know what to expect. All I did know was that when I clicked on the schedule for the Hampshire College conference, From Abortion Rights to Social Justice, saw “Abortion Speakout,” something in me clicked. Something refreshing, something liberating. I’d never been to a speakout and I was excited to attend. For two weeks those two words—“abortion speakout”—rolled over and over in my mind.

The buzz and bustle of a hall filled with people who had something to say, something to stand for, in an environment where it was “safe” and even (to some extent) expected (!) should one feel so inspired, was infectious.

When the hundreds present were asked to take a seat so the speakout could begin, the silence of anticipation weighed potently.

I listened as one by one, women from different places and classes stood bravely onstage at the podium, voices booming from speakers, to tell their stories:

One speaker, now a mother, expressed that she was not “ok” with her decision to have an abortion; that after all these years, a sort of feeling guilty for not feeling guilty weighed upon her.

Another woman told of the rollercoaster she had been through: she had an abortion with the support of her boyfriend, who later became her abusive husband, who eventually left her. Now a single mother of two, unable to provide for her children, she again became pregnant. It was with extreme difficulty that she was able to eventually afford an abortion. And that abortion was a conscious decision on her part to get back on her feet.

Yet another woman felt confident in her decision to have an abortion, but couldn’t afford it and had to resort to prostituting herself in order to get enough money to obtain one. And yet another, in such low economic conditions, tried to borrow money from her friends, but could not come up with enough. Desperate, she called a help center and begged for help, fearing she might commit suicide if she couldn’t get out of her predicament.

After each account, I grew angrier and angrier. Many of these women had a deep sense of guilt about their decision, as if having an abortion was something to be ashamed about. Hearing these women—36 years after abortion had been made legal! ‑ burdened with guilt over a simple, necessary procedure that is safer than full-term pregnancy and basically the equivalent of a dental procedure—seemed preposterous, and what’s more, unnecessary. And that most of these women—again, in the 36 years in which abortion has been legal—had difficulties in obtaining an abortion, either economically or inaccessibility—even more maddening.

I was tired and did not feel like talking. Further, my anger had clenched my jaw shut. But I kept thinking, “Unleash the fury of women. Unleash the fury of women....”

And then she got up. “She” was a young woman who had been raped in the middle of the day, in the girls’ bathroom of the high school she was attending overseas, by two of her male classmates. And she told of how she became pregnant from this violent act. She had to go somewhere out of the country in which her family was living, as abortion was illegal there.

I could no longer keep still, no longer keep silent. I leapt out of my chair and strode up the aisle, onstage, to the podium. At first, I couldn’t find the words to express what I was feeling. Then that powerful phrase came back to me:

“I am furious!

“I have been sitting here getting so angry. I cannot wait until there’s a revolutionary society where one-half of humanity, women, is not kept down and degraded just because they’re women, a society in which we no longer need to have speakouts like this!” And I went on to tell about my own two abortions. I stressed the importance of fighting for a society in which young women would know they could fully realize their potential and would not be chained by conditions that obstructed their path to fully participating in society. I concluded by impelling, “I cannot wait until there is a revolutionary society.”

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