Sunday, February 27, 2011

I stand here.

Watch out, this one's a doozy. If you don't feel like thinking of serious things, please skip it.

I was originally planning yet another adventure post, perhaps even the seemingly elusive "Sisterhood-post", but when I got home yesterday, two things happened.

First, there was a letter from Planned Parenthood waiting in the pile of mail on the kitchen table, reminding me that it was time for my annual check-up. As a (relatively) poor woman without insurance in These United States, they are my sole mainstream health-care provider.

Second, as I began to wade trough the pile of virtual mail that had stacked up in my absence, I came upon a message from a friend telling me that the House of Representatives had passed a bill to cut all federal funding for Planned Parenthood and that there was a letter I could sign.

Now, it is obvious that the House of Representatives isn't actually trying to ban me from getting my annual pap-smear, though they would probably like it better if I would go ahead and get one from a private entity, thus stimulating the economy. (Unfortunately I like a lot of women in my financial bracket I might just go to bi-annual examinations were I forced to do so.)

What the Republican majority is attacking, albeit in a very indirect manner, is the arm of Planned Parenthood that offers women options. Or to put it more bluntly: abortions. This in spite the fact that federal funding in no way directly funds those services, it is those very services that The House is looking to cut millions of women off of. Me losing my affordable examination is just a side effect of that goal.

Here's one of the lines that divide people so sharply in this country. You can either be "pro-life", or "pro-choice". Most likely the group you identify with defines your opinion on Planned Parenthood.

In a country very much enamored with the idea of freedom of choice in everything for everyone, those who, like myself, believe the right to terminate a pregnancy the fundamental right of women, like to refer to it as "a woman's choice". Those who claim abortion should not be a choice we can make as free individuals claim that it is an act equivalent to pre-meditated murder. For a lot of people this is more or less the crux of the whole argument; whether one believes that in one way or another, each unique, individual life begins at the moment of conception and to vanquish it is to kill a whole human being. I believe it is a little more complicated than that.

Like most American debates in the public sphere these days, this one too seems to go to whoever happens to be shouting the loudest at any given moment. And many (if not most) of the people doing the debating have no first-hand knowledge of physical, emotional and financial implications of the very procedure they are debating over.

I do. When I was twenty-three, I had an abortion. I was lucky enough to have it in a country where all women's reproductive health services (all of everyone's health services, in fact) were readily available and free, thanks to being funded by the government. The procedure was relatively easy to procure, I was well taken care of, and there was minimal social stigma.

I recently read a article in MoJo about Harod Cassidy, a lawyer who's mission is to seek out women who've had a bad, emotionally scarring abortion experiences and then tout them as examples of the ills of abortion. His thesis: abortion is bad for women. It effects their mental health. No kidding. Having an abortion was probably the hardest decision I have ever had to make, and I did not had to make it with tens of millions of people screaming into my ear that what I was considering doing was morally wrong, possibly murder. I was not denied service by someone pretending to be a provider, forced to look at a sonogram image of the baby, or go through lengthy "counseling" to prove to me that what I was doing was wrong.

Not that any of this would have done any good in convincing me. I already knew that my baby had fingernails (A popular tactic, who's triumph over fictional teen-pregnancy poster-child Juno, always drove me crazy.), and I already believed that I was terminating a unique life that I would have loved and cared and fought to death for had they been born. I made a conscious decision to watch the sonogram image just to be absolutely sure of my choice. I even intuitively knew that she was a girl.

And I was sure. When I got pregnant I was living paycheck to paycheck in a foreign country, with nothing to my name, suffering from some fairly intense mental problems and the "father to be" was a worthless piece of string, whom I did not love, and who I later learned had already managed (and trust me, I grew up in a nation where they do teach you about contraceptives, so I did not pull a Juno) to father a child he rarely saw.

Without going too much further into my life circumstances at the time, I will just say that I've never regretted having an abortion. In the nine years (this March) that have passed since then, I've thought of my "baby" if not daily, then at least weekly. I think of her with great tenderness and not a little sorrow. And, each time I think of her, I absolutely know that I did the right thing.

For a split second I considered adoption, but I had enough self-awareness to know that I could not be that selfless. Suffice to say: I pondered the options as long as I could and determined that they would all crush me, but this one the least. I made a choice. It was to save my own life.

What Mr. Cassidy and various other "pro-lifers" concerned for the lives of innocents fail to note is that there are already a number of things that adversely effect women's emotional lives, some of which might cause them to be in a position to need an abortion to begin with. Furthermore, they are saying that women on the whole cannot be trusted to make choices for themselves, but rather these choices should be limited by kind, concerned legislators, most of them men.

It is never the legislators, or the outraged public who's votes they crusade for, who have to deal with the consequences of an unwanted pregnancy, whether it is terminated or not. And until we as a society start taking responsibility for all lives, not just those unborn, I feel there is no argument that can convince me that abortion is wrong. Just as there is no argument on the other side that can convince me that each child conceived is not indeed a unique life of their own.

I would love to live in a world where abortion didn't exist. A perfect world where the many causes of unwanted pregnancy would have simply vanished; poverty, mental illness, ignorance, rape, prejudice, societal malaise, all gone. But we don't live in a perfect world, or even a world where we as a society are actively trying to fix these problems. We're just looking to blame someone, and who's easier to target than already downtrodden women and, by proxy, those who are trying to help them?

If you want to stand here with me here's how again. If you don't, I totally understand.

Edit: I would like to thank everyone for their heartfelt comments, stories and support. I'm very touched by the personal stories on abortion, the difference PP has made in your lives and your beliefs on this loaded issue.

I would especially like to salute two ladies seemingly on the opposite ends of the spectrum: Bellisimama who talks about her experience here and Anne who left a beautiful comment identifying herself as pro-life. Thank you Bellisimama for your honesty and Anne for believing that we can have a dialogue in a non-judgemental sisterly manner and get that much closer to understanding one another.

Lots of love and light to all you beautiful girls.


  1. girl you're beautiful, you're wonderful and i love how you get right into the heart of the matter and talk about important things. you make my heart break with your extraordinarily multi-faceted way of seeing and UNDERSTAND and that is the truth underneath it all, and what the world needs. good for you; you're inspiring and true. now i'm off to sign some petitions.

  2. I'm in New Zealand, and this made our news. I cannot believe people do not see the complete sense that Planned Parenthood makes, regardless of the abortion aspect, there are other services for women offered there! I'm pro-choice - and protesting pro-lifers annoy me greatly. It is the 'protesting' part that is particularly irksome. The idea that anyone thinks they can stand outside a clinic and attempt to humiliate or shame women (who are most likely already tormented) makes me so angry. Rant over. And thanks for the post, it was really brave of you and especially eloquent.

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  4. With ya babe. In countries where abortion is illegal (like Catholic countries), illegal abortions are one of the leading causes of death among young women. It's despicable. Where's the "pro life" in that?
    It really shows such short-sightedness in the realm of social well being on the part of the government. Study after study shows greater societal health when abortion is an option. But you know, Jesus is going to save them when the Rapture comes (soon!) so it's all good.
    Thanks for sharing, you're beautiful.

  5. what a brave and strong post! I have very similar feelings about abortion, but sometimes I have a heard enunciating them.

  6. Thanks for your thoughtful post, and for your brave sharing, GWMAB. Last week- last week! I finally dealt with the mysterious pain in my left ovary. Got an appointment at PP, got a reduced price for my low income level, got in, examined, and referred to a local hospital. When PP couldn't get me in quickly enough at one hospital, they found me faster care and attention at another. While I was waiting to be seen at the hospital, PP asked me to call and give them updates on my condition- because they cared. I'm thankful for the funding that allowed me to receive care; I'm thankful to the wonderful women at Planned Parenthood, who cared about my condition whether I was standing in front of them or not; I'm waiting patiently for the results of my tests, and while I am-and after I find out what's up-I'm standing with Planned Parenthood, too.

  7. (I sound a little zealous! I am. I really am).

  8. Thanks for your comment, M! I took it down, but only because I don't want to alarm my family (as yet to be told about health, etc). I think everything will be just fine.

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  10. Women should be in control of our own bodies and our own destinies. Period.

    Thank you for sharing your story. I stand with Planned Parenthood.

    (And also -- if you are interested, I also stand for mandatory paid maternal leave in the U.S., which I wrote about here.)

  11. Thank you for sharing your story Milla. Your message comes through with such thoughtful bravery and strength of heart because of it. I stand by you 100%, letter signed. You never cease to amaze me.

    So glad you guys made it home safe and sound. Big hugs and much love <3

  12. girl, i stand with you. i posted this a few weeks ago:

  13. you really are an incredibly powerful writer. and i admire your honesty.

    coincidentally, i heard a discussion on npr this week of the poll results regarding single mothers. apparently over 60% of the country thinks they are bad for society. is that going work? save all the babies and damn the women--wtf?

    letter signed.

    p.s. glad to know you all made it home safely. xo

  14. Thank you for sharing this with all your readers. I've signed the petition and tried to educate as many people as possible.

  15. Thank-you for these words. I am so glad I do not live in America on this day. If I did, I would definitely sign the petition. I wish I could anyways.

  16. Hi- I work at the Planned Parenthood Los Angeles headquarters and we're doing everything we can to fight this crazy upcoming legislation. Write letters, call your senators, march, do whatever you need to do to get your voice heard. And, most importantly, donate to PP when you go in for services. Folks in CA have no idea how lucky they are to receive state funding for most health care, ain't so in the rest of the US. Fight on, and blog on :)

  17. I think women are smart enough to know what is right for them, and to make this decision, not congress. I find this to be a war on low income women, not on abortion as the Fed doesn't even fund that through PP. I'm so sickened by politicians using women health issues as some sort of lightening rod to debate or get people to vote, life is just more complicated then that and people are entitled to have a choice.
    Petition signed.

  18. I'm with you wholly, girl, and feel awe and admiration for your honesty and unabashed way of speaking. You cannot legislate bodies. That's the plain truth, and doing so is reneging the promise of freedom Americans always preach.

    Thank you for this beautiful post, hon.

  19. And I forgot to say something. I'm sorry you have sadness about your little girlchild that was.

  20. I'm with you, girl! I live in Poland, where abortion is illegal, mostly thanks to lobbying by catholic church. Now, I am a believer (although currently struggeling and considering changing denomination) but I am very much pro-abortion. What drives me crazy is that most of the meddling priests and government seem to think that if we make abortion legal every woman will run and kill her unborn baby asap. It's like you say - as if we couldn't make our own decisions. It's insulting. It seems quite obvious to me that if a woman is a catholic or for any other reason is pro-life she will be able to make an informed choice and NOT get abortion. I wouldn't get one (I think). But I can very well imagine tons of reasons why anyone else might want or even need to.

    There is also another thing. I know a few mothers that got pregnant very young, needed to give up school to rise children or even were forced by their families to get married (because this is what you do, right?). They are usually divorced or in separation. And they are very bitter, because every thing in their lives that went wrong seems to be thought by them as their child's fault. I believe at least some of them wouldn't decide for abortion when given the option. But at least they would have an option so they would make a CHOICE to keep that baby. And maybe thanks to that, in their minds, the children wouldn't be a bourden but a chosen option.

  21. you are very brave to write this post.thank you
    i heard about this on world service radio and then saw short piece on tv.
    we have the marie stopes clinics over here which are pro-choice although with our NHS we have our smears etc for free. however ours are 3 yearly.
    i have always been strongly pro-choice~i am from Irish Catholic family and i always wonder what my great great grandma wished when she had a child every two years over a twenty year period and died aged 46.
    if i were able i would sign.

  22. you. are. amazing.

    love, support and higs from afar. you inspire me so, sister.

  23. Your honesty is as beautiful as you, Ms Milla! A big shout out and sisterly hug to you :)

    Your post could not come at a more critical moment. Today I'm suffering from political rhetoric blues. The current political climate is something that has been making me heartsick for a while... but only since the recent election aftermath in which things turned divisive and I realized how easily manipulated people are that it started making me depressed on a daily basis. I'm sick of the rhetoric, the antipathy, and the cynicism. The climate is dividing those at the bottom who should be working together for real and positive changes. Whether we agree to the terms of those changes or not.

    I get really heated in class whenever I talk about politics (I'm always drawing parallels between the past & present) and especially when I talk about the history of women's rights. You'd be amazed (i'm amazed) at how little students know about women in the past-- how difficult women's lives were then-- how hard we had to work for small changes. Interestingly after one such class I got into a discussion with a pastor (a student of mine actually) on the issue of abortion. His politics are more liberal, but he made a very interesting comment to me that I felt appealed well to those that want to make this a religious issue. He said, if we were to regulate things like abortion, what would be the need for religion? Without choice in society, why would people need it?

    Off to sign....

  24. I've read your blog for quite some time, but am typically too shy to comment on people I don't know personally. However, I admire you so much for this post, I can't hold back. I actually received an email from PP asking for donations right after this happened-while I was at work- and had to go outside to hide my tears. I agree this is mainly about the right to choice, but I also think there is a concerted effort to subvert women's rights in our country right now. I stand with you. With this single post, you have gone from an interesting person to a friend in my mind. Thanks for being so brave!!

  25. This is a brave and wonderful post. I am a supporter and former patient of planned parenthood, and feel so strongly about the work that they do and services that they provide for women. I have signed the letter and petitioned for this as well. Hugs to you for bringing attention to this very important issue and for doing it so intelligently.

  26. Milla, I am reading your blog for a few months now and always enjoyed it, but now I deeply admire you for your honesty and intelligent comment on this sensitive subject. This post definitly supports a group of women who are standing very alone in this difficult issue.
    Thank you for sharing your experiences and thoughts on the are brave and empowering.

  27. milla, thank you for sharing such a personal experience. this is a highly sensitive topic for many and i give major props for speaking your mind.
    being pregnant at a young age was the hardest time of my life (writing about it now brings on major emotions). i was 19 and ruben and i had only known eachother for 3 months. we by no means were ready to be parents. (i can't even begin to describe the fear and uncetainty that i went through. i have never felt so alone in my life as i did then.) truth be told i was a perfect candidate for an abortion. i did not get one though. the main reason being that my mom had had one at 15 and i could tell how deeply scarred she was from it. for her it did cause much damage emotionally.

    now that i'm older i know many women who have had abortions. i truly understand why many of them had one. i have deep compassion for each of their situations and do not judge them for their choices. no one should be judged about such a decsion. unless we have walked in a persons shoes and lived their life with their experiences, then we have no right to judge a choice they make. we may disagree with it, but it should end there. i am "pro life" and catholic, apparently the black sheep here :D without really getting into all the reasons for my stance on this issue, i can say that my main beef with planned parenthood is that a very young girl can have an abortion without a parents consent. a girl can't even get her ears pierced without consent but she can get an abortion? something about that seems deeply wrong to me. i get the fact that a lot of parents aren't understanding and compassionate about their children having sex at a young age, but all parents aren't horrible tyrannts. they should at least be informed.

    i know that the extreme pro lifer's who bomb clinics and kill doctors give us a bad image, but we aren't all like that. some of us are quite sane and have good reasons for our beliefs and aren't trying take rights away from women. rather we are trying to give rights to those who have no voice.
    i sincerely hope that voicing my opinion has not made you dislike me milla. i went back and forth on whether or not i should even comment, seeing that i was the only one who wasn't pro choice. i in no way meant to say anything that would hurt you or offend you. i'm just trying to share a different point of view. hopefully you understand :D
    much love to you!

  28. Wonderful, beautiful post, Milla. It is mindboggling to me that Planned Parenthood is the target of this new upcoming legislation. PP is crucial for so many women in this country, on so many levels. The whole thing is a disgrace.

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  30. much love to you, milla! thank you for writing about something so personal in such a moving, natural way.

  31. Adding this kind of honest humanity behind such a divisive subject is really brave brave brave. It makes my stomach flip flop to hear men who will never be in such a position proselytize about the Right Thing.

    Also loved reading Anna's comment, too. Nice to all different types speaking tolerantly about their beliefs.

  32. Years ago, when I was much too young to read it, I read an article in a magazine about real experiences with abortion: the good and the bad. I was a pastor's daughter (not quite Footloose, but close) and very used to fire and brimstone preaching against homosexuals, abortion, and yes, dancing, but that article opened my eyes to the shades of gray that make up reality. My biggest secret as a Christian woman is that I am in favor of gay marriage and think abortion should stay legal. Thank you for sharing your story.

  33. Milla, I am with you, and I have lived a life with no regrets WHATSOEVER. I love your truthtelling and bravery. Thanks for being a light.

    My gut tells me that there's no way the funding will be pulled on PP. I hope it's right.

    And even if it does this article gives a bit of hope.

  34. And in Cali-

  35. Thank you so much for sharing your story! And for not being afraid to get personal or "political" - or both, because the personal is political. :) (I find a lot of style/lifestyle/etc type bloggers tend to shy away from anything mildly controversial.) My mom worked for planned parenthood when I was born and my sister and I both volunteered there in our teens. While I can definitely sympathize with my lady friends who are "pro-life" (I kind of hate that term, it's not like I'm opposed to life...), for me it's more of an issue of thinking about everything we've gone through to get the rights we have and how bad things were before (and still are in lots of cases) - I think people become complacent about this absolutely essential right because they don't fully understand how much suffering women went through before these procedures were safe and legal. Anyway, thank you so much for taking a stand!

  36. thank you for a spectacular piece. it so elegantly expreses a lot of things i beleive - and you are very brave for sharing such compelling personal elements.

  37. Hello Milla,
    I just came across this post and want to send a very simple 'thank you' for being so raw and honest here. Sometimes I feel these blogs get stuck on being strictly pretty and positive and everyone is in harmony with complements and overwhelming love - which is great - but I also think a healthy does of reality, and honest words and stories are important too include as well. You gave us that here. I commend you for bravery. Thank you for sharing. xx