I’d forgotten that January 22, 2014 is the 41st anniversary of legalized abortion in America. And guess who reminded me? Samantha Jones and Carrie Bradshaw. The ladies of Sex & the City.
It can’t be a coincidence that the E! network scheduled the episode about Miranda’s unwanted pregnancy – titled ‘Coulda Woulda Shoulda’ – for January 22. After viewers learn that Carrie had one abortion and Samantha had two, the story ends with Miranda aborting her procedure, choosing to keep the baby after all.
That episode premiered in 2001, and those ladies are long gone (but, obviously not off the air). Thirteen years later, HBO’s Girls provides the girls everyone talks about now, and they talk about abortion repeatedly. It’s not that way in real life. At least, not where I live.
Since the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973, so very much has changed about women’s reproductive health treatments and options, and how they intersect with the law. A constant is that for the women getting the abortions, the decision is rarely easy, before, during and after, and now the Internet is helping with that, too.
Exhale offers a free, 24/7 non-judgmental talkline by trained volunteer counselors for women who have had an abortion as well as their partners, families and friends. Forty volunteer counselors go through a rigorous 60-hour training and field thousands of calls a year, seven days a week. The program was founded by women who have had an abortion for women who have had an abortion. That makes a difference.
Deputy Director Jaime-Alexis Fowler told me that one in three American women has an abortion before age 45. “After 11 years listening on the talk line, we’ve learned that women’s stories are more than the surrounding politics; they are complicated, nuanced, and filled with variation,” she said. Exhale tries to create “a unique space for those with personal abortion experiences that supports and respects them, free from stigma, and strengths-based.”
In 2013, Exhale supported five “Pro-Voice Fellows” to travel around the US sharing their personal abortion stories in intimate settings to facilitate conversations about abortion. Through storysharing and listening, the effort aimed to spark a cultural shift toward understanding and compassion for women who choose abortion that Ms. Fowler believes would be hugely beneficial to us all. She said analysis of the “Pro-Voice Fellows” event revealed that 90% of audience members left the conversations feeling open to new perspectives on abortion.
Once again, the magic happens when people speak up. Assumptions are born in silence.