Say the Word
Abortion. Why is it so difficult to say this word? Why do senators, congressmen, presidents, people in all walks of life refer to “reproductive health care”, or “the right to choose.”?
Yes, abortion is reproductive health care. Yes, it should be an option for a woman making a choice about her body, her family, her future. But people still avoid the word, abortion.
Abortion meaning to miscarry or cause to miscarry before her time. Taken from the Latin, abortus meaning “to miscarry, be aborted, fail, disappear, pass away. The word first appears in English around 1570. This was long before abortion became criminal or illegal. It was a word used to describe miscarriage either spontaneous or induced.
In the 40s, 50s and early 60s abortion was referred to euphemistically as an “illegal operation”. Things began to change in 1962 with Sherri Finkbine’s story. Married and pregnant with her fifth child she found out the drug she had been taking was thalidomide which causes fetal deformities. Life Magazine carried her story and although the hospital refused to perform her abortion, she was able to travel to Sweden for the procedure. A majority of Americans supported her decision. During the 1964-65 rubella outbreak therapeutic abortions became a topic of discussion which aided the growing movement to legalize abortion. The word abortion began to come back into speech and into the press.
In the late sixties women who had had abortions and been shamed into silence began sharing their stories. In 1969 the Red Stockings conducted what was the first speak out on abortion in Union Square in New York. Women spoke openly about their own illegal abortions and made the case for abolishing abortion laws in New York. Around the country women began to share their stories in feminist consciousness raising groups and in legislative sessions.
But in recent years many in the public have been reluctant to say the word.
In 2016 in an oval office statement marking the 43rd anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision, then President Obama referred to Roe as “…affirming a woman’s freedom to make her own choices about her body and her health.” Later he talks about protecting constitutional rights, “… including protecting a woman’s access to safe, affordable health care.
He never says the word, abortion!
During the 2016 televised Presidential campaign debates none of the moderators asked any questions about abortion.
Hilary Clinton called out CNN for not asking candidates about abortion care.
“We’ve not had one question about a woman’s right to make her own decisions about reproductive health care, not one question,” Clinton said. “And in the meantime, we have states, governors doing everything they can to restrict women’s rights. We have a presidential candidate by the name of Donald Trump saying that women should be punished and we are never asked about this.”
President Biden has his own difficulties with the word. His press releases refer to a woman’s choice or reproductive care. He finally said abortion in response to the Supreme Court decision on June 24th to take away this right from women. (https://didbidensayabortionyet.org/)
Today women are again speaking out loud about their abortions before Roe, after Roe, and since the cruel June 24th decision by the Court bent on making women second class citizens.
Groups like “Shout Your Abortion”, “We Testify” and brave individuals who are navigating restrictions and traveling to other states for life saving abortions are speaking up. The Bad Old Days Posse (I am a member) visits college classrooms to tell students about the abortions they had pre-Roe. Outraged women are telling their stories to the press, posting them on YouTube, joining pro-choice marches, working for pro-choice candidates.
Yet some people still have a hard time saying the word.
What is it again? Oh yes, abortion.