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I didn't write about it because I was scared. I started writing and I saw my past spelled out in less than 500 words, and it was unadorned—brutal in its honesty. I imagined hearing it read out loud and I placed my finger on the delete button and erased my story. Why did I delete? For the same reason that I am hesitating now as I write the words out again; I am afraid of the response. Like many women who participate in a public sphere, I have been called all kinds of names, from unhinged to stupid to slutty to an ingenue with a liberal arts degree (that one really stung), I've grown accustomed to being publicly derided even when writing about nothing more important than Internet etiquette. And so when you know that you're bound to get cruel words slung at you for writing fairly innocuous things, writing something serious and personal takes on a different tenor all together, especially in a media world that already condescends to women for oversharing, while praising men for being honest (though that's another story all together).
The impulse to keep quiet, though, and the impulse to keep our stories private is exactly what people like Rick Perry want. Perry might claim that he likes to hear women scream, but that's only because he knows he has the brute legislative power to silence them. The truth is a lot closer to what Lt. Governor Dewhurst said, "We're going to make sure no human being can talk for two weeks." The stigma can't go away if it's kept under wraps and behind closed doors. It is essential that the voices of all women are heard, no matter what their stories are. Not every story will have a happy ending, and not every woman will make a choice that everyone agrees with. It doesn't matter though, because it still needs to be her choice to make. My story is pretty straightforward, though it's not necessarily pretty. I was nineteen, and at nineteen weeks pregnant, I had a miscarriage. It's still called a miscarriage and not a stillbirth at that stage because the fetus isn't viable. Did that make it harder or easier, knowing that viability wasn't yet an option? I don't know. It made it what it was. It was hard. And then it was over. I had made a choice, one that I was able to make in part because I had certain privileges that included comprehensive health insurance and a supportive family and partner, but that choice got taken away. After that experience, my life kept going. I went back to school. I worked. I got married. I had children. I have done a lot of things that would probably, in the eyes of Rick Perry, make me seem like a success. I never had an abortion. Probably Rick Perry thinks that I should have learned from my own example, that I should know that it is possible to be pregnant as a teenager and still go on to live a successful life with multiple opportunities for fulfillment and happiness.
Here's what I know. When I was pregnant at nineteen, I lived in a state and in a city where I had ready access to abortion providers. I grew up in a family and with an education that made me aware of what my options were and confident enough to make a choice based on what I felt was right for me and my future. I had a support system in place and people who were looking out for my best interests. I had excellent health coverage and was able to go to an amazing doctor who supported my right to make a choice. I had, in other words, about as ideal of a situation as any nineteen-year-old pregnant woman could hope to have, which, let's be honest here, is still so far from ideal as to be laughable. But because I had all those things, and because I am aware of how privileged I was to have them, I would never, ever presume to judge what someone else's choice would be if they were in the same situation as I had been, or one that is entirely different. A woman's body is not a battlefield. No arbitrary line can be drawn across it based on what Rick Perry thinks is right. The bill that he is still trying to push through the legislature doesn't just take away abortion rights. It guarantees the closing of the majority of abortion clinics in Texas, many of which provide other reproductive health services. It forces women who want to obtain abortions to visit a doctor on two separate occasions before getting the procedure, making it difficult for women who need to travel to a clinic because of what might mean a significant loss in work days. It makes it impossible for a woman to get an abortion after twenty weeks, even in cases of rape or incest. This bill takes a woman's right to choose out of her hands and into the hands of a group of powerful men who don't care about women's stories. They don't want to hear women's voices unless those voices are crying in defeat. And this is why we must tell our stories, and have our voices heard, and march forward, redrawing the lines of battle so that they are not on a woman's body, but are instead on the doorstep of the Texas State legislature and anywhere else that tries to take away our choice.
Follow Kristin Iversen on twitter @kmiversen