The Power of Story: Abortion

Four years ago, during AAUW Florida’s last in-person convention, a small group of members cornered me in the hall and told me that their priest had proclaimed from the pulpit that they could not be members of both the Catholic Church and of AAUW because of our pro-choice stance. I have been told that they have since left AAUW. One of them said, while the others nodded their heads, that women seeking abortion have simply been irresponsible. I had no effective response. Now I do. The story these women believed has been carefully crafted.

When the landmark case Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973, there were many stories of back-alley coat-hanger abortions performed on desperate women, and “women’s lib” was a compelling story for many. Now, those stories have faded away, and there has been an onslaught of state attempts to limit abortion and challenge Roe. What has caused this? I submit that groups of people who firmly believe that life begins at conception, and that that life must be preserved no matter the consequences to the person carrying it, have conducted an intensive and focused campaign to change the story. First, they labeled themselves “pro-life”, even though they are not concerned with the life of the person carrying the fetus. Many appear to strongly believe that a woman’s destiny is to bear children and she will be happier if she does that. They have already written the story of every person with a uterus. 

Rather than “fetus,” they name that tiny potential life a “baby”, even if it is merely a fertilized egg. If pressed, some will admit that they do not accept contraception because it prevents the fulfillment of that life potential. Recently, they have promoted laws that prohibit abortion if a “fetal heartbeat” can be detected, without making it clear that what they are talking about is not an actual heart beating but an electrical impulse. Choosing the term “heartbeat” is consistent with their story: abortion kills a baby. No one wants to kill a baby! On Interstate 10 as you drive toward Tallahassee from the east, billboards line the road featuring pictures of six-month-old children with various heart-wrenching pleas for life. This is how they have successfully made us all cringe when we hear the term “abortion”. But it is a reverse image of the propaganda in World War II posters depicting the enemy as subhuman. The enemy were human beings, and a 28 week fetus is not a baby.

Recent popular fiction glorifies the person who decides to keep a pregnancy in spite of all odds. There’s lots of human interest in the interactions that result, and a lovely ending with a bouncing baby that everyone loves. But if a woman chooses abortion, another story commences. What are those stories? 

In September 2021, three US congresswomen told their stories of abortion. Rep. Cori Bush of Missouri said she was raped on a church youth trip. Rep. Barbara Lee of California said she received a “back-alley” abortion in Mexico after a teenage pregnancy. And Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Washington said she opted for an abortion after being told her pregnancy would be high risk for her and the baby.

You may read more stories on these sites:


And there is

In a recent op-ed in the Florida Times-Union, the board of Jacksonville NOW cited the majority opinion that abortion should be legal, and asked those in agreement to speak up. I agree. AAUW’s public policy calls for for “self-determination of women’s reproductive health decisions.”

Author: Pat DeWitt

I am a retired institutional researcher, a musician and musicologist, and support AAUW as well as several environmental causes.

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