Today I was faced with possibly the greatest moral dilemma I’ve ever faced at Abortion Access Front. A struggle so great it made me question my beliefs, my convictions, my desires.
See, I saw this headline “WATCH: How a literature professor is using books to end abortion.” And I thought “Oh dip!!! I was a comparative literature major and this is gonna be the funniest thing in the world for me to dunk on.” And then … the dilemma. You see, my friends this is a VIDEO PODCAST!! DO I LISTEN TO A FUCKING 50 MINUTE PODCAST TO WRITE THIS POST? A perfect post delivered to me and the COST… 50 minutes of my time listening to anti-abortion whackos.
But I DID PUT IT ON IN THE BACKGROUND, for you people. Honestly, twas pretty boring. But it is… v funny to us to hear two people wax on about the history of Operation Rescue like it’s the fucking civil rights movement.
And they… really do gloss over the whole “violence” part of history. Like the writer who’s gonna use BOOKS to absolutely DESTROY us, Karen Swallow Prior, does say the violence caused them to like maybe reexamine their methodology a little. But, not much.
It’s honestly terrifying to us that someone who seems smartish and who is an avid reader could still be anti-abortion. But not just like, lightly anti-abortion, FULL ON GO TO CLINICS AND PROTEST AND HARRASS PATIENTS AND WORK AT A CRISIS PREGNANCY CENTER ANTI-ABORTION!
One funny line: “We were doing a course on social reform for our pro-life internship.” A true nightmare. Also all internships are anti-life, let’s be real.
YOU KNOW HOW LONG IT TAKES THIS VIDEO PODCAST TO GET TO FUNDAMENTAL MISREADINGS OF LITERATURE?? SO LONG! OVER 30 MINUTES!
“Abortion symbolizes everything about what it means to be human.” OK HERE WE GO! THIS IS THE GOOD STUFF.
They talk about poetry which we would argue… is not books like the title suggests. And then they get to … talking about authors, which again, an author’s personal life is also… not books. The host brings up that like, a lot of men who wrote great literature… were bad guys. He references John Steinbeck who apparently forced his wife to have an abortion so he could achieve literary greatness (and he mentions other authors who did the same). To this we say “Bro, pro-abortion rights people have NEVER been pro- FORCED abortion just as we are not pro-FORCED BIRTH.” THIS IS ALSO HORRIFYING TO US. What world do you think we live in???
But also this reality that men are bad doesn’t make us… anti-abortion cuz we are not reductive. And we can reason. And also why would we punish future generations of women because of bad things bad men do???
And then Swallow Prior says we’re long overdue for a reckoning with bad characters in literature, “That me too abortion too reckoning.” And to that we say “Um, don’t you teach at a COLLEGE?” Pretty sure we’ve been talking about how to reckon with good writers who were also racist, sexist, etc. since I was in college at least (forever ago) and prob long before.
Well so, this pod did not deliver what I wanted so I went to a SECOND source: an ARTICLE titled “How Poetry Might Change the Pro-Life Debate” by Karen Swallow Prior. I was in it! You see, there’s nothing I love more than people arguing for nuance who… refuse to have any understanding of nuance.
She gives a few examples of poems of writers mourning their abortion or the life they could have had. And she uses that to say look here, abortion has this horrible toll. And sure, we’re all about “Shout Your Abortion” and destigmatizing but… we are not out here pretending that any experience of abortion is INVALID! Why can’t you do the same, Karen?? If she’s able to acknowledge that these reactions to abortion exist… why can’t she make the logical jump to “OK, but I’m reading these people talking about how abortion liberated them and that’s moving too?” Hmmm I wonder whyyyyy.
Then she moves to a truly baffling reading of Alice Walker. We’re gonna link to the stunning poem here but here are some parts Swallow Prior highlights:
Abortion, for many women, is more than an experience of suffering beyond anything most men will ever know; it is an act of mercy, and an act of self-defense
Yes, indeed, the white man can say, Your children have the right to life. Therefore I will call back from the dead those 30 million who were tossed overboard during the centuries of the slave trade. And the other millions who died in my cotton fields and hanging from trees.
Guess what Swallow Prior writes next??? “Walker couldn’t be more wrong than when she says abortion is an act of “mercy.” (The agent of death has simply changed from man to woman.)” AHHHHHHHH! OK so she then does say that we have to acknowledge past wrong. But OH BOY is this a misreading of what this poem is saying. It’s like she can’t even THINK for a SECOND that abortion could lead to some kind of agency.
I used to think the people who are SO close to understanding but make a … steep curve left are the scariest. Like people who are like “I understand that there are a lot of economic reasons for abortion … but also abortion should be illegal and we’ll fix the economy eventually.” But now it kinda seems like … these people can also be the people who PARTICIPATE IN RED ROSE RESCUE. So, maybe all forms of denying people rights are insidious even if you THINK you are coming from a good place… if where you end is “So I’m gonna go shame them in clinics” you are… the same as the maniacs.
And then later Swallow Prior reference The Bell Jar, “The bell jar in poet Sylvia Plath’s autobiographical novel of that title refers to the jars that hold preserved human fetuses in a medical lab.These jars come to symbolize the narrator’s feeling of being trapped by the restrictions imposed on her as a woman living in the mid-20th century.” And then she just kinda moves on. TRAPPED BY WHAT?!?!?! TRAPPED BY NOT BEING IN CONTROL OF HER BODY???? MAYBE SHE IS TRAPPED BY THE VERY THING YOU WANT TO TAKE AWAY FROM WOMEN!!! MAYBE THAT’S WHAT THAT WHOLE BOOK IS ABOUT??
Look, I’ve wasted a lot of this day on this woman and … was it worth it? For this fire blog? I don’t know. But if I could leave you with a few things: it is NOT nuanced to argue that because some people feel sad about their abortions NO people should be able to have them. Two, we are obviously anti-anyone pressuring a woman into an abortion against her will. Sexual freedom and economic freedom are tied to safe and legal abortion. Don’t go stand inside of clinics and harass patients!