Our “16 & Loved” campaign opened a forum for people to express their love to the three young women who appeared on MTV’s “No Easy Decision.” We received over 200 submissions telling Markai, Natalia and Katie, and every woman who has had an abortion that they are not alone. They are loved.
The messages posted were inspiring, uplifting, personal, revealing, vulnerable, strong, determined, and thoughtful. Some of the messages were simple and to the point, others were more lengthy and intricate. Some put themselves in another woman’s shoes while others spoke from direct personal experience. The messages of love were as diverse and unique to each writer as a personal experience of abortion can be to each woman.
And, some really stood out. They were read more often. They connected with readers.
We know from our web stats that these were most viewed messages:
You are such a strong, beautiful creature and I am so honored to share the same world you live in. You bring hope to so many others who are too scared to help themselves and surrender, not knowing that it is possible to fight for their lives and their bodies. I wish you all the happiness in the world… never forget or underestimate your strength. So many people are touched by what you are doing.
You are beautiful in every way. Thank you.
All my love, Kiska
by An older woman
I began having sex before the Pill. I lost a friend to a back alley abortionist. I suffered the humiliation of getting “permission” from a panel of anonymous male doctors to get an abortion in 1971 in Ontario. I have marched in every available parade carrying a placard that read “Every child a wanted child.” I serve on the Board of my local Women’s clinic. I am the strong, proud mother of two and the grandmother of two more. Know that your decision to stand strong and proud is not lost in the shouting. We hear you. We thank you.
I was in my twenties and married when I found out I was pregnant. My husband and I made the decision together for me to abort the pregnancy. It was the best thing for us at the time. I will never forget what the doctor said, ‘It is not that you don’t want children, it is just not the right time for children.’ I live in a community that would shun me if I ever admitted to an abortion. You are braver than me because you are willing to tell your story. Even though I may not know you, I love you and am proud of what you are doing.
I asked two of Exhale’s most prominent leaders, both with extensive experience listening to women who have had abortions, to share the submissions that connected the most with them, and to describe why.
Susan Lehman, Exhale’s 2010 recipient of our Rachel Falls Award, writes:
“The challenge is to narrow the selections; the reward is in finding three that serve as well as these do! First, I was touched by Courtney who spoke from her experience as a clinic counselor and nurse to say very simply, “Every day, good women choose abortion.” There’s so much reassurance in this statement, and Exhale counselors know it’s truth from the kind and caring callers we speak to every day of the week. Next, proud’s amazing affirmation that “deciding to have [an abortion] comes from a place of love,” beautifully reflects the complexities inherent in each woman’s story and decision. Finally, I found Kathryn who says to Natalia, Markai, and Katie, “we are now connected in the most intimate of feminine experiences, and I am now here for you and you are here for me.” She reaches out in the open and trusting manner that we consistently witness and value from women on the online community. Their posts, and those of the other women who came through on “16 & Loved,” resonate fully with me as an Exhale volunteer, and as a woman seeking to end the stigma and isolation of abortion.
Ijeoma Ezeofor, a Pro-Voice Ambassador and Training Assistant, writes:
“Four posts really resonated with me: One was from a mother reflecting on the fact that her abortion had been the best parenting decision she could have made. Another was from a woman who could not get pregnant, thanking Markai, Natalia, and Katie for opening up about their personal experiences and sending them love and support. The third post was from a pro-life woman who reminded us that abortion isn’t about right vs. wrong, and that women who make the decision to have an abortion have the right to be respected and loved, not ostracized for her choice. And the last post came from a woman who worked in an abortion clinic who eloquently reinforced that “Every day, good women choose abortion. Every day, good women make difficult, necessary decisions about their families and their lives.”
These posts have something unexpected in common: their differences. All these perspectives are so different and yet they are all equally part of the abortion story. All these women reflect the reality of abortion, that abortion is not black and white: it’s every shade of gray you can imagine and it’s about respecting and validating all those shades of gray. It’s about recognizing the mothers, fathers, choice and life activists, the providers, the women who can’t have children, the ones who can. It’s about recognizing that sisters, friends, pastors, cops, senators, children, old women, young men, intersex individuals, two moms and two dads all in their own way are affected by abortion. And it’s about recognizing that when we ostracize Markai, Natalia, Katie, and the thousands of women like them, we tell all those people, and ourselves that we should be ashamed, we should be silenced.
As an after-abortion counselor, I am humbled by all the women and men I’ve spoken with who, for a brief time in their life, let me into one of the most vulnerable times of their lives. I am grateful to all the people who showed their support and posted on the “16 and Loved” blog. Reading the posts is so inspirational and reminds me that there are many out there who are equally committed to creating an environment of support for everyone affected by abortion.
The messages on “16 & Loved” are more than words. Each message is a testament to our ability and our need to connect with one another about abortion in ways that further our humanity and promote understanding. Expressing and receiving love about a personal abortion experience doesn’t require that you have a personal abortion story, but it does require you listen openly and speak personally, from the heart.