But This Prank Ain’t Funny
Here’s the list of why I chose to terminate my pregnancy on April 1st.
1. I’m a 47-year-old Black mother living in America who is also a widow and newly single.
The list is one sentence, but it is loaded with personal and political challenges. The list is also layered with the context of my experience and the realities of the risk associated with pregnancy at any age.
First, in the US, “Black mothers are three to four times more likely to die from pregnancy-related complications than White women.” This means I was making a choice between an abortion and risking possible death, leaving my only child an orphan (with a new sibling).
Second, when I finally confirmed I was pregnant at Week 6, I reached out to a feminist health center/abortion provider to schedule a consultation, but the climate is so charged that they no longer do consultations. This means you have to know you want an abortion to make an appointment.
Third, when I reached out to find a Black woman or WOC OB/GYN to run tests to help me to determine my ability to carry a baby to term safely and to survive myself at my age, I encountered another set of problems. 1) Many of the Black or WOC doctors focus only on gynecology or fertility but were not practicing obstetrics, and 2) I had to know I wanted to have a baby to schedule an appointment. I spent weeks nauseous, tired, crying, and scared-- and time was ticking.
I’m scared to have an abortion
I’m scared of having another miscarriage
I’m scared of having a new baby
I’m scared of having twins
I’m scared of raising a child alone
I’m scared of parenting with the father
I’m scared doctors won’t treat me right
I’m scared I might die and leave my kid an orphan
I’m simply scared
And there is no joy when there is so much fear
It is basically common knowledge that too many Black women, in every class status, do not survive giving birth, yet there is no place to go to discuss your (maternal) health options that center women, especially Black women. Now the Supreme Court “leaked document” revealed the plan to overturn Roe v Wade giving ownership over my body and my health to individual states, and further restricting my freedoms as a Black person. And yet somehow my white male colleague thought a “leaked document” joke during a faculty meeting was a good way to break the ice before giving the DEI committee report. By this time, I was no longer pregnant but nauseated by the toxicity of an unchecked workplace culture that was politely misogynistic.
So I chose to channel my inner Audre by “transforming silence into language and action” telling my faculty colleagues: 1) I just had an abortion and I HAVE NO SHAME; 2) it was no laughing matter; 3) and NO ONE should be allowed to joke about a national crisis during mandatory work meetings without consequences for their actions, NO ONE should laugh at the joke, and NO ONE should sit quietly when it happens. Isn’t it enough that pregnant (scared and confused) women tend to suffer in silence during pregnancy and post abortions, but do we also have to endure insensitive
men coworkers making jokes about the “leaked document” as if it is not a national crisis?
In our (work) culture women don’t reveal when they are pregnant until they are well beyond the first trimester often out of fear of having a miscarriage and having to mourn publicly, being discriminated against by their employer, and/or enduring judgement if they choose to abort. But keeping pregnancy secret means it is also hard to fight for the workplace protections that we need, protection that would give us space to make good choices and to ask for and receive care/support when we need it most. I told my colleagues, friends, and family that I was pregnant immediately because I needed them to show me grace while I was nauseous, sick, and barely able to work a full day for 8-10 weeks. I needed the time to make good decisions for myself.
So why haven’t we normalized talking about pregnancy and abortion by now?
It’s likely because workplaces are often toxic spaces; employers regularly discriminate against pregnant workers, ignore sexual harassment and assault, and perpetuate racism, sexism, ableism, transphobia, and so much more. This sends a clear message that you cannot be honest about being pregnant or choosing to have a safe medical procedure. So now I’m telling everyone that I terminated my pregnancy because Lifers and neutral status quoers should not own or foreclose this conversation. I refuse to hide as if I have done something wrong; I’m a grown working woman and head of my household. I’m the decision-maker in this body.
Black women’s high maternal mortality rates are related to the unique interlocking oppressions of racism and sexism. If we talked about abortion more, we might have adequate leave for abortions since the recovery includes at least 3-4 days of severe cramping. If we talked about abortions, more of us might demand adequate health insurance and health care services during the early stages of pregnancy for all people who are pregnant. This way pregnant people can determine whether their body is capable of enduring pregnancy and childbirth based on their own medical history. If we talked about abortion more openly, we might equip pregnant people to make the best choices for themselves and not expect them to do the most with the least amount of support, especially in an economy that does not support families of any size. If we talked more openly about having control over our bodies as women, workers, and Black people, then we might be organizing for universal childcare and parental leave—specifically recognizing that you need time to recover and heal after pregnancy and childbirth—and not simply a few days at home for “bonding,” in addition to organizing for worker protections and better working conditions as part of our racial justice demands
Denying Black women adequate care and resources to choose to have children and raise them, while also forcing us to give birth and have children we do not want even when it might mean our death is a national crisis. So where are all the statements denouncing how the state is trying to kill us by denying access to abortions? In this moment, I would appreciate more recognition of Black women’s right to live free.
Access to abortion is a women’s issue.
Who among us remembers Shalon Irving?
Access to abortion is a Black Lives Matter issue!
Who among us is going to #TrustBlackWomen?
Access to abortion is a Black worker issue!
Who among us is going to demand #UniversalChildcare?
Access to abortion is a Black feminist issue!
Who among us is going to demand #BlackWomensEqualPay?
Access to abortion is a Black health disparity issue!
Who among us is going to March on May 14th?