Abortion in Pop Culture: “A Soft Place to Land” and “The Best of Us”

Usually when I talk about abortion in pop culture, I mean film and television. But a few years ago I looked at a handful of novels that included either primary or secondary plots about abortion, and in the past week I read two novels that fit into this category as well.

Susan Rebecca White’s A Soft Place to Land and Sarah Pekkanen’s The Best of Us both included characters that had chosen abortion. This was more of a subplot in Pekkanen’s book, as seemed to mainly affect a relatively minor character. This woman had had an abortion while in college and never told her husband; at the time the story takes place, she is grappling with his desire to have a family and her somewhat vague reluctance to do so.

A Soft Place to Land, on the other hand, put its abortion plotline front and center in the second half of the book. After one of the main characters becomes pregnant as a teenager, she chooses to terminate. Years later, she begins dating a man that is very anti-choice–much to the disappointment of his equally pro-choice mother. White’s characters have several interesting and realistic conversations about choice and religion, as well as autonomy. Her treatment of the subject was definitely more nuanced and thoughtful than Pekkanen’s, who seemed to include the abortion detail as a way to place yet another obstacle on a couple that didn’t really need it.

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Looking for Common Ground in Pittsburgh

Last week I went to Pittsburgh to give a book talk. Before the event I wondered idly what kind of questions I might receive during the discussion portion, which has consistently been my favorite part of talking about Generation Roe. I’ve had my share of anti-choice audience members and even a crasher during a talk in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and I actually like having such a diverse audience, having a chance to hear different opinions and perspectives.

The Pittsburgh audience was polite and attentive, at least while I was talking. But once the discussion portion began, it soon became clear that a number of members of the local Feminists for Life chapter and other anti-choice audience members would be satisfied with nothing less than raising their voices, calling me a liar, refuting the nonpartisan sources I used for research purposes, and willfully take both my written words and spoken answers completely out of context. The hour that I spent in a nonstop whirl of questions, comments, answers, and thinly veiled insults was quite unlike any other experience in my life.

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“Generation Roe: Inside the Future of the Pro-Choice Movement” is Out Today!

When I started this blog in late 2009, I had just finished the first draft of Generation Roe. I didn’t have an agent, much less a publisher, and I wasn’t sure the book would ever see the light of day. I began blogging to dissipate some of the nervous energy created by all of those uncertainties, as well as to sharpen my own writing skills and explore certain topics that were of deep interest.

And now–many, many revisions, blog posts, and uncertainties later–Generation Roe is officially seeing the light of day. I’ve been spending much of this month traveling to cities around the country, giving talks about abortion, reproductive rights, and the future of the pro-choice movement. At nearly every stop, copies of my book have been on store shelves, and each time I see it I get excited all over again. My excitement is two-fold: there’s the pure joy of actually having published a book, something that I’ve dreamed of pretty much since I learned how to read. And there’s also the joy that comes with talking about a subject that I feel so passionately about, and learning from the audiences what they think and what they care about. It’s a huge privilege to spend so much time thinking and talking about reproductive rights, an issue that affects everyone in this country regardless of their gender, race, religion, or socioeconomic background.

Starting tomorrow–or, let’s be honest, later today–I’ll go back to worrying about sales numbers and upcoming events and whether I’ll ever be so fortunate as to write another book. Right now, I’m just going to enjoy the moment.

Why I Am Pro-Choice

bfcd-2013Why am I pro-choice? Because I don’t want a complete stranger telling me to do with my body. Because I don’t want to tell a complete stranger what to do with hers. Because I know that the decision about whether to have a child is too precious and important to be made by anyone other than the woman that is pregnant. Because I don’t think that there is only one right way or right time to become a mother. Because every child should be a wanted one.

Why am I pro-choice? Because of my friends that were able to graduate college. Because of the thousands of women, voices on the other end of the phone, that were able to leave troubled relationships and take care of their sons and daughters and choose how to end much-wanted pregnancies in a way that gave their fatally ill unborn children a measure of dignity, and themselves a measure of peace.

Why am I pro-choice? Because of Dr. David Gunn, Dr. John Britton, James Barrett, Shannon Lowney, Lee Ann Nichols, Robert Sanderson, Dr. Barnett Slepian, and Dr. George Tiller. Because hundreds of clinic directors and staff that have endured threats and attacks and harassment. Because no one should have to wear a bulletproof vest to work.

Why am I pro-choice? Because I can’t imagine being any other way.

Abortion 101: What to Know Before You Go

This post was co-written with reproductive rights activist Sarah Cohen.

When you work in reproductive rights, people pepper you with practical questions about getting an abortion. How much does the procedure cost? How long does it take? Does it hurt? While the answers vary depending on the particular circumstances, there are a few tips you should know.

First, confirm that you actually are pregnant. This might sound obvious, but as many of us know, it’s surprisingly easy to lose track of when your last normal period occurred. If a home pregnancy test shows a positive result, you are probably pregnant; home test kits rarely give a false positive. If a home pregnancy test shows a negative result, it’s possible that you’re too early for the test to detect a pregnancy. Most test kits come with two in the package, so wait a few days and, if you still think you might be pregnant, take the second test.

If you have a regular OB/GYN, ask if he or she either performs abortions or can refer you to someone who does. Simply speaking from anecdotal evidence, it’s not uncommon for doctors to provide abortion care for regular patients, but not advertise that due to the negative attention it could attract. In fact, you might want to ask your doctor before you ever get pregnant, so that if you ever do need an abortion, you know if your doctor can provide one.

If you are indeed pregnant and have decided that you want to have an abortion, the next step is to find a clinic. This sounds simple but, depending on where you live, it may be challenging.  Planned Parenthood and the National Abortion Federation (NAF) can help you find the clinic closest to you.

You can also search online for your area and “abortion services,” but make sure to ask any clinic you call if they provide abortions. If they say no, or don’t give you a straight answer, move on to the next potential clinic. Some anti-choice organizations run fake “clinics” designed to give women incorrect information meant to dissuade them from having an abortion.  [Read more...]