I Need to Talk About Abortion.
I’m not talking about travel or flight attendant life today.
In thinking about what I wanted to write this week everything fell short. After the leaked draft of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, dismantling 50 years of precedent and putting control of women’s bodies in the hands of their government, I couldn’t possibly tell you the 10 most extra things I bring on a work trip or how to pack a lighter suitcase.
I have a lot of feelings about what’s happening, and writing is the best tool I have to process them. So we’re gonna do that.
This may not be my “lane,” but I’m a woman in America and it is all I can think about. If you are not into this kind of content, feel free to skip this episode and come back in two weeks for the next post.
I’m not going to outline every one of the many, many reasons that bring me to believing a woman should have absolute control over her own body. As much as I love a good debate, this isn’t that. I’m not here to spar today. I’m just going to lay out how I’m feeling. My drop in the bucket of a million different perspectives.
My heart hurts.
I feel weighted down by disappointment. I feel hopeless. I feel scared. And I am angry as fuck.
I feel deep, searing betrayal.
I wish I were home alone to process this life-altering news instead of on a work trip, surrounded by strangers. I want to lay in bed and pull the covers up over my head. To sit in quiet, to delay seeing the inevitable. My rights are being stripped away.
I’m not currently pregnant, but why should that matter? The revelation that people in this country—who I’ve never met, and many of them men—will begin to have more say over my body than I do, it takes my breath away. Makes it hard to see light in the world. This is heavy. I feel flattened by its weight.
Now that I’ve summed up my feelings on the matter, here are some of the things I’m thinking about, when it comes to abortion, right now.
The abortion debate has been going on for a long time. Because of its longevity, we see the same arguments over and over. We become numb to them, desensitized, and it starts to sound normal that we are talking about at what point we can collectively decide to sacrifice a woman’s life to protect something inside her that we deemed more valuable. The slogans and catch-phrases are so mainstream that we forget to question them. Can you be “pro-life” if you’d have a woman die to incubate a baby? In these debates we talk of corpses—who have more bodily autonomy than living women. Of farm animals, who also are forced into unwanted births.
This is not normal.
Please, take a second to put yourself in my shoes. Especially if you’re a man. Close your eyes and imagine a group of people far, far away has decided that your life matters less than something inside you. Imagine the option of losing your leg to gangrene or dying of the disease. And your doctor says “No, save the leg.”
Kiss your family goodbye. We love legs.
Imagine if the government mandated that you must go under the knife. Have a major, invasive surgical procedure. One you don’t want. There are risks, your life being one of them. But it’s worth the risk, your government says. Maybe it’s gastric bypass surgery, maybe it is brain surgery. Maybe the doctor goes in for spinal surgery you don’t want. Perhaps a lung transplant you didn’t ask for. Maybe you get an unsolicited root canal.
Hopefully you won’t be one of the 30% of surgical patients who suffer complications. Hopefully you won’t hemorrhage or have an allergic reaction to anesthesia, or go into cardiac arrest, or suffer an infection like sepsis. Hopefully you won’t be one of the more than 250,000 people who die from medical errors in hospitals every year in America.
You could be, but stay positive.
The point is that forcing people to have their bodies torn apart and put back together against the will of that human being is SUPER FUCKED UP. We would never submit to something as barbaric as forced surgeries, and yet we insist women and uterus-having people take on the risk of carrying a pregnancy to term and then birthing a baby or a fetus—sometimes a dead one!
This is not normal.
Birth is not taking a post-chipotle shit.
It is not running a 5k.
It is not a syringe in the arm.
Women have been doing it for millennia because we are magical and amazing, but it is not EASY. There is an entire industry devoted to training us for the big day of birth. We take classes and read books and agonize over whether we will be strong enough to withstand the pain without an epidural.
In the debate over abortion, people forget that we are talking about a major medical procedure. And giving medical care without consent is both illegal and unethical.
If you’re wondering why I’m hyper-focused on the medical aspect of birth, it’s because we have been so numbed by this ongoing debate that we don’t stop to think about context. We don’t fully understand what we are advocating for. We don’t speak about how inhumane it is to subject people to forced surgeries.
That, and I’ve got family history.
My mother had a c-section when she had me. In true Toni fashion, I was three weeks late and after a long and unproductive labor, things started to become dangerous for my mother and me. Her blood pressure dropped so low that she was nearly dead, and at this point a cesarian was necessary. Because of her barely conscious state, she can’t describe to me the feeling of that surgery.
She does, however, recall with great, feeling detail, the experience of giving birth to my brother a year later. He was also a c-section baby. She was too scared to try a vaginal birth after having one cesarian under her belt. The devil you know, you know?
This time, she was fully conscious. An epidural took the pain, but not the sensation.
My mom remembers vividly the feeling of her skin being cut in a long line. It’s now a scar on her belly. She told me how the clamps felt, holding her stomach open. She makes a gagging sound when she recalls aloud the feeling of the doctor’s hands inside her, moving around, squishing through fluid, fat, muscle, repositioning organs, and pulling her baby out. She vomited into a bucket placed beside her head while this process went on, and she tells me that the heaving motions made the feeling worse. With her abdomen cut open, her organs more free to move, each clench and release during the vomiting caused more nausea.
The pain may have been numbed, but she felt every snip and stich.
Then they stapled her stomach. With a staple gun. And she felt that, too.
Imagine cutting someone’s flesh open and sticking your hands inside of them against their will. Imagine doctors—who made an oath to do no harm—being forced to take part in this ritual. Being forced to LET THEIR PATIENT DIE in some instances in order to save something growing inside them.
“And don’t forget,” my mom said, when I asked her about this experience again recently, “Your body is never the same afterward.”
She wasn’t talking about weight gain. She was talking about all the nuanced ways a person’s body changes after pregnancy. Our hair texture can change, our skin, our sense of taste and smell, our breast shape and size. A woman peeing when she sneezes after childbirth is more than just a well-placed joke in a movie. Would this be funny if a man peed every time he sneezed? My mom was talking more specifically about the scars that stay with you. Cesarian scar tissue can cause infections, numbness, abdominal pain, back pain. Short term or forever.
Some women laud their scars and show proudly what their bodies have been through. And I think that is beautiful. But if these scars were given against a person’s will, they are not beautiful at all.
My grandmother gave birth to six children and wound up raising all of them on her own while working. She remained at or very close to the poverty line for the rest of her life. To this day. She worked into her 70s and has little to show for it. How different would her life have been with four babies instead of six?
I’m not wishing my mom (the second youngest) or my aunt didn’t exist. I’m simply noticing how real the struggle is for a woman raising a litter of babies on her own. I’m simply noticing how long it takes to recover financially or emotionally from that. I’m noticing the answer might be “never”.
These family stories are not stories of abortion. But they are examples of trauma and struggle that no person should have to go through if they don’t choose it for themselves.
They call it a “geriatric pregnancy” if a pregnant person is over age 35.
I’m 36 years old and want to have kids someday. If and when I get pregnant, I’ll consider it a miracle. I’ll feel terror, of course, but also joy.
But what if my future (geriatric) pregnancy doesn’t go according to plan? What if everything isn’t fine? What if there are complications that threaten my life? Do these new cells inside me—that I made—really take precedent over my life? This life I’ve cultivated over three plus decades. Do these cells inside me really warrant stealing me from everyone I love? Do these cells warrant making widowers? Taking daughters from mothers and fathers? Aunts from nieces and nephews? Does every person in my life really deserve to lose me because of some stranger’s religious beliefs?
What if the fetus is not viable, will have no chance of survival? Should I be forced to carry it to term? Feeling loss and grief every day for 252 days? Forced to go through the excruciating pain of birth while simultaneously undergoing the mental trauma of having to give birth to a dead baby?
Why would you ask this of someone?
Besides the fact that I am the only person on this earth who deserves to have control over my body—setting that God-given right aside for just a moment.
Why do so many people fight so hard to put women like me in that position? How can you look in a rape victim’s eyes and tell her she must keep this reminder of the worst moments of her life? How can you look at a family barely making ends meet and tell them to stretch their poverty-level wages even further, past the breaking point, in order to have another baby? How can you look at a human being and decide the small grouping of cells growing in their body is more important than her wishes, desires, her life?
And when you ask these questions, the answer presents itself.
You don’t believe I’m as human as you are.
I am my organs.
I am procreation.
I am an incubator.
I am a vessel.
I am a tool.
If you’re in the “pro-life” camp, chances are you don’t even know you think this way. Very good marketing campaigns over the years have led you to believe you’re fighting to stop the murder of babies. It’s clever. It’s become a very successful rallying cry.
But have you stopped to search your own soul?
Why is the taking of a living, breathing, fully formed human life okay in your eyes?
Have you stopped to wonder why those leading your movement haven’t done more for real babies? Ones that exist in real life, outside of a womb? Ones who breathe air and need food and shelter and love? Should we not take care of those ones first?
Am I not one of God’s children, too?
We’re all familiar with the word “rape” which doesn’t do nearly enough to sound as vile as the act is. We get to hear a lot about hypothetical rapes during abortion discussions, because this is the lowest possible bar that could bring out a hardliner’s empathy. “But what about in the case of rape or incest?”
We, as women in America, have been conditioned to believe that we are not worthy of making decisions about our bodies until we are violently attacked. We’ve passed this message on to our daughters, and we reinforce it every time we ask the question. “But what about cases of rape or incest?”
The implication, what goes unsaid, is that those women who have undergone horrific trauma now deserve to make their own choices. Now that the damage is done. As if it is a rite of passage.
And still many, many millions of people in this country cannot reach even that dirt-floor level of empathy.
Rape is classified as a sex crime, but rape is not just about sex. It is about Dominance. Power. Control over another human being.
And you know what?
So is this.
Forced pregnancy and forced birth are violent acts. They are the taking of something that is not yours. It is asserting dominance. It is stealing. It is pillaging. It is defiling. It is villainous. And it is, every single time, in the name of control. Not babies.
We are backsliding into dark days. When the whims of a few caused oppression of many. But we will fight. The fight for bodily autonomy, the fight for equal protection under the law, will never, ever end. Abortion is healthcare and bodily autonomy is a human right. It is inherent. Bestowed upon us by forces far bigger, more important, and more impressive than a white man in a black robe can ever be.
I am divine. My body is my temple. It is sacred, and it is mine.
This is not up for debate.
To everyone feeling triggered by the news this week, I see you. I’m with you. And to all of you who have made it to the end of this post, I give my sincerest, most heart-felt, wet-eyed thanks. Thank you for holding space for me here.
If you want to take action, here are some very easy things you can do:
1. Donate to your local abortion providers.
How to find, contact, and donate to your local abortion fund – National Network of Abortion Funds
2. Sign the ACLU Petition.
Pledge to defend our abortion rights | American Civil Liberties Union (aclu.org)
3. Call your local representative and tell them to codify abortion rights into law.
Read more, including links to how to find your local Rep in this Refinery29 Article:
How To Call My Representatives, Defend Abortion Rights (refinery29.com)
Or fill out the form on Planned Parenthood to automatically be connected to your representative. They also have a script, in case you get nervous under pressure.
Stop anti-abortion bills. Call your Representative now! | Planned Parenthood Texas Votes (plannedparenthoodaction.org)
Let us be gentle with ourselves and one another. And let’s get ready to fight like hell.
Hey there, reader.
Thank you so much for stopping by and for getting through to the end of this post. Some parts were difficult to write, and I’m sure some were difficult to read. If you need someone to talk to feel free to hit me up in the comments, or privately via email or Instagram.
If you’re in the mood for something lighter, feel free to check out some of my flight attendant content on the site.
The 7 Most Annoying Things about Flight Attendants
Why Are Flight Attendants So Cranky? Here are 40 Good Reasons.
How to Not Go Broke At Work: 8 Money-Saving Tips for Flight Attendants
Toni’s Top 9 Layovers of All Time
If you like the tone here and don’t mind things being deep and sometimes feelings-heavy, (or inspirational?) then consider some of these posts:
Imposter Syndrome Strikes Again: What, Why, & How to Fight It
2 Year Sober-versary & The Shit People Don’t Tell You About Quitting Alcohol
The Girl who Couldn’t: Stories, Self-worth, & Toxic Independence
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If you want to stay up to date with more feelings as I unravel them, or more flight attendant and travel content, then consider subscribing. I’d love to have you.
Thanks again for being here.
Love you Tone. ❤️
Great work. Beautifully written. Brav!!!!
Thanks Core <3
This was a hard week. I have a million more thoughts and feelings about it, but in the immediate aftermath this was the big stuff on my mind.