Our CEO and Founder, Amy Hagstrom Miller was recently invited to speak at the capitol for the 40th anniversary of the Roe V. Wade decision, which made it legal for women and families to seek safe, private abortion care in the United States. Amy’s speech motivates us, and reminds us to keep our energy and spirits high, as we fight for many more years of reproductive freedom.
“Thank you for inviting me here today. I am honored to be among my fellow Reproductive Freedom Fighters on the 40th anniversary of Roe v Wade. We abortion providers often find ourselves reminding our opposition that abortion did not start with Roe V Wade. Safe and legal abortion started with Roe v. Wade and that is truly something to celebrate.
I have worked in women’s health clinics for the past 24 years delivering the care, compassion and respect women deserve. I am humbled by the stories I hear, I am amazed by women’s depth and power and I am truly blessed to have my life’s work in this field. Before I get all revved up, I’d like to take a moment to thank the men and women who work at Whole Woman’s Health and all the other abortion care workers who are here today. This is group of fabulous women and men who deliver impeccable care to women day in and day out. These are the folks that make choice a reality for women every day. Please wave your hands up in the air so we can see you – and take in the cheers that you so deserve.
So, when you are an abortion provider in Texas it is bit hard to “celebrate Roe.” This 40th anniversary gives me pause. To me, Roe is not enough. Roe is just BASIC. And the rights Roe brought us still do not exist for all. So many poor women are left behind. So many women are still shamed. Providers are still stigmatized. The public discourse is plagued by simplistic dualism that begs for more complexity, for more nuance; for embracing the grey, the ambiguity, and the depth of feeling that people in our culture have about abortion.
Women do not come into my clinics saying “I would like to exercise my civil right to have an abortion”. That is not how women experience this powerful and personal decision. Providers know that; and the women we serve know that. It is time for a more open and honest conversation about abortion in this country. It is time for us, the people who support the women, to break the silence and talk about abortion. Don’t let those “pop shots” people hurl into conversations go unaddressed.
- When people say to you “I don’t believe in abortion” what if you said “Most women never think they will need an abortion until they do. You could be that woman someday.”
- Or if you hear “I am pro-choice but I’d never have an abortion” what if you said “No one gets pregnant to have an abortion, it is not something anyone plans on. Part of being prochoice for me is to be sure that I do not contribute to the stigma that surrounds abortion.”
As I’ve said, Roe is not enough. So I ask myself, as someone from the next generation carrying our work forward for the next 40, what do we want our future to look like?
My life’s work is to end the stigma around abortion in this country.
As you know, in Texas we have endured more than our fair share of legislation targeting abortion providers and the women of Texas who we serve. These laws are seldom in the true interest of the health and safety of women and are one of the most damaging products of the stigma around abortion. These regulations arise out of a political agenda designed to make abortion almost impossible for practitioners to provide and for women to access. They make false assumptions about a woman’s capacity to understand what it means to be pregnant, and to make a sound moral choice on her own.
We know that women are the right and moral decision makers for the most fundamental of choices – whether or not to give birth and whether or not to parent. Throughout time women have made decisions to control their own fertility. Women have always had abortions. Sometimes the available choices are safe, sometimes they are not.
In the United States since the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973 more than 48 million women who have chosen to have safe, legal abortions. 40% of women in the USA will have an abortion by the age of 45. And nearly all those women have one or more loved one support them through their abortion.
That is a lot of people.
So, why is stigma around abortion so successful? Who benefits from shaming women? Why does the shame persist and silence pervade when so many people share the abortion experience?
Most of the time these 48 million women are silent.
Most of the time the loved ones who helped them with their abortion don’t talk about it either.
In fact, the pro-choice majority is often silent.
Most of the people talking about abortion in our society are anti-abortion.
And This has to change.
We need to talk about our beliefs and act like the majority that we are.
Good women have abortions.
Good people provide abortions.
As abortion providers, we can often feel and be looked at as the “radical fringe of the pro-choice movement” – even among our friends and supporters. We do the tough work of abortion rights – we deal with all the things pro-choice people don’t want to talk about and that our opposition is very focused on. The reality is, however, that without us there is no choice. Without providers, the right to abortion is just an idea – it is just something on paper that means nothing to women in actuality.
My dream for the next 40 years after Roe is that the people who provide abortions will be seen and respected as the Human Rights Workers that we are and that women who seek abortions will know that they are not alone.
Speak up and out, we owe it to Roe and this 40 year legacy.
Do not let anti-abortion rhetoric go unchallenged.
Do not allow our opposition to hijack the moral high ground.
I’d like a world where no woman comes into my clinic thinking she is the only woman she knows who has had an abortion. Thinking she is the only Christian who had an abortion. Thinking she is the only good mother who had an abortion.
Abortion is personal. Our work is to honor women. Making an abortion decision is a time when a woman acts with intention. When she chooses a path for her life and the direction she will travel. This is powerful stuff and it deserves our respect and support. We need to speak up and challenge assumptions about the “kind of woman who has an abortion”
Our Whole Woman’s Health clinics offer an Oasis from the stigma and shame surrounding abortion in our culture, from the voices and the judgments of others that often make it difficult to sit quietly and contemplate a big decision. In our clinics we have a moment to affirm that women are good, to affirm that women are moral and kind, and to affirm that women are not selfish. We can witness her dreams and her desires and affirm that she is put on this Earth to see them out and to act on her own gifts. Let’s make sure all women hear these messages both inside and outside our clinic doors.
Everyone here knows and loves a woman who has had an abortion.
She is you, me, your mom, your sister, your colleague, or the woman in the pew next to you at church.
We are all good women, and we are not alone. Thank you for your support on this remarkable day! Here’s moving beyond Roe!”