USA: I took secret photos of my abortion to empower and educate women-Guardian
July 17, 2012
Thisismyabortion.com shows that the reality of abortion is far from the vile and grotesque images used by the pro-life lobby
The Guardian: July 9, 2012
This Is My Abortion: http://www.thisismyabortion.com/
Recently, I had an abortion, which I documented with a hidden mobile phone camera and then shared the images on the internet. I chronicled and published my experience on thisismyabortion.com to show what a safe abortion looks like, and to counter the perverse use of dead foetus images used by the anti-abortion movement. My hope is this project will help dispel the fear, lies and hysteria around abortion, and empower women to make educated decisions for their bodies.
My mother had an illegal abortion some 30 or so years ago, and almost died from blood loss during the procedure. She spent the remaining months of her recovery in silence in a country where she would have been banished, if not killed, for her actions. Then, a few years ago, my mother shared her secret with me.
Soon after, I took a friend to a clinic for an abortion and encountered a mob of anti-abortion protesters waiting by the entrance. Some prayed silently while clutching religious paraphernalia. Others held oversized banners with supersized images of a newborn child, bloody, bruised, and dead. My friend was mortified, and wept as I escorted her into the facility.
A year later, I was facing the same procedure. Due to the security risk to patients and abortion caregivers, the clinic had moved down the street and was tucked behind an unassuming cluster of dental buildings. The protesters in turn had moved across the street, but otherwise remained the same.
Viewing, again, the horrific graphic images they displayed, I wasn’t sure if I was more afraid of being harmed by the anti-abortion protesters or if I was more anxious about the procedure itself.
But once past the bulletproof doors to the clinic, I entered a sanctuary.
Counselled, educated and physically readied, I let go of my anxieties in this safe space. The procedure itself, albeit uncomfortable, was straightforward and passed with ease. After all was done, with minor cramping, I took myself home where I slept off the remains of the day.
Thinking of my mother and her harrowing journey, I knew I was incredibly privileged to have had my body handled by medical experts, and my psyche held by empathetic professionals.
Experiencing my own abortion and photographing the result was a sobering experience. As a woman, I reckon with the power of images every day. But after my abortion, I realised images are literally being used as a weapon to petrify and assault viewers into fear, shame, and isolation. The protesters’ heartless use of lifeless foetus images made me feel cheated, lied to and manipulated. It was just propaganda: intended to shake the core of my deepest biological, intellectual and emotional foundation.
Within 48 hours of launching thisismyabortion.com, I received a deluge of emails from men, women and couples all over the world confiding in me their own courageous and unique abortion stories. Some told tales of horrific self-inflicted abortions in countries where abortion remains illegal. Others expressed sincere gratitude for my documentation, either because it mirrored their own experiences of safe abortions or, in some cases, because they had always associated abortion with the same grotesque images I had encountered while entering the clinic.
I believe we are the majority, and we hold the power to demand the right to make educated choices for our bodies and our families. I hope thisismyabortion.com will be used as a tool to bring a fair, honest, balanced view of safe abortion. We, together, can take a stand for the truth, women’s rights and reproductive justice.
• The author is a photographer, who lives in the US