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Hundreds of Abortions and Decades Later

by Dave Rhody

February 21, 2019

Like the millions of women who now have a forum that supports their voice, supports their decision to have an abortion and encourages them to talk openly and positively about it, I too am grateful for this opportunity. Unlike these women I have not had an abortion. I am a man, one of the first, or so I was told, to be trained as a pregnancy counselor at Planned Parenthood.

 

Until now, I would not have considered using the word ‘proud’ in reference to abortion. I got to know plenty of women who were proud of their decision and their ability to follow through on it, but none of them would have specifically said they were “proud to have an abortion.” No woman truly wants an abortion . . . in the sense that all would far prefer to simply wish away their unwanted pregnancy, or to go back in time and stop that fateful union of sperm and egg. But, I realize in hindsight that I was always proud of the work we did at Planned Parenthood and proud of my contribution. My background as well as the political climate, which surprisingly, has lingered for decades, fostered restraint.

Lindy West changed all that. Her recent talk with Trevor Noah  (The Daily Show 11/29/18) caused a vivid flashback. My colleagues at Planned Parenthood of NW Indiana from 1977 to 1980, all spoke like Lindy West, using straightforward language to counteract myths, speaking openly and honestly about sex, about abortion and fervently supporting at every turn, in every circumstance, a woman’s right to choose. If we did not facilitate a ‘Shout Your Abortion’ movement, it was, at least something we hoped to see in the future.

The future we hoped for has not arrived. Sadly, the political climate around abortion is not better, perhaps even worse, than it was in 1977. Maybe my PPA colleagues and I are to blame. While we talked openly, even rebelliously within the wall of the Planned Parenthood clinic, while we worked tirelessly to inform and to support every woman who came to us, we practiced restraint when it came to public statements. I was definitely guilty of restraint, especially with my Catholic family.

I am not only proud of the work I did with Planned Parenthood, I am grateful. Many of the women I counseled opened up to me in ways they might never have done with any other man. I learned a great deal. And though I took my counseling responsibilities very seriously, some of the agonizing stories I heard had me crying right along with my clients. We talked about rape, about painful relationships, about broken marriages, about silly mistakes and about bad choices. I clarified the facts, talked about options, dispelled myths and misinformation, made referrals for further counseling when appropriate and always sought a clear answer to the key question – ‘Are you making a clear and informed choice to abort your pregnancy?’

Some of the women I counseled would not have been ready to ‘Shout Their Abortion’ nor do I believe that all women will ever be willing or able to be so bold. Many unwanted pregnancy are mired in complex emotions. But, I firmly believe that all women who’ve had abortions, or are facing that choice, will benefit from those willing to shout.

Remember that our stories are ours to tell. We’d love to hear your story too!