Rethinking Abortion 

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Since buying my first "Keep Abortion Safe and Legal" bumper sticker at age 13, my views on the subject have remained fairly consistent. I think that all women should have access to affordable abortions, and that no one should have to feel shame about making the choice that's best for them. I dislike the idea of feeling guilty about a medical procedure; when discussing pregnancy, I conscientiously say "fetus" instead of "baby."

Jennifer Baumgardner's Abortion and Life has caused me, for the first time in 10-plus years, to reevaluate how I think about abortion. Baumgardner's central argument, one that she makes effectively and intelligently, is that the "Keep your laws off my body!"-style activism that (necessarily) characterized the early days of the pro-choice movement is evolving, also necessarily, to include a recognition of the many factors that go into making the decision to terminate a pregnancy, including the very real loss many women feel after having an abortion.

Many of the points made in Abortion and Life are intuitively obvious ones, but they're not often made in the historically polarized discourse around the issue. Some women do think of their fetuses as babies, and choose to abort anyway. Some women view the procedure as a relief, but for others, particularly poor women or women in unstable or abusive relationships, an abortion might be their best option under the circumstances, yet is "certainly also evidence of a life they wish they weren't leading." These ideas, some obvious, some familiar, are all grounded in Baumgardner's insistence that what matters is real women talking about real experiences. To that end, the second half of the book is devoted to portraits of women wearing T-shirts that read "I had an abortion," accompanied by personal statements about their abortions. High-profile feminists like Gloria Steinem, Barbara Ehrenreich, and Ani DiFranco are found here, among older women and young ones, white women and women of color, lesbians and heterosexuals. The point here, abundantly made, is that there's simply no bumper sticker big enough to contain the range and complexity of women's attitudes toward and experiences with abortion. Pretending otherwise is to deny reality as thousands of women experience it—and as we all know, denying women's realities is hardly a feminist act.

ALISON HALLETT

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