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Why This Abortion Rights Tactic Is Actually Sexist

When I am commanded by well-intentioned political/consciousness-raising campaigns and publications to “share my story,” I am invariably offended. I grew up learning from my OB/GYN mother and a vintage copy of Our Bodies, Ourselves that my body is mine and mine alone. I owe no explanation to anyone for what I choose to do with it. I alone have (and can give whomever I choose) the right to touch my body and talk about it. Should somebody—whether an acquaintance, stranger on the street, or employer—ask me what my sex life is like, or whether I have lumps in my breasts, or if my periods are particularly heavy, or if I’ve ever contracted an STI, it would be a clearly aggressive and inappropriate transgression of my right to privacy when it comes to my body and my health. So why doesn’t it alarm us and offend our feminist sensibilities when organizations and publications ask us to share our abortion stories? 

And also: While it’s not too difficult to imagine men being asked about their partners’, sisters’, or mothers’ abortion stories, can we really imagine men being asked about their own medical histories in the brazen and entitled manner in which women are asked routinely?

U.S. women (in most states) have, after centuries of being legal property, finally achieved full ownership of ourselves. We do not belong to our fathers/parents, or to our romantic partners, or to the state, or to any movement for social change. Our decisions about our bodies—including, of course, our decisions about our pregnancies—are joyously, radically ours. No woman should be made to feel that her responsibility to work for abortion rights by adding to the tremendous number of abortion narratives already floating around the Internet outweighs her responsibility to herself and her right to medical privacy.

How ironic, too, that while the legal underpinning of this country’s landmark reproductive rights cases, including Roe v. Wade, is the constitutional right to privacy, the rallying cry for abortion rights is now “Go public!”