"This is my abortion"

Jane* was six weeks pregnant when she had an abortion in 2011. She took her camera phone into the clinic and secretly documented photos of the medical waste. She then published those photos on an anonymous public website she created called This is My Abortion.

This is why she did it:

Jane wrote:

“Recently, I had an abortion.

Lining the street in front of the clinic were a dozen or so protesters. They held up large banners with anti-abortion slogans, religious iconography, and images of dead babies.

Just past the bulletproof security doors, the graphic nature of that imagery haunted me in the waiting room. What would my abortion look like? I decided to secretly document my abortion with my cell phone.

My intention in documenting and sharing my abortion is to demystify the sensationalist images propagated by the religious and political right on this matter. The perverse use of lifeless fetus photographs are a propaganda tool in the prolife/prochoice debate in which women and their bodies are used as pawns to push a cultural, political, and religious agenda in the United States.

At 6 weeks of pregnancy, my abortion looked very different than the images I saw when I entered the clinic that day.

This is my abortion.”

The overwhelming response from commenters on the site was “thank you”.

Blogger Jessica Gottlieb tracked down the anonymous publisher and to ask her some questions. Here’s what she had to say.

This morning I was on Reddit and saw I expected to see something very graphic, perhaps a site run by the anti-abortion people, but instead I saw a beaker with some blood and fluid in it. This was your abortion, right? When was this?
This was my abortion. I had my abortion in 2011.

Do you want to talk about why you had an abortion? Maybe your general age and where you are in your life?
I really want to stay focused on the issue and not about who I am personally. While my personal story may be compelling, I am only one in a million of compelling stories all over the world that deal with the very same issue. That being said, I can guarantee you that I am indeed a female and I am at a time in my life where I am profoundly disturbed by what feels like a push backwards in society to the dark ages. [In the US at the moment, many states are winding back access to and legality of abortion. The pro-choice mantra of “safe, legal and rare” is no longer an option for millions of American women.] In a time of disparity and deep divide, a woman’s body continues to be used in a partisan war.

What made you take and share these photographs?
I took these pictures because I was both angry and afraid by the increased anti-abortion sentiment in my community and across this country. I am sharing these pictures because I think we live in critical times and it is imperative that we use our voice and the technology we have available to speak and connect to the issues that matter the most to all of us.

How did you feel walking past the protesters? Did they make you worry for your safety? For your salvation? Did you question your decision because of their words?
The protesters made me feel scared for my personal physical safety. To feel as though you may actually be harmed by an angry stranger with conviction and god on their side is a pretty jarring experience. [US abortion clinics are constantly picketed by aggressive anti-abortion protestors waving graphic propaganda placards of close to full-term foetuses. Staff and doctors at these clinics regularly receive death threats and some have even been murdered.]

Was there a group there to walk you in (past the protesters)? I know sometimes folks will organize as sort of a shield around the woman having a procedure. Did you see any of this?
I had never heard about abortion escorts until yesterday. My own ignorance is a real testament to the type of blackout of information that permeates some of our communities.

Did the protesters affect the medical staff? Do they sort of ignore it or is there a sense of being under siege?
The medical staff was cool, calm, collected, and very present. If they were in any way intimidated, they did a tremendous job of keeping it together for me in my moment of vulnerability.

There was never a time in my life that I thought that abortions would be made illegal or unsafe, not until a few years ago. Now I’m downright panicked about it. I look at my daughter and I look at her friends and I hope none of them ever need an abortion — but realistically I know that one of them probably will. It terrifies me to think that it might not be safe or legal for them. Do you worry that that we’re about to roll back the clock and make it dangerous to be a woman again?
I, like you, am tremendously worried about the direction we’re moving in this country. It seems we are already rolling the clock back. It’s easy to forget that in most places in the world, it already is dangerous to be a woman. Women’s bodies are still being used as weapons in war. It is absolute lunacy to me that we still have to dig in the trenches as women to fight for the right to choose and to not only be and feel safe, but to be protected by our larger community. We must continue to demand rights for ourselves and for the future generations of men and women alike.

Have you always been something of an activist or is this a new step for you?
I don’t much like the word “activist”. I think it often has misleading connotations, is used as a divisive tool and is a bit antiquated for our times. I prefer thinking of myself as civilly disobedient. It is all of our duty to engage in acts of disobedience throughout time to push the boundaries of what is commonly accepted as civil in society.

Do you think you’ll regret your decision to have the abortion or your decision to take and share these photographs?
So far, I have not regretted having my abortion or sharing these photographs. I don’t think that I will.

In Jane’s own words: “This is a Creative Commons project… take it, use it, share it.”