I should have said yes to the photo. I should have made a poster of the photograph and taken it to state houses across the country to present to lawmakers and judges who insisted that abortion is a bloody, violent, and potentially deadly procedure.
No, you dills. Childbirth is a bloody, violent and potentially deadly procedure. He is 14 times more likely cause death than abortion, according to the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists. And seeing as millions more women have just been sentenced to go through this, we should all see what it looks like in graphic, gory detail.
For the past 50 years, bloody images have been the provenance of anti-abortion activists: dismembered fetuses, tiny fingers, photographs of babies in utero at 25 or 30 weeks gestation – even though 93% of all abortions take place before 13 weeks, according to a recent Summary of data from Pew Research. Those that occur at the end of pregnancy are often due to fetal abnormalities that would lead to stillbirth or almost immediate death.
Abortion supporters had cheeky slogans (“I dream that women will one day have the same rights as guns”). But they also had the law on their side, so they didn’t have to fight dirty.
The gory images used by anti-abortion protesters to characterize abortion care, no matter how misleading or dishonest, have tended to provoke a visceral backlash. And too bad if they didn’t leave an impression.
“The case for abortion, if presented honestly, requires many words: it must speak to the recent past, the disastrous consequences for women of outlawing a very simple medical procedure,” wrote Caitlin Flanagan. in a Article 2019 in the Atlantic. “The argument against it doesn’t even take a single word. The argument against this is an image.
This is not true, however. The argument for abortion could also be made with a picture. It is an image of the mutilated and bloody flesh that comes from a traumatic childbirth or a clandestine abortion. It’s a picture of septic shock. This is a photo of a dead women.
“We who oppose the annihilation of our bodily autonomy should plaster state homes with pictures of our episiotomy incisions, our cesarean section scars, our intravenous hematomas, our bloody postnatal sanitary napkins and our bed sheets. stained with blood, our cracked nipples and our infected breasts,” Kate wrote. Manning in a Washington Post column in May.
She went on to say that these complications are considered normal when it comes to childbirth, and that women who want children (of which she was one, of which I was one) assume these risks because they know some of them are necessary for give birth to a baby. She also went on to say that for those who don’t want children, childbirth is a “cruel and unusual punishment.”
Whether you agree with her, what is indisputable is that the severity of childbirth has been sanitized in popular culture and politics. He’s been downgraded to a few comedic screams in the movies (“You did this to me!” the wife shouts at her husband), or a “It was tough, but it was worth it!” in polite conversation.
The dangers of illegal abortions have also been sanitized. Fifty years have passed since the last time we set foot on this ground. The women who died from illegal abortions (and the numbers are impossible to determine, as these deaths were often unreported or mischaracterised) have been confined to historical statistics rather than the stark, inflexible photographs that protesters could wave on the steps of the Supreme Court.
The current de facto image of a wire coat hanger with a line running through it – referring to illicit abortions performed with household objects – will not suffice in this new world. It’s an aging code, to put it mildly, meaningless to those who don’t already understand it. I remember spotting a sticker with such a symbol subversively taped to a dorm wall and asking a younger relative if she knew what it meant. “Does that mean,” she guessed, “you’re not allowed to hang clothes on it?”
One of the reasons we never fully lifted the curtain on reproductive gore is that it would require something we’ve been grown to find inappropriate, offensive, or whiny. Women’s pain should be centered. This would require a compassionate examination of women’s bodies — not as sexual objects or maternal Madonnas but as the scarred and pulpy battlefields that reproduction can make them become.
It should be emphasized that women’s suffering matters and that legislating fairly against abortion requires everyone to know exactly what kind of suffering compulsory childbirth will inflict. Perhaps describing this suffering in pictures is necessary because words cannot capture it and many people simply cannot imagine it.
It gives me no pleasure to suggest that. I don’t particularly want to complain about my alarming childbirth history, and I don’t want to exploit other women’s bodies. Already, women are unfairly required to spend too much time demanding that they be seen as human beings. During the weekend, a Twitter feed went viral in which a woman described, in both clinical and hard-hitting detail, being told at 17 weeks pregnant that her baby would not survive. She ended up having a medically necessary abortion.
I have no doubt that reading this woman’s story has made people think about abortion in a different way. I have no doubt that writing it cut out a piece of his soul.
But that’s where we are. deer is gone, and so we should throw in the euphemisms, the metaphors, the hanger pictures with it. I think it could be effective. It was effective before.
In 1964, a Connecticut woman named Gerri Santoro checked into a hotel with her boyfriend and a manual, which the couple planned to refer to for self-abortion. She was estranged from her abusive husband at the time, but learned that he was coming to visit her and their children and she was terrified of what would happen if he found her pregnant.
Her body was found the next morning by a cleaning lady.
The police arrived to photograph the scene.
This is what you see in one of the police photographs: a naked woman on her knees apart, her body slumped forward, almost as if praying, more likely that she collapsed in place. His face is crushed into the carpet. His right arm is awkwardly bent to the side. His buttocks are covered in blood. His genitals are covered in blood. Bloody towels lie under his body. In one hand she holds another towel, this one unsoiled, as if perhaps she intended to use it to staunch the bleeding that could not be.
It was simultaneously intimate, clinical, horrifying and nauseating. When I first saw this photo I went into the bathroom and pushed dry.
Ms. magazine published it. In 1973 they put this photo in their pages for everyone to see, associating it with the original Roe vs. Wade decision and under the heading “Never again”. The editors said they wanted their readers to know exactly what was at stake. And readers were galvanized, because everyone who saw this photo would agree: it should never happen again. For a time, Gerri Santoro became the face of the abortion rights movement, until we mistakenly thought those rights were safe.
It is a terrible photograph. This is the kind of photography no one should have to look at. This is the kind of photography the country needs to see.