"Applaud" poster by artist Heather Ault. Taken from her "4,000 Years for Choice" poster series.
“Applaud” featuring legendary abortion rights activist Patrica Maginnis. Poster by artist Heather Ault. Taken from her “4,000 Years for Choice” poster series.

I had a dream last night; a dream of impotent, but potent rage: I —a woman who has used abortion as well as contraception to ensure I had no children—showed up to a Planned Parenthood clinic to confront a 40 Days For Life protester. Keep in mind the following account is a dream, but so fantastic is the current reality of anti-choice terrorism that my brain has no need to make anything up.

I walked to the front of the clinic and focused on the single woman standing there. She was in the dark, standing primly in front of the clinic, holding a sign upon which some anti-abortion message was written.  Words were exchanged. My center tightened and coalesced around my rage, much of which comes from a sense of disbelief that another woman would use the language of the oppressors to categorize and thus oppress me. How dare you, I said, or something like that and then reeled off a series of truths: that she was perpetuating violence against women, that she had taken inside of herself obscene, life-leaching misogyny like a poison pill and was poisoning others instead of spitting it out of her, and, most importantly, that she was wrong that abortion is murder and that there is no way I am a murderer, or she is, or that my wrongs include seeking access to abortion or contraception.

I sensed a crowd growing. I turned around.

Standing behind me was a knot of men wearing paramilitary-looking clothing the color of Raw Umber, with pale faces and buzzed-cut heads. They stood in serried rank. There were maybe 15 or 50 of them. All I could see were their straight bodies standing in long lines like tall trees. Their height was unnatural. Behind them was a bus.

They were looking over my head with wonder and delight. I was given to understand that they were an anti-choice organization that was touring the United States in order to witness all acts of anti-choice harassment and terrorism, and—moreover— that they were associated with the so-called Center for Medical Progress, the misogynist organization whose cohorts snuck into a National Abortion Federation conference last year to sneakily record Planned Parenthood doctors who— in the anti-choice telling of things— fell into an open trap and openly discussed selling “baby parts”, aka fetal tissue. This heavily redacted and edited narrative is as much of a fantasy as my dream, of course, but sadly in these United States this sort of fantasy is now selling tickets. In a just world the Center for Medical Progress would be on trial for sponsoring terrorism. But that time has not come (yet.)

These upright men gazed admiringly on their handiwork—the lone woman, receptive to their misogynist fantasies, who stood by herself, isolated and alone, in front of a reproductive healthcare clinic attempting to stop other women from becoming themselves by the act of choosing abortion. Some of the men’s faces were upraised. They looked awed, as if they were viewing fireworks or some spectacular event in the sky. An Aurora Borealis, maybe. A comet. Some supernatural harbinger of fate, of affirmation from some god, written in large symbols and signs against the rounded blue vault of the night sky.

Get out of my way, I hissed like a snake ready to strike. Get out of my way. Fools. I shoved them aside, showing myself to be ready to fight, to strike. My anger was divine; incandescent. Was I in danger? Is it possible to really know or care about this when one’s divinity is fully engaged and radiant? (is this my own fundamentalism?)I stood in the middle of them, trying to disrupt their enraptured state. But I could not. They stood and looked admiringly at the sky up above and their handmaiden standing stolidly on the ground with her sign. My baby, I thought I heard one sigh.

Re-reading the above, I can see that it is a loosely knit blog post indeed, with no hope of any ending and composed equally of anger, contempt, panic and disbelief at the antics of that community which will do anything—anything at all—to criminalize legal abortion and contraception. They seem outlandish and childish to me and yet they exist and they have political power. My sense of contempt is simply not enough. But I have realized one thing, upon waking: I do not want and do not need the attention of those men standing in serried rank and military attitude who intend to do no good, but simply to control.

I want the attention of women who are the subjects of that control. Contempt will not achieve this.

What might achieve this is thirty-one years of pretty damn consistent (if I say so myself) non-institutionalized, “personal” activism. And, about that thirty-year history: the provenance of all my thinking and cogitating about…. California history, Irish republicanism in the Mission District, wetlands conservation, nature, the lack of funding for pedestrian improvements, the future of water and fire in this here state … anything at all I might want to think or speak about comes courtesy of many different sources, one of them being access to legal abortion. Likewise, my willingness to love.

If I had a manifesto, it would go something like this: 1. honor your ancestor’s reproductive journeys and stories. 2. share your voice and tell your story. 3. if you can, out yourself as one of the 1 in in 3 women who have had an abortion. 4. make people uncomfortable. 5. embrace complexity. 6. argue vociferously for funding for supported parenthood. 7. pay attention to the quality of your school district’s free lunches. 8. offer solace when it is needed and congratulations when it is called for. 9. don’t buy Eden Organics. 10. be clear with everyone you clash with over this issue that only you are allowed to allowed to assign meaning to your abortion. 11. don’t ever tell a pregnant woman what she should do unless she asks you to weigh in and even then. 12. believe in the radical individuality of experience and know that it can create a spiritual and legal commons. 13. claim your truth (or risk someone claiming it for you.) 14. don’t use your truth to deprive others of their rights. 15. don’t sideline yourself—your voice IS enough. 16. listen, but don’t be passive. remember to talk, too. 17. fuck it up. try and fail. 18. what you feel or have felt, or experience or have experienced is the basis for personal gnosis. 19. understand that abortion, contraception and mother/parenthood are all related phenomena happening within and to the same body; the same physical/psychic/political terrain. our bodies are crossroads, with many different and related paths that travel in and out of them.

Grab the handmaiden behind the sign and do your best to bring her with you. Warning: She may choose to stay behind in the world that is more recognizable to her. Also, she may not be a handmaiden at all. See point number 5.

In any case, we need to stay together because we never can—it’s simply impossible— go back.

Elizabeth Creely, Society for Humane Abortion founder Patricia Maginnis and artist Heather Ault at Alley Cat Books in the Mission District of San Francisco in 2013 at a reception for Heather’s “4000 Years for Choice” poster series. For more information go to: http://www.4000yearsforchoice.com
written during the 1st day of Advent and as the waning moon rests in Cancer, the sign of the universal Mother.With deep grief, respect and love to those who were murdered by thought-in-action at the Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs.