To protect abortion rights, we need to say 'abortion'

I’ve recently been criticized for using the word abortion too much because it makes people uncomfortable. 

Well, you know what makes me uncomfortable? Abortion bans. Abortion stigma. People who have never been in my shoes, who don’t know what’s in my heart, ridiculing me, judging me, and calling me tunnel-visioned or clueless because I’ve chosen to dedicate my life to fighting for abortion access. 

I’m a small business owner in Cleveland Heights. I’m civically active. I’m a parent of a young child who will grow up in the Cleveland Heights–University Heights school system. You see my family at the library every Saturday for storytime. You see us at the park. You see us at Tommy’s, at Stone Oven, and Dave’s. You’ve seen us at block parties, car washes, and concerts. We’ve been behind you at CVS, in front of you at Starbucks, and you’ve probably said hello when we pass you walking into The BottleHouse. I’m your neighbor—I’m part of this community—and I wouldn’t be here if I hadn’t had an abortion when I needed it. 

We have one of the best, most well-respected abortion clinics just a few miles away in Shaker Square. Preterm provides abortion care for more patients than any other clinic in the state. It trains doctors and nurses, provides counseling, and changes lives like mine every single day. Now, more than ever, it’s time for our community to rally around our abortion clinic, not turn away in shame.

Though the horrific six-week abortion ban passed and was signed by Governor DeWine, we still have plenty of work to do to make abortion accessible and stigma-free here in Cleveland Heights. 

Here are some steps we need to take as a community to ensure that people who need abortion care can get it when they need it: 

First, we need to fight abortion stigma. That means using the word abortion. You don’t have to shout it from the rooftops like I do. But don’t be afraid to say it either. You can use broader terms like reproductive freedom if you’d prefer to talk about the full scope of reproductive decisions we make in our lifetimes, but please don’t shy away from discussing the medical procedure that has changed so many lives. Ask your friends, your parents, your daughters if they’ve had an abortion. You don’t have to have a fight, just talk about why abortion access is important to you. 

Second, we need to protect our clinics. Preterm, our local independent abortion clinic, is a nonprofit that has existed since 1974. What I love most about Preterm is that it never turns away anyone who can’t pay. If you can donate, do so. Call to volunteer if you want. Preterm needs gardening help, escorts, and many other things. 

Third, we need to strategize for the future. If Ohio’s abortion ban is upheld, let’s pursue legislation that allows people to use safe, effective medication abortion methods at home without risk of criminalization. We need to ask every single elected official if they’ll commit to this. This isn’t a partisan statement—there are plenty of anti-abortion Democrats out there, even today—this is a values statement.

We need to ask our CH-UH school board candidates if they support comprehensive sex ed. Ask our judicial candidates if they would punish someone for having an abortion. Ask everyone. 

We all have to do everything we can to protect abortion access. Without the freedom to control our reproductive lives, women can’t participate in our society. 

Protect abortion.

Mallory McMaster

Mallory McMaster is president and CEO of The Fairmount Group, a Cleveland Heights-based communications firm that specializes in social justice and abortion communications. McMaster is a We Testify abortion storyteller. [Preterm is a former client of The Fairmount Group, prior to McMaster buying the communications firm. McMaster is a former employee of Preterm; this opinion is written without Preterm's knowledge or input.]

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Volume 12, Issue 9, Posted 1:11 PM, 09.02.2019