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What Cosmo Gets Right and Wrong About Abortion Stigma in Texas

by: Natalie San Luis

Wed Jul 16, 2014 at 01:00 PM CDT

When Jill Filipovic, senior political writer at Cosmopolitan, visited Texas last month, she was exposed to the culture of abortion stigma and shame that Texans experience regularly.

"Abortion stigma exists in every state in this country, but it is particularly powerful in Texas," she writes.

As a Texan and a woman who first learned about abortion in a Baptist church, her words ring true: Texas has an abortion stigma problem that fuels dangerous attacks on women's and trans men's autonomy.

But I'm also a Texan and a woman who witnessed last summer's protests at the Capitol, the incredible work accomplished by grassroots organizations, and the increasingly powerful progressive momentum across the state. Texas has a more complex story to tell.

Read more about Cosmo's coverage of Texas abortion stigma after the jump.

In Filipovic's article, she talks to Amy Hagstrom Miller, CEO of Whole Woman's Health, about the Legislature's attempts to shutter all but six abortion clinics in the state.

Texas is one of the country's biggest abortion rights battlegrounds, with its controversial H.B. 2 legislation making national news when state senator Wendy Davis filibustered for 11 hours to prevent its passage in 2013. She succeeded, until Gov. Rick Perry called a special session to vote on it and subsequently signed it into law. Parts of H.B. 2 have already been implemented and have shut down abortion clinics across the state. When the rest of the bill's provisions go into effect this September, abortion providers say there will be six clinics left in the state, serving 5.4 million women of reproductive age, 75,000 of whom terminate pregnancies in Texas every year.

"These incremental laws are totally insulting," said Amy Hagstrom Miller, CEO of Whole Woman's Health, who operates three abortion clinics in Texas and was recently forced to shutter two others. "The frustrating part is that not enough women are insulted by it. You see this acceptance of 'Where do I sign? How long do I have to wait? What movie do I have to watch?' - this acceptance of what I have to go through to terminate my pregnancy and this internalized stigma and shame. People believe they deserve to go through this."

The culture of shame and stigma surrounding abortion relies on a "narrative of regret" that often includes faulty claims of "post-abortion syndrome," depression, and PTSD.

In reality, Filipovic points out, the negative emotions that women sometimes feel after an abortion often stem from the series of legal obstacles they encounter: hours-long drives to clinics, transvaginal sonograms, waiting periods, expensive fees.

"All in all, I made the right choice," one woman shared. "But it was a nightmare."

When Filipovic travels to the Valley, she talks to Lucy Felix and other organizers working for the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, an organization that provides education and outreach on reproductive health resources.

Felix said that women in the RGV often avoid talking explicitly about abortion: "Religion tells you that can't talk about reproductive justice, that it's not in our culture."

NLIRH uses teams of community health promoturas to create safe spaces for open conversation about contraception and access to women's health services.

Cosmopolitan tells an important story about women's experiences with reproductive justice in Texas, but the story is incomplete. The headline—"How Texas Created a Culture of Shame and Silence Around Abortion"—is particularly misleading. Abortion stigma exists everywhere; to claim that Texans are the source of especially misogynistic ideas about women's health is to ignore the majority of Texans who do not consider abortion to be an unspeakable, unforgivable evil.

"Bringing up an abortion here means palpable discomfort," Filipovic writes. But can you go anywhere and bring up abortion without running the risk of committing "a major social faux pas"? Texas politics have certainly created a "culture of silence" regarding reproductive justice, but they have also inadvertently created a culture of solidarity and empowerment.

Is abortion stigma stronger in Dallas than it is in San Francisco? Is it stronger in the RGV or Manhattan? Houston or Seattle? Restrictions on abortion care may be particularly tenacious in Texas, but so are the Texans, legislators, and organizations who are fighting against them.

Natalie tweets from @nsanluis.

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Do not republish without express written permission.

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