It’s an Abortion Festivus for the Rest of Us

We can’t bring bad abortion energy into 2022. So here’s my end-of-year list of Six Things You’ve Probably Been Doing That You Should Stop Doing.

photo of a nighttime vigil and a banner that says repro freedom for all!
I love that so many people are getting fired up about abortion rights. We’re going to need that energy as we careen headlong into a post-Roe world. Alex Wong/Getty Images

It’s been a hell of a year. Hell, it’s been a hell of a decade. And I’m not going to lie: I’ve got a lot of pent-up anger and frustration at a lot of people.

But I also know that holding onto that anger is not productive. Conservatives are crawling into your uterus right now—they’re setting up tents and a WiFi network. What good is it if I’m on Twitter yelling about how, for ten years, nobody listened to people like me when we warned again and again that we would end up right where we are?

We are on the precipice of creating a human rights crisis in this country of the sort that exists in Texas right now but on a national scale. And, quite frankly, abortion rights enthusiasts don’t have time for pointless anger. There’s certainly time for reflection on the movement’s failures and what can be done to avoid falling into the same predictable traps—and I can sum that up in four words: Listen to Black women.

But there’s no time for spewing invective on Twitter. There’s no time for pointing fingers just for the sake of it.

And since the new year is approaching—and that’s the time people make resolutions—I figured I’d make a resolution too. I don’t like resolutions, generally, which is why I haven’t made one in a decade. I understand why people like them; they can be great for some people. But for me, resolutions tend to involve something like “I’m going to go to the gym.” And then I never go to the gym because the gym is where dreams go to die.

But despite my reservations about resolutions, I’m going to resolve to let go of my anger at the many people who got us to the point where abortion will be criminalized in more than half the states in this country by next Christmas.

God bless us every one.

But I can’t resolve to do that without airing some things first. Basically, to quote Frank Costanza, I’ve got a lot of grievances with you people, and you’re going to hear about them. People are doing the absolute most right now, and some of what they’re doing needs to be left in 2021. We can’t bring bad energy with us into 2022. We just can’t.

So here’s my end-of-year list of Six Things You’ve Probably Been Doing That You Should Stop Doing.

Being in denial about what’s happening

Look, I get it. This sucks. It really really sucks. There’s no sugarcoating it. We are in a reproductive rights and justice backlash, which seems bizarre because for there to be a backlash, doesn’t there need to be a … I don’t know … front lash? Doesn’t there need to be a period of time when abortions were falling from the sky and instead of “sidewalk counselors” (i.e., domestic anti-abortion terrorists), there were puppies made of cotton candy standing in front of clinics wanting to talk to you about the prevalence of chew toys that don’t squeak and how that’s oppressive to the puppy community? Or what if there were cats playing the tambourine? That would be better than people screaming at abortion patients. Roe itself was a compromise, for crying out loud. So yes—this all seems unfair. But it is what it is. (Don’t you hate when people say that? Of course it is what it is. It’s not going to be what it isn’t. But I digress.)

My point is, what’s happening is happening. Roe v. Wade will be overturned—if not outright, then in a way that makes it easier for states hostile to abortion to further restrict or eliminate access. The sooner we face up to it, the quicker we can mobilize to avert or at least minimize this human rights crisis.

And I can tell you one thing: Writing about maternity ranches in Texas where wayward women can be squirreled away or promoting any other Christian evangelical program as a way to alleviate the sting of stripping away the constitutional right to abortion is a mode of denial. It’s a way of convincing yourself that what’s coming down the pike isn’t that bad.

But it is that bad.

And if you were one of those people who kept insisting that Roe is safe? Please pay attention to those of us who knew we would end up here. Because we know what’s coming next: attacks on contraception and same-sex marriage, and religious exemptions for anyone who “disagrees” with another person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. And we really don’t have time to convince you of what’s coming next because we have to fight it.

Which leads me to my next point.

Posting your 101 thoughts about abortion politics on social media rather than elevating experts in the field

I know that abortion is a hot ticket right now. It’s the talk of the town. And I love that. I want more people to talk about abortion. I want people to climb a mountain and shout abortion from its peak. But what we cannot take with us into 2022 is this sleepy-eyed “what happened?” attitude that so many cisgender white male pundits have adopted as of late, followed by a tweetstorm about “post-Roe politics” or musings about state-level legislation.

Listen, guys: I appreciate that you’re paying attention. I truly do. But your 101 musings are not helpful. Because often they are wrong, which forces abortion advocates to correct them, which draws their attention away from making sure that people who need abortion care can access it.

It’s a frustrating time for advocates. Roe isn’t even going to see its 50th anniversary. So when advocates see people who woke up the day before the hearing in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization—the case heard before the Supreme Court on December 1 that will likely end abortion rights in this country—and decided to have trenchant thoughts about abortion that they felt needed to be shared, it’s irritating. Because these folks aren’t saying anything that hasn’t been said already by people who are experts in the field: people who saw this coming, tried to stop it, and were ignored.

Throwing up your hands

Look, I get it. The Democratic Party is frustrating. It is frustrating that anti-choice Democrats exist. It’s frustrating that ostensibly pro-choice Democrats insist on playing footies with “pro-lifers” as if these people can ever be appeased. I get it.

But proclaiming that Democrats don’t care about abortion rights because if they did they would have done X, Y, Z isn’t really an insult to Democrats—it’s an insult to the advocates who have been working for more than a decade to move Democrats toward a reproductive justice framework.

Because abortion rights advocates pushed Hillary Clinton to commit to repealing the Hyde Amendment. And they did the same with Joe Biden. Nothing will come of it because we have the Congress that we have, and that sucks. But again, it is what it is.

So yes, maybe Democrats as a whole don’t care about abortion rights. Certainly those who count themselves among the pro-life Democratic caucus do not. But when was the last time you were tasked with doing something or were asked to do something and felt more compelled to do it by people yelling at you that you’d never do it and in fact don’t even care about it?

It’s not a good use of your energy.

Suggesting pithy ill-thought-out ideas

There was a time when I thought suggesting mandatory vasectomies was a good snarky response to the incessant need to control people with uteruses. But mandatory vasectomies are forcible sterilization. And suggesting a policy that would ultimately be used to sterilize Black and brown men is not reproductive justice. It’s a recipe for disaster.

Instead of suggesting policies that would be used to harm already-oppressed people, make suggestions like South Carolina Sen. Mia McLeod’s “Fuck You, Pay Me” bill. In 2019, she introduced legislation that would have made South Carolina compensate pregnant people being forced to act as a gestational surrogate for the state. Compensation includes all reasonable living, legal, medical, psychological, and psychiatric expenses related to the pregnancy; all health, dental, and vision insurance for the child until their 18th birthday; and, if the pregnancy results in the pregnant person becoming disabled, all associated medical bills.

It’s a barnburner of a bill that should be replicated in every state, and it’s grounded in reproductive justice rather than vengeance, which is what the mandatory vasectomy suggestion is at its core.

Fearmongering about “back-alley abortions”

Even if abortion is criminalized across the country, we are unlikely to return to the 1960s era of back-alley abortions. That’s because abortion pills exist. Rather than fearmongering about women dying as a result of coat-hanger abortions, try educating people about abortion pills. They are the future of abortion access.

It’s a scary enough time. We don’t need to be drilling it into people’s heads that they’re at risk of dying in an alley. It’s irresponsible, frankly.

Reinventing the wheel

I love that so many people are getting fired up about abortion rights. We’re going to need that energy as we careen headlong into a post-Roe world. And what will world will look like? Texas is a good example.

But guess what? Texas has been an abortion desert for a long time. And there are organizations in Texas that have been working for years to help pregnant Texans access abortion care. So when you say “somebody should figure out a way to get people in Texas to states where abortion is legal!” that’s a great idea! One that someone thought of a long time ago and one that is in practice in nearly every state. If you’re fired up about abortion, call up your local abortion fund and ask them how you can help.

Roe’s last stand is upon us. People who support abortion rights are about to have a difficult and frustrating year. Let’s not make it even worse by falling into old harmful and regressive habits.

Happy Festivus.