Comic: There is no typical abortion
When we talk about who gets abortions and why – if we talk about it at all – capturing reality is often not the goal. Because abortion is politically charged and stigmatized, conversations about it tend to be more symbolic than factual, said sociologist Tricia C. Bruce. This is especially true for those who have no personal experience with abortion, who instead rely on personal values, biases, and media exposure to form opinions.
In short, “we use abortion as a proxy for things that are important to us,” said Bruce, who wrote the National Abortion Attitudes Survey. For those who support abortion, these values may include things like maternal health and poverty. For those who object, the procedure may be a moral or religious offense.
Like more Americans go to the polls to weigh in on abortion in November, these perceptions will play a bigger role than ever in our daily reality.
“The problem is that symbolic value, as far as legality goes, has real consequences in ways that I think are unforeseen, unexpected, and perhaps even contradictory to the best values that someone is trying to defend,” Bruce continued. These consequences include loss of access to critical drug; denial of vital pregnancy care; and increased lawsuit in case of loss of pregnancy. Those who oppose abortion argue that the procedure is the end of an unborn life.
To bridge this perception gap, we have depicted four real-life abortion stories in comic book form. We interviewed each person extensively about their experience, then turned our conversations into a script and storyboard for a comic book series. We encouraged each source to dig into the complexities, contradictions, and nuances that are often overlooked in politicized narratives of abortion.
They remind us that abortion, to the extent that it exists in our collective political imagination, is a real medical procedure that happens to real people every day.
“And these real people are not strangers. It’s not the others,” Bruce said. “They are, in fact, ourselves.”
Alyn Perez, 24, Pittsburgh
For the first few days after Alyn Perez found out she was pregnant, she imagined herself raising a child, being a mother like she had always wanted. But she also thought about her car payments, the instability of her relationship with her boyfriend and, above all, the alienation she felt from her family. Her choice to have an abortion was complicated, not because she morally disagreed with abortion, but because now was not the right time to have a baby — no matter how badly she wanted it.
Evelyn Greene, 25, Nashville
As a black woman seeking abortion care in the South, Evelyn Greene was surprised at how pleasant the experience was: The journey to Carafem was short of his hometown of Murfreesboro, Tenn. No one asked questions. Staff sent her home with a care package – a gesture of kindness that still brings her to tears after a pregnancy marked by debilitating pain and bouts of depression. But on August 25, after the state’s total abortion ban took effect, the clinic stopped all abortions. It was the last able to do so.
Toni McFadden, 42, Hamburg, Pennsylvania.
When Toni McFadden found out she was pregnant, she felt like her life was over. Instead, her decision to have an abortion — and the medical trauma and emotional isolation she suffered afterwards — would become an inciting incident that changed the trajectory of her life. Her church friends became the only comfort she found in the aftermath. Speaking and writing against abortion and about her faith would become her life’s vocation.
Tricia McCann, 30, Chicago
Getting an abortion was an easy choice for Tricia McCann. But the process was still emotionally unbearable because of a cruel doctor and a seemingly endless series of barriers designed to dissuade them from the procedure. Soon after, they chose to move to Chicago, in part because Illinois is likely protect safe and legal access to abortion for the foreseeable future. Today, there are no abortion providers left in their hometown of South Bend, Ind.