Imagine with me a world where abortion is considered a private matter to be decided by the woman herself, along with her partner, family, and/or clergy if she so chooses. Abortion is a choice that many women make when facing an unplanned pregnancy. Imagine that unplanned pregnancies are actually rare, since women have easy access to birth control options and are ready and willing to make contraception a part of their and their partners' lives. Both men and women receive education about their reproductive health from an early age, and there is a cultural acceptance of sexuality as both natural and normal. Children are taught that people of different sexual orientations are a natural part of the sexual spectrum. Society encourages all persons to respect the physical and emotional integrity of others - rape and incest are unheard of. Imagine....
So when a woman is faced with an unplanned pregnancy, imagine that she is supported by family and friends, who remind her that birth control can fail. In the event she and/or her partner were not using contraception, she would be lovingly reminded that motherhood is a sacred honor - not a punishment for a momentary lack of judgement - and that only she knows in her heart if she is truly ready to bring new life into the world.
The tragedy of planned pregnancies that are discovered to be genetically compromised, or those that are taking a dangerous toll on the pregnant woman's life, are left to the woman and her physician to weigh the risks and make a choice based upon what risks she feels she can accept. All women's choices are honored and respected, for society believes that women are absolutely capable of making such life decisions - after all, are these not the same women to whom we would look for the nurturing of their children? It is unthinkable to presume anyone else would be more qualified to make that choice.
A woman can have an abortion performed at any gynecologist's office - the medical establishment considers abortion a routine, in-office procedure. As with many other routine medical procedures, however, there are facilities that specialize in providing abortion services and go the extra mile to provide the abortion in a manner that creates a partnership between the woman (with whomever she chooses to accompany her through the experience) and the facility staff. These abortion centers allow each woman to create the chosen abortion experience for herself. Patient advocates interview each woman about her physical and spiritual preferences. From choosing the kind of lighting (softer or brighter) to arranging for specific music that she would like to hear, the woman creates the space in which she will experience her abortion. Each woman is gifted with a trained advocate to partner her through her abortion experience. This may involve private sessions to discuss feelings of ambivalence, where she is reminded that these feelings can be normal, and that she should never rush to make such a sacred choice - her heart will tell her what is the right decision for her - and that time is a gift she can give to herself to find peace and resolution.
A woman's religious and/or spiritual preferences are not only respected, but are honored, with specially designed rooms where a woman might receive spiritual guidance by clergy or a spiritual guide of the woman's choosing. She may create a ceremony with which to honor this passage, to be performed during the abortion or afterwards with family and friends in attendance. She may choose to have her partner go through the experience with her, for her own support and for him to truly understand what he and his lover have chosen. She may have a circle of women friends take part in the procedure itself - an ancient ritual of fertility, life, death, and rebirth. Whatever her beliefs, she is respected and honored for the thoughtful choice she has made for herself and her child who is not to be.
The recovery period can be spent in a softly-lit room in quiet meditation, or in a comfortably furnished room with other women who have had abortions, where discussions of feelings and future dreams are encouraged and facilitated by the advocates, or with family and friends who remind her that she is a beloved and irreplaceable part of their lives. Group or individual ceremonies may be performed to celebrate the woman's journey on her chosen path. This is a period of reverence for the timeless and sacred ritual that is abortion.
This is the world as I would create it. Impossible, you say? Nothing is impossible if we have the courage of our dreams. The first step to create this world starts with you. We are all magnificent creatures worthy of respect and honor. Respect and honor yourself and your dreams.
When we speak from our heart's true desire, we speak from our own place of power. Other people are drawn to us when we speak the truth - when we speak from our power, not from our fear. I challenge you to speak the truth about abortion, about your beliefs, and about your dreams for the world. What have you got to lose? Do you really like the world the way it is? Do you want to change it? Come with me to the world as we would create it. The choice truly belongs to us.
Debi Jackson is the owner and director of Cincinnati Women's Services, a family planning clinic in Cincinnati, Ohio. Cincinnati Women's Services offers well-woman gynecological care and abortion services that encourage women to make a true connection with their heads and their hearts. When not at her clinic, Ms. Jackson can be found catering to the whims of her menagerie of rescued (and grateful) dogs and cats. She will be delighted to be contacted by E-mail. All thoughts, visions, and blessings are encouraged and welcome.
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