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My First Abortion Party

When I got the invite to a friend's abortion party, I thought it was a way to help her through a difficult decision. I was right and wrong.

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"Do you feel welcome here?" I eventually asked him, fully expecting a ‘grown-up’-type answer. He glanced around, chewed on his sleeve and went to look for some babes to hang out with. "Too cool for me," I thought, shaking my head and cramming a pastry into my mouth. I was bewildered. 

I continued mingling, sampling pastries and chatting with some of Ali’s friends. I didn’t really feel comfortable discussing the abortion with strangers, so I just talked bullshit: Music. School. The Future. I guess I was hesitant to confront the breadth of the party’s complexity. Maybe I had even hoped to avoid it.

I couldn’t, of course. I saw Maggie’s boyfriend, sitting near the kitchen, wearing rainbow suspenders and looking uncomfortably alone. As it turns out, he had been the object of a lot of vitriol from Maggie’s friends -- women who thought that he should not have had anything to do with the abortion. Both he and Maggie had been saddened about this reaction because they had made the decision together. When we talked, his sentences spilled out in quick little jumbles, like scattered puzzle pieces. His eyes stayed focused on a point behind me. He looked as if he’d like to be somewhere else.  

Maggie, too, looked less than excited. A few days beforehand, one of her friends had asked her to have the abortion in Ohio. When Maggie insisted on bringing her boyfriend along, the friend told her not to bother coming. Maggie was being shown a great deal of respect, certainly. But she told me she couldn’t help but feel as though her pregnancy had been "hijacked" by women who felt like her inclusion of a man in the decision was weak or wrong. This was a surprise to me, but I didn’t exactly know how to weigh in.

Abortion is, after all, a very tricky topic -- a minefield of opinions where the slightest misstep can elicit unexpected reactions from friends, family, co-workers and strangers. Though I would classify myself an ardent pro-choicer, I also recognize that I am a man, and therefore somewhat of a problematic player in the debate. It’s never been made clear to me what sort of involvement I’m entitled to on the issue, and I don’t feel particularly confident making judgment calls about women -- whatever their political leanings. 

I did, however, think the extent to which Maggie’s friends were eager to vilify her partner was peculiar. These were liberal people, after all -- people whose views on sex were worlds away from anything someone might consider "modest." I couldn’t help but notice how aggressive and, for lack of a better term, ‘male’ their attitudes became when confronted with the issue of a woman’s right to choose. It was almost as if, in the process of upholding an ideal of openness and acceptance, they had fallen victim to the same forces they were trying to critique.  

But could I blame them for responding with such anger? No way. I knew many of them had experienced the most hurtful forms of structural sexism -- the kinds I will never see. The kinds that that disguise themselves as "the norm." These women, who had only recently begun to unravel the ways their voices had been excluded from relationships, dialogues and society in general, had every right to respond with anger. I imagine it would have been nearly impossible not to.

The tension never boiled over. There was no overt confrontation at the abortion party between Maggie’s friends and her boyfriend -- just a jumbled collage of sweaty dancers and cold shoulders, whispered conversations and intoxicated hoots. By the end of the night, the donation bowl was overflowing with contributions from Maggie’s friends, male and female. It was, for the most part, a bipartisan success.

 
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