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Brave Woman Confronts Anti-Choice Teens: Why We Need to Tell More Personal Abortion Stories

Feminist activist Michelle Kinsey Bruns, known to many as @ClinicEscort on Twitter, did a heroic thing recently: she walked into a train car full of several dozen Catholic-school teenagers on their way back from the anti-choice March for Life in Washington, D.C., and told them (an abbreviated version) of her abortion story.

Michelle, who wrote about the experience for Feministing, says she chose to talk to these young people because they likely hadn't heard many stories like hers and likewise probably weren't aware of the basic abortion statistics in this country -- that roughly a third of women have had an abortion, and that most of them are already mothers, for instance. "When I remember how much effort my parochial school put into stifling dissenting opinions like mine, I know the Catholic kids who swarm my city each winter aren’t as well-informed as some of them think," she writes. She wanted to share with them, "for perhaps the first time in their lives, a positive, no-regrets, post-abortion narrative."

With only a few minutes to mentally prepare herself, Michelle addressed the group:

“Excuse me, please…?

“I wanted to say thank you for coming to Washington. We love it in my city when you come to visit us. It’s a gorgeous place and we’re very friendly to visitors.

“But what we’re not so crazy about is when people come and try to tell us how to live our lives. I know, as a person from the South myself—Georgia—that you all understand that.

“1 in 3 women in this country has an abortion. Sixty-one percent of them are already mothers. They all do it citing the difficult circumstances of their lives, and the priority of the families they already have.

“I had an abortion when I was eighteen. I had been an abused child; I had just gotten out of a place where I often went to school with two black eyes. And that abortion saved my life—”

My voice started to shake with adrenaline and nerves.

“—in the sense that I was able to take it back and become successful the way I am today. The rest of my family’s lives are still very poor, and very tough, and I love them dearly but I wish that they had had more options for themselves.”

It's impossible to know exactly what impact Michelle's speech will have on those students in the long term, but it stands to reason that the more personal stories those students hear, the more likely they are to be sympathetic towards women who seek abortions. To borrow an example from another hot-button issue, it's not a coincidence that the percentage of Americans who have out gay friends and relatives tracks closely with the increase in positive attitudes towards same-sex marriage.

Lord knows our culture doesn't make it easy to share our abortion stories without shame and stigma. And standing up alone in front of a large, young, possibly hostile audience probably isn't for everyone. But the more personal abortion stories get out there -- the more people hear about the wide variety of reasons why women seek abortions, and the range of experiences those women have -- the better for all of us.