Thursday, March 15, 2012

Call for Submissions for anthology about abortion

The week before I left for vacation for the Outer Banks, the General Assembly of Virginia was working hard considering bills which I found anathema.  Four particularly horrible ones were as follows:

The "Personhood" bill would give all the rights of a viable human being who was already alive to a fertilized egg at the moment of conception, thus defining personhood.  I'm not sure the delegates and senators considered all of the ramifications of this bill when they first read it, but it could cause problems in such situations as ectopic pregnancies.  That is when the zygote is implanted in the woman's fallopian tube.  The tube cannot expand to house the developing baby, and she could easily die if the pregnancy were allowed to continue.  If the Personhood bill were passed, the doctor would be committing murder and/or be accessory to a murder if he counseled the woman to end the pregnancy in order to save her life.  The zygote in this case would be completely unviable - the pregnancy could NOT come to term.  That's just one of the potential problems. 

The "Vaginal Probe" bill would require a woman who was planning to have an abortion to have a sonogram as part of her counseling process pre-abortion.  She would be required to look at the pictures, and the pictures would become part of her medical records.  She would not be able to refuse to have the sonogram.  The only kind of sonogram which would show the fetus before 12 weeks of pregnancy is a vaginal probe, an uncomfortable, invasive instrument.  Because the procedure is not medically indicated, insurance would not pay for it, thus adding between $500 and $2400 to the cost of an abortion.  Women who were raped or who experienced incest would not be excepted from the law, forcing them to undergo another violation of their vaginas without their permission.

Another law would give adoption agencies the right to not allow certain people to adopt if their values were against those people (i.e. gays).

And the 4th heinous bill would make it so that the state would no longer be allowed to fund or help fund abortions for poor women when the fetuses were either severely handicapped or would not be able to live once outside the womb.  Last year the state spent $7000 on such abortions.  I believe there were 11 of them.  Not a big expenditure.  I am guessing that the cost of those women giving birth and raising the children (when they lived at all) would greatly exceed the cost of the abortions.  Presumably, this is a way to make sure the state does not have anything to do with supporting abortion in any way.  Our governor, Bob McDonnell, is a strong proponent of anti-choice.

Thousands of people raised their voices in protest.  Here's a link to one of the Facebook sites which is being used to organize resistance.  One day we all rallied at the General Assembly, in silence, to ask our legislators to please not pass these bills.  Over 1100 people were there: women, men, children, nuns, women in burqas.  It was a completely civil protest.  Afterwards we went to our senators' and delegates' offices to state our opinions.  The aides were very courteous and took our opinions down to share with their bosses.  Such protests continued all week, with folks filling the GA gallery, wearing their red armbands to indicate their affiliation and desires.

I followed the happenings on FB and online as the GA passed the Vaginal Probe bill.  It was modified to indicated that an abdominal sonogram could be used (completely useless medically) and that women who were raped or who suffered incest could forgo it.  but it passed.  The governor, who is potentially under consideration as a VP candidate, signed it into law.

The Personhood bill did not pass.  It was passed over until next session.

The bill to keep low income women from having a state-funded abortion died in the State Finance Committee.

I don't know the fate of the abortion bill.

Here's a link to a terrific article outlining more than I've written if you're interested.

All these bills and the threat they offer to our hard won rights as women have turned me into an activist.  I feel personally threatened and enraged as a woman even though my childbearing years have passed.  I want my daughter and granddaughters and nieces and everyone else to have the right to make their own choices about their own bodies.  It's a horrible choice to have to make to terminate a pregnancy, but it is none of my business what another woman decides.  How can I possibly think I have the right to legislate her choice?  Adding shame and public humiliation to the mix is just not helpful.  It does not improve society or community, and it certainly won't stop people from having sex.

OK, enough rant.

Here's what I'm doing about it:  a couple of friends and I have decided to compile an anthology of personal stories about abortion.  Below I will paste the letter we sent out asking folks to submit their stories about abortion if they feel so moved.  Please feel free to forward this to anyone you think might be interested.  We are also interested in stories from people who chose NOT to have abortions, who had their children or who gave them up for adoption.  This is an exceedingly complex issue, and we want the book to hold that complexity with gentleness and honor. 

Dear Friends,

The current explosion of political and media attention on the subject of abortion and reproductive rights has prompted much thought, discussion and activism among us. Clearly, there are many outspoken proponents of a woman’s right to choose and the unborn’s right to life. However, while the statistics say 3 in 10 women have had an abortion in her lifetime, these women and their experiences are faceless and obscure. There seems to be a predominant veil of silence about a woman’s experience sometimes even among close friends. We’ve noticed little to no attention has been given to the implications for and affects on women who have chosen to have an abortion in our modern day culture.

Given this fact we are inspired to gather and share the real stories of women who have made the choice to terminate a pregnancy or who have chosen to continue with an unwanted pregnancy and to raise the child or to give it up for adoption. We have decided to compile an anthology of women’s stories of their experiences with this challenging choice. We are contacting friends like you to see if you have a story that you would like to share. Or if you know someone who would be interested in sharing his or her story,please pass this letter on to him or her. We hope to include a broad range of experiences and perspectives. Along those lines, we are also open to submissions from partners or loved ones of a woman who has had an abortion.

If you have a story you want to share, here are the submission details:

·          Notify us of your intention to submit your story by March 30, 2012.  Write us at
·         2-12 pages, personal essay, prose or poetry submitted by June 1, 2012 to  We welcome receiving them earlier as we are trying to get the book done in record time!
·         Submit in Word
·         This will be one-time rights
·         We intend to notify you by August 1, 2012 if your piece will be included in the anthology.
·         Compensation for chosen submissions has not been finalized.

We hope to have the book finished and ready to go by Oct 1, 2012 in the hopes it can have an impact on the political races this Fall.  We are still looking for a publisher, so if you have contacts to agents or publishers, please let us know.
Thank you for your willingness to share your story.  This is in service to all humanity.
Susan Singer, Joan Maher, Leslie Lytle


  1. This is an excellent idea---and I applaud your activism. I, too, was appalled by the blatantly obvious attempts to control women through laws about their bodies, thus taking major steps backward in our evolution as a society. I recently read a book titled "Small Screen, Big Picture: Television and Lived Religion" which contained an essay about how abortion is treated on television programs. Interesting stuff. It made clear to me that the story of abortion is not dealt with honestly, deeply, or even very openly in just about every television show, be it cable or network. One show discussed in the essay was the 1970's sit-com "Maude" and the episode titled "Maude's Dilemma." The writer made the point that this episode still stands as one of the best depictions of the issue.

    I look forward to hearing more about your book and to reading it when it comes out!

  2. I would like to contribute to this project. ~Heather