On Abortion — it will take a village.
I’m at Brooklyn Botanical Gardens. It is a humid summer’s afternoon on a Sunday. I have spent the previous 3 Sunday’s mourning a relationship that started 3 weeks before a global pandemic and ended 1.5 years into it, if we’re using my luxurious timeline as the measure. I’ve moved from London to Portland, and Portland to New York City. I’ve not shared space with many of my closest friends and family for almost 2 years. I feel more tender and fragile than I’m used to feeling.
This season doesn’t feel like a time of excess. The summer felt like a bruise that hasn’t made itself visible yet — there’s a dull presence of pain beneath the surface — enough to notice, not enough to acutely diagnose. We (by ‘we’ I mean I) can’t pinpoint where pain and pleasure is located within my body. All that being said, these felt like exactly the right conditions to go on a trip.
There’s a translucency in my skin that I start to feel, but not really see. The barrier between the world and me had gotten thinner. As though my body was more able to absorb whatever was suspended in the ether, and exude whatever alchemy was running through my veins.
From where I stand now, I can see that I was paying attention without realising I was doing so more clinically than I ever had before. People often describe me as someone who moves intuitively through life. It’s a catch-all attempt that speaks to the subtleties, the incalculable and, more simply put, the things we can’t not do but don’t have the language to describe. The body is an incredibly knowledgeable and personal technology we’ve been taught over our lifetimes to ignore.
I stopped at the koi pond. I sat on the bench for a little longer than felt comfortable — I am a little too cognisant of taking up too much space that others (depending on context) are also wanting to occupy. I allowed myself the space to sit, to sweat, to breathe and pay attention.
Next to me was a mother and her child taking the time to daydream and notice too. The child’s tiny face was inching closer and closer to the water, as though seeing wasn’t enough, he just had to immerse himself inside the pond to truly ‘get it’. This didn’t seem to alarm his mother in the slightest. She shot my a knowing glance and smiled. I smiled back, stood up, took this picture and gave them the bench, happily.
Travelling through the air with such frequency and ease feels like remnants of a fever dream.
The flight from JFK to LAX was one I used to take semi-regularly. I adore the suspension of time-zones, borders and expectations that happen in these liminal spaces. Airplanes are one of the few places I find it easier to think, and more importantly, to gain clarity on how I feel. Time on flights is sacred because it dissolves through our fingertips. The rules as we know them don’t exist. There’s usually a lightness available. This flight was entirely different because of an unease I felt within my body — all I could concentrate on for six hours was how foreign this experience was becoming.
The way I was smelled was different. My eye began to twitch. I wasn’t feeling alive and alert enough to even attempt to think, let alone write or review the plan for the project I was heading to the West Coast for. I ate my complimentary cashew nuts, drank my complimentary ginger ale and fell asleep. When my feet touched the ground, the translucency of my skin no longer felt like magic and power, but a vulnerability I didn’t account for or design in.
I checked in to the Silver Lake Inn and Pool.
I unpacked my suitcase, as I always do.
Usually, I’ll spend time attempting to dig beneath the layers of a city I don’t call home. This time, I walked to CVS.
Back at Silver Lake Inn, I knew I was creating conditions for a potential home inside my body. I didn’t know what I was doing, what I had done and what I was going to do.
I went to the rooftop, came up for fresh air.
I went back down to the ground floor, where the air felt weighted.
I went into room 120, sat on the floor and then took this picture.
I made this bed my sanctuary for 3 days and contemplated what I wanted from my future. But more importantly when I wanted it, and how.
To be a witness and participant in uncertainty sets me alight. Up until that moment in LA I was so sure that I would be allowed to make promises to myself about the life that I wanted to create and lead. That I could stay up until the early hours of the morning and make mistakes, and none of them would count in the grand scheme of things, really.
During this birthday season, there was a deeply carved out place of loss inside of me. Flowers arrived at my doorstep with words of love, messages of ‘I miss you’ ‘I wish I was there to celebrate your life’ ‘I can’t wait to hug you again’ and, of course, ‘fuck this pandemic’. I felt both more powerful and more powerless than I knew I had the capacity to feel at this time.
Part of what I want to tell you about, is what it feels like to hold too much and not enough inside your body at one time. I have lived few moments as isolating and emotionally riotous as these ones.
Sun Ra’s ‘Hour of Parting’ came on shuffle.
I took the A train to contribute to ‘The Secrets of the Visitors of Greenwood Cemetery’.
I scribbled my note with my Sharpie.
I longed to be together with people who could validate me and my choices.
I sat on the ground at the highest point of the cemetery and took this picture.
The president of the United States didn’t say the word ‘abortion’ on record for a year. Millions and millions of people have abortions every year. You know these people deeply and intimately — they are your friends, neighbours, grandmas, colleagues. They have had abortions for centuries and will do for centuries more.
Abortions with pills, abortion via surgery, abortion by aspiration, abortions that were legal and clandestine, some which weren’t, some were done joyfully, sorrowfully, neutrally, necessarily.
Abortion is not a tidy stack of legislative documents — it is blood, its clots, its expulsion, logistics, planning, conversations, money, travel, time, resources and recovery. Abortion are a series of unfolding physical and emotional moments that map out what could have been and what could be of one’s life.
Abortion is an answer to ectopic pregnancy, abortion is an answer to a pregnancy your body won’t release naturally, abortion is an answer to a pregnancy you didn’t intend, abortion is an answer to a pregnancy you don’t want. Abortion is an answer to the question “what do you want?”. Abortion is an answer to the question “what do you need?” To me, it seems as though having a baby is entirely ordinary and extraordinary, and should be treated as such. So should abortion. I lived in a state and a time where I was prescribed mifepristone and misoprostol with care and confidence.
I used to think of pregnancy, birth, abortion and miscarriage as these very separate experiences, but really, in so many ways, they’re all on the same spectrum. “Both abortion and miscarriage currently occur more than a million times each year in America, and the two events are often clinically indistinguishable” — Jia Tolentino.
I have a British accent. It’s an interesting thing to have in the United States of America whilst also inhabiting a Black woman’s body. I come from an extremely working class family. We slice apart our time, stitch it together and lend pieces to each other to make our lives run as smoothly and joyously as possible. Forced pregnancy will upend the fabric of society, but more devastatingly bodies, hearts, freedoms and potential of millions of people walking this Earth today and tomorrow. This isn’t purely a fight for choice, it’s also a fight for equitable futures.
Stretching across the spaces and days you inhabit, there are vast networks of practical, financial, emotional and medical support systems that marginalised people create to love, protect and shield and protect one another — used to imagining and building systems of our own, no matter how shaky their foundations are.
This is the season in which bodies with ovaries, some more so violently and methodologically than others, will be be surveilled, observed, scrutinised, villainized and criminalised. People will be afraid to get help. People will feel unable to get help. Now is the time to support the work of those finding inventive ways to reach people who don’t want to be pregnant.
This is the season in which the need for interdependence in any and all pregnancy outcomes in the USA has been made clear. Resistance can look like a group of friends organizing, quietly in an encrypted manner, from sofas, cars and kitchens.
This is the season in which we must pay attention and take care of each other urgently, diligently and candidly. Yes, obviously through a larger, more stable and strategic political offence, but also day-to-day, in our own networks, our friend groups and neighbourhoods. We need more desperately than ever to speak about our own productive rights, but also our reproductive hopes, dreams and fears without stigma.
Usually, I sanitise my writing by scrubbing and cleansing the personal so meticulously that I’m barely saying anything at all. But, for me, this is the season in which loss has also blossomed into a gaining, a curiosity and a constant questioning of whether what the world is offering me is enough.
This is a photo I took a few weeks ago at the Silver Lake Inn, in room 120. This time with myself actually in it. Because I’m an integral part of this story.