Disclaimer: I am firmly pro-choice and I am not going to pretend otherwise. Abortion is an incredibly controversial topic around the world and part of what fuels this divide is both parties’ conviction in their moral superiority, of which I am definitely guilty. But I am not going to present a considered debate of the topic. I believe that abortion is an extension of necessary health care and view it as a medical procedure that folks looking to undergo it should have the option of without fearing shame or pity. Discorder’s mandate of showcasing underrepresented voices in our community includes the responsibility to uplift the people who make this decision. It’s fine if you don’t agree with my politics, but I hope you keep reading.
So, I had an abortion… launched this January. The founder, Julia Santana Parrilla, introduces the website as “a non-binary, intersectional, QTPOC safe space.” She continues, “I invite not only people who have had an abortion, but those who have supported loved ones in having abortions to contribute their stories.” Julia comes from a Sociology and Public Health background, and founded So, I had an abortion… out of disillusionment with a society that makes those who have exercised their bodily autonomy feel shamed for their choices and to provide a safe and inclusive space to share stories confidentially and creatively.
At the time of writing this article, there are only six story submissions so far, which are released every Wednesday and the majority of which are written narratives. Julia explains “they’re all from cis gendered women and there’s definitely a breadth to those narratives, but I intended it to be an inclusive space and it’s inclusive in theory, it’s just not accrued that inclusivity quite yet.”
The biggest frustration of the project thus far is its slow engagement. Julia describes its potential: “I only started it in January, so it’s just a baby project, but I think that ultimately it has the power to have not only the micro impact of a person being able to cathartically reclaim and tell their story, but also a macro impact having people talk about it to a point that it’s no longer seen as this moral issue and seen for what it really is — which is a medical procedure. I don’t want my ego tied up in it, it’s beyond me, I just want to contribute to people talking about it.”
The site’s premise lends itself to bigger events and bigger projects. Julia’s been approached for collaborative zines, showcases and readings. “I would love to do a live storytelling event. I’m gonna hold off on anything like that until I have more stories and I have a better sample of abortion narratives.”
Julia has had two abortions, one that went smoothly and one not so much. The negative experience motivated her to create the website So, I had an abortion…. The ubiquitous goal to destigmatize abortion into a regular conversation topic is only achievable through individual interaction and engagement with diverse abortion narratives. By providing the platform to share stories, Julia hopes that “other people can see them as a source of solace, or they can see it as a [guide for] what to expect. Or, they can see it as something that they’ve never experienced before and it brings new things to light — maybe some compassion.”
Julia relayed her experience of having a friend who had gone through an abortion prior to her own, and found that knowing what to expect was calming. She explains, “I would have been far more nervous if I didn’t know what was going to happen, which is just human nature — you’re afraid of what you don’t know.” Speaking to how the site came into being, “I started thinking about how I wanted to process it, and I knew that I wanted to tell my own story. I wrote it and rewrote it, but never finished it. This year I decided I just couldn’t not do it anymore.”
As a femme living between Canada and the United States, the future of reproductive rights and maternal health will affect me for the rest of my life. So, I had an abortion… feels like a modern day Vagina Monologues, but intersectional and online. Abortion narratives are diverse and beautiful, encompassing issues of gender, sexuality, parenthood and self that are often overlooked in the mainstream fixation with pain, sacrifice and loss. The basic medical right to an abortion is threatened right now by the emboldened alt-Right in the United States, and the ripple effects through extremist groups here and abroad. I have felt a sense of mobility and call-to-action on this topic since November of last year, and Julia reflects it perfectly: “I wanna be part of these conversations and I could be a part of these conversations as a lone entity, as myself, but I want to go beyond myself and contribute to something beyond myself.” Through So I Had an Abortion… Julia is providing that space for all of us.
So, I had an abortion… is always looking for submissions. Check out soihadanabortion.squarespace.com to read stories and submit. Follow So, I Had an Abortion… on social media for updates on the project: Instagram @soihadanabortion, Twitter @soihadanabort, and Facebook /So-I-had-an-abortion.
If you want to know more about abortions in Canada, visit the following links:
Connect & Breathe: An after-abortion nonjudgemental talkline
Options for Sexual Health: Abortion resources
BC Women’s Hospital & Health Centre: Abortion and Contraception
Sexual Health and Rights: Map of abortion access in Canada
The Canadian Encyclopedia: Abortion in Canada