Pro: Reclaiming Abortion Rights by Katha Pollitt
This is one of the very first books I read in 2015, and it had a huge impact on me. It's one of the ones that I remember exactly where I was an how I felt when I read it. I was sitting on the train, commuting into my co-op placement in Toronto. It was 7 am, and I just remember sitting there, engrossed, because I'd never read something that expressed how I felt about abortion so well before.
I'm childfree. This isn't something that is terribly well accepted, especially since I knew this in my early twenties. One of the very few regrets in my life is that I had a panic attack about being put under aesthetic the first time I was set up to get a tubal. (I'm still convinced the doctor walked me into that operating room to intimidate me out of it. It worked, but not the way she expected.) A few months before I read Pollitt's book, I'd worked through my fears of being put under and got the Essure procedure. It's one of the best decisions I've ever made. So, obviously, reproductive rights are something very close to my heart.
Before this book, I'd never come across something that was as assertive and unequivocal about it. The option to get a safe and legal abortion is fundamental. While for some women it's a traumatic experience, for others (and I'd be in this camp) it ranges from no big deal to a profound relief. The modern discourse, even among feminist reproductive rights activists, is that abortions have to somehow still be a trauma - something that hurts us to get. That isn't a universal feeling, and I'd never seen it expressed before. It's a medical procedure, just like any other.
Pollitt also does not shy away from issues of race, social class, queerness, and social control. The fight for the right to control our bodies is not happening in a vacuum. It is crucial that we retake the movement and re-frame it. We're not apologetically asking for this right, as long as we feel appropriately guilty about it afterwards. The right to an abortion should not have any moral strings attached, and I refuse to feel guilty for stating that if I ever got pregnant I would abort. I am not ashamed of that, and I'm not a monster for it, despite what both "pro-life" and many pro-choice people would have me think.
And I have never, ever seen those feelings expressed before in a book. It was astonishing. I felt like I was highlighting every other paragraph in the book. I remembering clutching my tablet in astonishment and wanting to exclaim every time I came across a point that made so much sense. In this book, Pollitt has written a call to action. Her polemic tone is strong:
I had no idea I wasn't the only one who knew, deep down, that an abortion would be the end to an absolute nightmare if I got pregnant. I refuse to feel ashamed for demanding the right to be in control of my own body, and I'm so grateful I found this book to reassure me that I'm not alone.
Story (60%): This book had a heavy emphasis on the story appeal element for me. I was totally drawn into the arguments that Pollitt put forth - starting with a chapter titled Reclaiming Abortion; going through the key issues of what American actually think about abortion; defining what a person is, and if women are then viewed as people; outlining six myths about abortion and, from these, looking at what abortion opponents are actually opposed to; asking if there can be a compromise on the issue of abortion; and culminating in a chapter titled Reframing Motherhood. Pollitt takes the reader through a thorough and unflinching dissection of what is actually happening in the context of the "abortion debate" in the US and builds up to her final chapter that validates motherhood (and the choice to not go down that road). I couldn't put the book down until I reached the end.
Character (40%): That being said, the book also resonated with me from a character appeal element. While this is not as cut and dry as evaluating character in fiction works, as there is no one person that the work is about, the work is about people just like me. I see myself so strongly in the issues and arguments that Pollitt weaves together.
Neither language nor setting were part of the appeal for me of this work. It is US-centric, and I am used to reading works like this that do not speak directly to my Canadian experiences. Additionally, the style Pollitt writes in, while engaging, was not something that either stood out nor was especially off-putting.