In the United States, while you are reading this, a teenage girl will make a very difficult decision. This decision is what is best for her, but also, good science suggests, good for society. Somewhere in the world, about every ten seconds (it’s difficult to measure), a teenage girl makes this same decision – a decision that benefits all of us.
These girls range in age from as young as 9 or 10 all the way up to the last teenage year, 19. They come from all backgrounds, all races and religions, all socio-economic levels and yes, despite some restrictive laws, all countries. ALL countries, even places where this decision is illegal.
They have many reasons for making this choice, but no reason is any more justified than another. These girls are entitled to decide what happens to them. Few of them will regret it. Most will not. Some will take a couple of days to recover, physically and emotionally. Many will make up in the morning feeling like a million bucks, like a huge weight has been lifted from their shoulders, like their future stretches in front of them, a brightly lit road, leading in a hundred different possible directions.
You may disagree with me, that this is a good and just choice. You can think that all you want; it doesn’t change the numbers. 150,000-250,000 teenagers make this choice every year in the USA. Millions more throughout the world. For a teenager this is as normal as a car accident, getting braces, or breaking up with your best friend. It is more common than losing a parent or sibling, getting cancer or being treated for addiction. It is FAR more common than teenage suicide.
So where are the stories? In a Young Adult publishing world flooded with dark damaged girls who cut or starve, get raped or beaten, emotionally collapse, disappear into addiction or kill themselves, where are the abortions? There are plenty of pregnancies (although conveniently, the rape victims rarely seem to get pregnant) some end in miscarriage, some in keeping the baby, some in adoption.
It is a testament to how fucked up our world is that books about girls offing themselves are happily shelved in high school libraries, assigned in class and bestowed with major awards, but books wherein a teen chooses to have an abortion are almost non-existent. What does that say about our stomach for the reality of teen life? That we are happier with suffering and surrender than with sense and sacrifice? (Yes, I think it is a sacrifice. Sue me)
We can all name five or ten books off the top of our heads wherein in a major character commits suicide. We can all name five or ten books wherein the protagonist or one of her friends is raped. I have read five of each in the last six months. I haven’t come across a single abortion. Not that these books advocate rape and suicide. But I’m not even looking for a book that advocates abortion. Just one that portrays it would be enough. It has to do with what we are afraid to say out loud, what we are afraid to write. Why are there more rapists in teen books than girls who choose abortion? Chew on that.
In the meantime I’m dedicating this week’s Terrific Teen Tuesday to the girl who chose an abortion while you were reading this.
Little sister, whoever, wherever you are, you’re terrific.