Wednesday, January 12, 2005
There's a new front in the battle for abortion rights – the literal front, that is, of a T-shirt designed by writer and feminist activist Jennifer Baumgardner that proclaims "I had an abortion." The shirt, initially for sale on Planned Parenthood's national web site and now available on Clamor magazine's web site, has generated controversy among not only the anti-abortion community but also pro-choice feminists.Inspired in part by the bold irreverence of second-wave feminists, who circulated a petition proclaiming the fact of their own abortions and published it in the first issue of Ms., Baumgardner created the T-shirt in order to remove the stigma that relegates those who have had an abortion to shame and silence. The shirt is one component of a multipart project Baumgardner conceived to draw attention to women's experiences of abortion.
The shirt has certainly fulfilled Baumgardner's hope that it would start a conversation about abortion, but the very brevity of its message has had an unanticipated consequence. Although it's no surprise that individuals such as Jim Sedlak, executive director of the American Life League's STOPP International, think the shirt "celebrates an act of violence" and demonstrates that Planned Parenthood "lacks any sense of integrity, tact and compassion," it's interesting to note that many pro-choice feminists are ambivalent about – or even angered by – the shirt's message. Why, they ask, is the abortion fight taking place on something as public and casual as a T-shirt?