Abortion rights: 5 minutes, 3 choices, 1 result

A 19-item bulleted list containing fun things Margot has to look forward to, such as the prom and a trip to Hawaii.

The list is what appears on the whiteboard in Margot’s room in the film “Five Minutes” by Darby Wilson.

Margot’s list of important things rapidly shrinks to the one result she’ll find out after making a trip to the drugstore for a test, waiting five minutes and mulling three options.

It’s difficult to discuss further without spoilers, so here’s the 13-minute film.

Do our own stories matter when discussing abortion rights?

I saw a meme in May after multiple states had passed the heartbeat bills mentioned in the credits of this film. I wish I could find it, but its point was “Don’t assume your personal experience gives you any more or less credibility when you are telling me your opinion about this.” It was said in a catchier way than that, and had some colorful graphics, but hopefully you get the point.

*self disclosure warning ahead*

I don’t disagree with that meme in theory. Someone would probably take my advice to hydrate well and use sunscreen if the weather was hitting this week’s heat wave temps whether I could sign an affidavit confirming I had been dehydrated or sunburnt before.

It’s different, though, when the topic is abortion rights. I have had sex with one person in my entire lifetime. I didn’t have sex at all until I was 25. We used protection every. single. time. until we were trying to conceive.

I guess that could lead you to ask what I could possibly know about the fear Margot expresses in this film. I suppose it could make you doubt my knowledge base about the array of relationships, choices, temptations, mistakes, options, dysfunctions and satisfactions in the world.

While I don’t expect my children (who are now in their 20s) to make the same choices I did, it matters to me that my personal choices were centered around my individual conviction (which is one person’s opinion, not what I would ever impose on anyone else) that intercourse is as much about our minds and hearts as it is about mechanics. (It’s also, in my case, about how much of myself I give away emotionally; I know I am incapable of separating emotions from my intimacy choices. I didn’t want to put myself in the position of breaking my own heart.)

I also believe life begins at conception. I am sure it did for the two children I lost. But that doesn’t change how I feel about every woman’s right to choose to have an abortion.

While I believe the history I bring to any discussion I have about abortion rights matters, I also believe wholeheartedly that no woman’s life narrative takes away their right to make this legal choice, in a way that is affordable, safe and protective of their dignity.

The complex reasons behind abortion

First and foremost, abortion is still legal. If you are in a state that restricts abortion access, here are resources to help.

A study found “almost four” reasons, when the mean is calculated, leading women to decide to have abortions.

The top reasons include being unprepared financially, an unplanned pregnancy, relationship issues and the need to focus on existing children. The other reasons, and an analysis, are here.

In addition, reproductive coercion, which the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists defines as ” behavior intended to maintain power and control in a relationship related to reproductive health by someone who is, was, or wishes to be involved in an intimate or dating relationship with an adult or adolescent,” is a thing. Women or adolescents who have need abortions for a pregnancy related to reproductive coercion should be able to get them. Here’s more information about reproductive coercion.

Why I advocate to keep abortion legal and accessible

A few months ago, the University of Alabama returned $26.5 million Hugh Culverhouse Jr. (who is not a Democrat or Republican) had donated. Alabama asserts the returned donation (and the removal of Culverhouse’s name from the law school’s facade) were related to inappropriate interference on his part in university matters. Culverhouse says it’s because of his stance on abortion and his objection to a bill passed in Alabama that makes it a criminal act to have an abortion.

I am not in a position to figure out why Alabama made its choice to remove Culverhouse’s name, but I agree with him that “taking away a woman’s right to make decisions about her own body isn’t about politics … it’s an act of oppression.”

In closing

I don’t have to have chosen an abortion myself to support another woman. I don’t have to have experienced any of the four primary reasons women choose abortion. I explained by telephone how to use a condom to countless men over the first few years of the AIDS crisis without having any experience of sex between men (obviously) or how to use a condom. Hopefully, I helped them make choices that would keep them alive.

A wise Episcopalian priest once said to me (about an entirely different topic that was the most pressing issue in the national church at that time), “I am personally very conservative on this, but it’s my job to shepherd this flock through finding their way and making up their minds.” I wish I could convey his tone of voice, his intellect, his ability to separate the two things in a respectful manner at that moment.

In the case of abortion rights (and me), it all comes down to respect for the other individual, understanding that life is never one size fits all, empathy and respect for the law.

Abortion rights

A Few Notes about “Five Minutes”:

Becks Edelstein directed the film.

Megan Walsh was the cinematographer and editor.

Darby Wilson wrote it, in addition to playing Margot.

If the film inspires you to act, Darby suggests you donate (and/or volunteer) to Planned Parenthood or the American Civil Liberties Union.