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April 4, 2017

A Handy Guide to Explaining Graphic Anti-Choice Public Transit Ads to Your Children

“How am I supposed to explain this to my children?” is a question many people are grappling with in my hometown right now, where the city failed to fight a campaign by a group of fetus enthusiasts to display graphic anti-choice images on the sides of busses. Images that, I will remind you, are enlarged hundreds of times beyond their actual size, because (as a young man campaigning “for life” in the street once affirmed for me) if you showed images of abortions at their actual size (also known as REALITY)  “they wouldn’t have any impact.” Which should give anyone pause…

But apparently not, because the ads are due to start running this week. As someone who has already talked about these ads with my children, however, I have wisdom to impart here which might be relevant to other parents. This is how I gave them the lay of the anti-choice land.

  1. A lot of things happen to women in their lives, I tell them. A lot of women have babies. And many women who want to have babies end up having their babies die before they are born, often for no reason that anyone can discern. And other women who want babies find out far into their pregnancies that their babies are not growing properly and they make the decisions to end their pregnancies—which is a painful, agonizing choice to have to make and leave families sad for a very long time. Other women find out they are pregnant when they don’t want to be, and these women can also make the choice to end their pregnancies, and sometimes this is sad and sometimes it isn’t.
  2. And then I remind them that the fact that women get to make choices about their own bodies makes a lot of people really angry. Sometimes those people are men and sometimes they are women. Sometimes they are people who themselves have lost babies they desperately wanted, which has left them unable to understand that their situation does not apply to everyone, that restricting someone else’s choice isn’t going to make their own loss any less. (And some of these people are pro-life dude-bro’s who are in their early 20s and as ridiculously empowered as they are ignorant about women’s lives and experiences. Mamas, don’t let your babies grow up to be pro-life dude-bro’s.)
  3. “A lot of people are huge assholes,” I remind my children. We see evidence of this everywhere. We try to love the world and humanity anyway, however. It is an ongoing project.
  4. And these huge assholes, I tell my children, have no problem with taking these intimate, personal, complicated experiences of women’s lives and driving them around town on the side of a bus via wholly misleading images. They have either not paused to reflect on or do not care in the slightest about how these images are as violent and cruel as they are misleading. On what it might mean to be coming home from the ER after realizing you are miscarrying and seeing that bus drive by you. Or even worse, when you’re waiting at the bus stop as you are miscarrying, and that’s the bus that pulls up. Public transit is not frequent enough in my hometown that you could just sit down and wait for the next one. I tell my children that the people who’ve placed these ads have not bothered to put themselves in that woman’s place, or the place of her partner, her children, all those people who know how complicated women’s health and women’s lives can be. I tell my children, Don’t be these people. I tell them there is such a thing as empathy. I tell my children: “In your lives, be better than that.”
  5. I tell them, “You know the problem, the reason these ads have happened at all and the reason people are able to rest afloat on the seas of their own ignorance, is that we don’t talk about abortion enough. A person lacking in curiosity might think that these aren’t issues that have affected nearly everyone. So in a way, even though the images are gross and fake, they give us cause to be grateful. Here we are talking about it. A good moment to remind you, my daughter, that your body—and the choice of what to do with it—is your own.”

6 thoughts on “A Handy Guide to Explaining Graphic Anti-Choice Public Transit Ads to Your Children”

  1. Shawna says:

    I wish this were on the side of a bus. Thanks for it.

  2. fern hill says:

    This is excellent! Brava!

  3. Casey says:

    Thank you for this!

    The ad instills fear and so one route I’ll take is reassure
    children that they are safe. That there are friends, women, neighbours, teachers, and police officers in town working to keep them safe. I live in Peterborough where the ‘Going, Going, Gone: Abortions Kills Children. End the Killing’is up now, outside of bus, for the next 3 months.

  4. gratitude says:

    I appreciate the humour nd the honesty in the words above. I would caution that “being better than” may, in fact, Be the problem we are trying to overcome…
    Empathy must be shared equally among all people to be effective…

    1. Kerry says:

      I would argue that there is certainly empathy in my point of view—I understand why some of these people feel the way they do. But to say that this is an even two-sided issue when it’s one side actively working to oppress another and restrict their bodily autonomy is not entirely fair. Let’s all be better than people who are actively (and cruelly) trying to oppress others and restrict the bodily autonomy of actual living, breathing human people. I don’t know that this is a bad baseline to start from.

      1. Kerry says:

        PS I’m not being humorous in the slightest. This here is serious business. I am a woman with a body who has daughters. The stakes are high.

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