One edgy writer longing to be outdated
My debut novel, “Aftercare Instructions,” is popping up on lists again since S.B. 8 passed in Texas. In case you missed it, S.B. 8 bans abortion after six weeks, before many women even know they are pregnant. And in case you don’t know how pregnancy weeks are counted, the ticker starts the first day of your last period, which is two weeks before you ovulate. So, two of those weeks, you’re not even pregnant. And in case you’re unfamiliar with my book, a seventeen-year-old girl has an abortion, and that’s not a spoiler. She has it unapologetically.
So, I’m buzzing on lists like: “YA Books About Abortion You Should Know About,” and so on. While I may be happy for the publicity, I’m sickened by the reason and the importance of continuing to normalize these stories. I sold the novel in January of 2016, with the publication date of June 2017. I remember thinking, “If I have to wait a year and a half for this book to come out, will the topic still be relevant?” One part concern with a dash of wishful thinking, perhaps. What if, magically, people realized that abortion is healthcare? That legislature policing a woman’s body like this only takes away access to SAFE abortions? That abortions will always be sought no matter what, but closing clinics, and putting out bounties for crying out loud, just puts the people most at risk at even greater risk? Maybe I’ll be saying, “Back when I wrote this novel, even though one in four women you know have had abortions for a whole variety of reasons that are none of your business, people were politicizing this issue instead of letting it be sorted out with their doctors? I know!
Strange that there was such a taboo around my novel, right? When actually the book is a story of heartbreak and redemption, not an afterschool special about teen pregnancy and abortion! Not to mention our world was on fire and under water and people were hungry and houseless and on and on, and still this was what some people troubled themselves with?”
But the horizon grew even dimmer with the 2016 presidential election later that year and the subsequent Supreme Court appointments. I volunteered as an escort at a women’s clinic in Queens, New York, walking alongside patients through crowds of protestors who used nasty intimidation tactics trying to shame people out of their choice. Our only goal was to help them get through the front door. When will it seem strange we had to do that?
I started going to Planned Parenthood right here in Chico when I was 16 years old. Access to this clinic without the need for parental permission gave me agency. It allowed me to explore birth control options before I was even sexually active. When I was just thinking about it, I was able to choose a birth control option that was right for me under guidance and care of professionals who made me feel safe and in control.
Books and movies and popular culture are a big part of normalizing the conversation. The main character of my novel, Genesis, does not have conflicting feelings about her choice. Surely, she reflects on it. Surely, it was not just a flippant decision. There is still pain. There is still processing. But there’s no wavering. I did this on purpose. And my book is not even meant to be political. It’s about a girl who makes some mistakes and then makes a choice that’s right for her and then keeps living her life.
Now it’s five years later and more preposterous laws are being passed and the great big unthinkable topic within the pages is still very edgy. I look forward to the day my book is an I-can’tbelieve-it-was-ever-like-thatGrandma pile. Until then, Genesis’s story is important, and so is yours. What’s one thing you can do if you’re feeling sick about it, too? Donate to the people fighting these laws. Planned Parenthood and the ACLU, of course. Or an organization called Jane’s Due Process, which supports young people in Texas as they access abortion, birth control, and legal services to ensure their full reproductive freedom. I don’t know where I would be if I didn’t have Planned Parenthood as a teen to empower me to make my own choices. Your teen needs it, too. So does your best friend, your worst enemy, and everyone under the rainbow.