Where Are You? Isaacson-Jones’s “Open Letter to 21 Million Women”

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On January 8, 1989, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch ran an ad taken out by B.J. Isaacson-Jones.  The “ad” was in the form of a poem.  At the time, Isaacson-Jones was the Executive Director of Reproductive Health Services (as in Webster v. Reproductive Health Services).

An Open Letter to 21 Million Women-

Where are you?
For over 16 years we have provided
you with choices
Painful choices
I remember
I sometimes cried with you.
Choices, nevertheless, when you were desperate.

Remember how we protected your privacy
and treated you with dignity and respect
when you
were famous
had been brought to us in shackles
with an armed guard, or
were terrified
that you would run into
one of your students?
I remember each of you.

Our clinic was firebombed.
Do you recall?
Exhausted and terrified we had
been up all night.
We rerouted you to another clinic
because you wanted an abortion that day.
Where are you?

Priding ourselves on providing abortions for
those who cannot pay, we have spent millions
of dollars that we never really
had caring for you. We wanted
to give a choice.
I also gave you cab fare and
money for dinner from my own pocket.
Have you forgotten?

I remember you cried and asked me how
you could carry this pregnancy to term when
were abusing the children you had,
were having an affair,
tested positive for AIDS,
could not handle another,
were raped by your mother’s boyfriend,
pregnant by your father and
shocked and torn apart when
your very much wanted and loved
fetus was found to be
severely deformed.

Your mother picketed our clinic
regularly. We brought you in after dark.
Have you mustered the courage
to tell her that you are pro-choice?
You are.
Aren’t you?

I recall shielding your shaking body, guiding you
and you husband through the picket lines.
They screamed adoption, not abortion!
You wondered how you could explain your
choice to your young children.

You broke our hearts.
You had just celebrated your twelfth birthday
when you came to us. You clutched
your teddy bear, sucked your thumb
and cried out for your mom who asked
you why you had gotten yourself pregnant.
You replied that you just wanted to be grown.
You’re twenty today.
Where are you?

I pretend I don’t know you in the market,
at social gatherings and on the street.
I told you I would.
After your procedure you told me that you would
fight for reproductive choices (parenthood,
adoption, and abortion) for your mother, daughters,
and grandchildren. You will . . . won’t you?

I have no regrets. I care about
each and every one of you and
treasure all that you’ve taught me.
But I’m angry. I can’t do this alone.
I’m not asking you to speak about your abortion, but
You need to speak out and you need to speak
out now. Where are you?

H/T to David Cassuto

Reading Isaacson-Jones’ poem in the wake of Dr. Tiller’s murder makes her words more powerful than ever.  Abortion — which is a difficult, painful and heart-wrenching choice — needs to be safe and legal.  We need to speak out.  Now.  

-Bridget Crawford

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