This year, I will celebrate my first Mother’s Day with a daughter of my own, a fact that I am contemplating deeply after an especially exhausting week of juggling work and family, responding to the needs of a teething baby, and sleeping less than I did during even the wildest of my party days. As a longtime advocate of reproductive justice, my experience of becoming a mother has expanded and informed my commitment to my movement and especially my work at Backline, an organization that for the past five years has promoted connection, conversation and support around all aspects of pregnancy, parenting, abortion and adoption. I am eagerly looking forward to all of the Hallmark trappings the day will bring – the chance to sleep in, breakfast in bed, flowers – even as I am acutely aware that there is much more that needs to be done, on Mother’s Day and every day, if we are to proclaim ourselves a society that truly honors the choices and the realities of women and mothers.
This year for Mother’s Day Backline is celebrating all courageous acts of motherhood, recognizing that women all over the world are connected by the experiences of managing, anticipating, rejoicing in or avidly avoiding pregnancy. We hear about these courageous acts every single day on our nationwide Talk Line, and we remind every person who calls us that motherhood is an experience comprised of many different, often difficult, decisions, some of which are readily supported by our culture but many more of which are shrouded in shame and stigma.
We tell callers that "there are not women who have abortions and women who have babies," but that "these are the same women at different points in their lives," and we hear these words resonate with those whose decision to have an abortion is at odds with their lifelong desire to be a mother. We share the statistic that about 60% of women having an abortion already have one or more children, and we hear our callers’ surprise at the fact that they are not alone in welcoming one pregnancy while having to say no to another.
We support women who want desperately to parent, even when their age, income level, marital status or sexual orientation puts them outside the norm of "traditional" parenting. We talk to women who are making or have made adoption plans, and affirm that choosing a family to adopt a child does not make one any less of a mother. Through all of these conversations, we recognize pregnancy and parenting as a journey, as not just one choice but many choices.
Within our movement, Backline stands as the organization that speaks to the continuums of women’s reproductive experiences that are reflected in these courageous acts – we do not just offer options counseling, but support women throughout their pregnancy experience; we do not consider women post-abortion, but see abortion as just one piece of a woman’s story; and we do not divide women who are mothers and women who are not, but encourage all women to nurture that which makes them strong and whole, whether it be family or self or education or career or spirituality or all of these things at different times in their lives.
This Mother’s Day, Backline calls upon all advocates of reproductive justice to consider what it would look like to truly support women in all their pregnancy choices. To dream about a world in which all women have access to effective contraception and safe abortion, respectful open adoption services, universal health care, support for labor both in and out-of-hospital, and resources for the hard day-to-day work of raising a healthy, happy child. We ask that just as we seek for every child to be wanted and loved, we work towards the goal of supporting, and de-stigmatizing, every woman and mother in her reproductive choices. This vision is not only essential to creating a true reproductive justice agenda, but is equally vital to defining the way in which we treat the women and mothers in our communities and in our lives. This Mother’s Day, move beyond brunch to acknowledge the courageous acts of all women, and wake up Monday morning ready to work toward a world in which pregnancy, parenting, abortion and adoption choices are discussed openly, honored appropriately, and supported fully and equally.