writing

I Say Things In Italics Episode 1: The difficulties in writing about abortion in fiction (trigger warning)

Warning: This post is about abortion. Sort of. I’m avoiding to talk about the ethics of abortion itself. I’m talking about the tension that comes up when talking about it. However, if I do say something insensitive please tell me

I wonder if it’s possible for me, a pro-choice feminist, to write a story that equally conveys both ends of the abortion argument without hating on either of them. Then again, who am I to write about such a topic? A blog owner? 

People tell me to take a whack at limits, but are these the limits that they were talking about? What if I do research? Gain information from members of both viewpoints? I have access to a Peer reviewed university library and I have done research on similar topics. But this one seems…poisonous.

If I look in a library, a public one even, I’ll find plenty of fiction novels dealing with other controversies: Sex ethics, Animal Testing, War, etc. However, if I ask for a book that deals with abortion I have to whisper it to minimize the ass clenching.

I understand why this is. Abortion is an issue that hits close to home and connects with many other issues. It’s about religion, it’s about feminism, it’s about the rights of people. Sometimes it’s the pregnant woman’s rights we’re talking about and sometimes it’s the potential person we’re talking about. Is an embryo a person? Is ending a potential life murder or unnecessary extrapolation that could ruin a living person’s life (is using the word extrapolation making light of the subject?)? It’s an economic problem, it’s a political problem. It’s many things.

Most of all it’s an issue that hits people where it hurts when it’s discussed, a disagreement with an opinion holder’s belief is a personal blow. Abortion is rarely joked about except for the most confident, skilled, or reckless comedians (George Carlin, anyone?). You could make a rape joke on TV and not get as much flak for it as abortion.

My question, should we be treating abortion this way? And if so should we treat every controversy this way?

Think about it: Animal Rights has many supporters and dissenters. Some may say that it affects them personally due to them being companions with animals they live with (zoologists, biologists, pet owners, etc). Should we treat this as carefully seeing as there are people who feel passionately about it? Should we treat issues of war as carefully? For animal rights it could be argued that the issues don’t personally affect as many people, but what about issues of war?

I’m sure you can list many reasons it is reasonable to treat the issue of abortion representation in fiction as cautiously as we do and I would agree with you. But why do we treat any other issue any differently?

Many issues have benefited from being talked about carefully in fiction. Much of Never Cry Wolf, for example, was actually exaggerated or made up, especially in the movie version, but it was still a huge driving force for the portrayal of wolves in culture and has brought about a change in how we create laws about dealing with them. There’s something to be said about a one sided argument in a book too. Most war novels take a solid stand, even if they do represent some of the other side of the argument as well (e.g. they may admit that some war is necessary at times but still firmly stand against war in general). 

Fiction is a key component in arguing about real life issues. The difficulty of tackling the subject of abortion has benefits: it forces people to write carefully and portray all sides of the argument or face the consequences (just see the scandal that was Breaking Dawn, the fourth installment of Stephanie Meyer’s series). However, it may repel people from even mentioning the subject at all which could be prevent those who have insightful ideologies from voicing their opinions.

If I have offended anyone at all I do apologize and I invite people to message me about what I said to offend, what their opinions are on the subject and what I should avoid doing when writing about such a touchy issue.

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