They want those stories
Enough with the goddamn coat hangers
It was probably 1am when someone started banging on my door. Someone banging on your door wasn’t anything unusual when you lived in the dorms. Airmen would get drunk, lose their keys, you’d forget to unlock the shared bathroom, over-eager First Sergeants would decide on a midnight dorm check for liquor or whatever the fuck. I opened the door and a girl from down the hall said her roommate was losing it. She didn’t want to get her in trouble. I was only other female airman on that floor.
When we got back to her room, her roommate screamed at her for telling anyone. I still didn’t know what was going on but I assured her I wasn’t a narc. She kept saying “just let me do it,” and “it'll work.” What she wanted to do was drive the end of a coat hanger she’d sharpened into her belly button and presumably into her uterus. She’d already tried and woke her roommate up with her grunting.
The base hospital had told her she was pregnant. But because of the Hyde Amendment, they couldn’t even mention the word “abortion.” Her church back in Alabama had taught her abortion was a sin, that she’d burn in hell. Her school hadn’t taught her where to find her uterus. But she remembered coat hangers were involved, from one of the church’s halloween fright the ever-loving shit out of teenagers haunted houses.
It took most of the night to convince her a medical abortion was a better option than shoving a coat hanger into her abdomen, that she’d still be able to have kids later on, that it was legal and we could help her navigate it, that no one would ever know, that it was normal and safe.
I think about her when I see the coat hangers. I think about what it teaches girls who are never taught anything else. I think about why they’re never taught anything else.
I think about riding in the truck with my stepdad, Rush Limbaugh railing about whores and sluts who kill babies. I think about telling my stepdad, okay but Grandma says if they ban abortion, girls will have to go to horrible doctors like in Dirty Dancing. My step dad saying that’s what they deserve. I said girls don’t deserve to die just because a guy got them pregnant. He said if the abortion doesn’t kill them, they should get a firing squad. You make an example of them, Lauren.
I think about youth group at the Church of Christ in Amarillo, when the youth pastor told us about back alley abortions, the infections, the blood, the torn uteri and torn bowels. Funny he never mentioned babies. It was almost like that wasn’t the point. He told us about never being able to have kids. He told us our husbands would know, though he failed to mention how. He told us about eternal damnation. A vengeful god. He wasn’t angry. He was fucking turned on.
I think about sex ed at Tascosa High School, about the assistant football coach who taught the class, the same assistant football coach who rubbed girls’ shoulders in study hall. He said, condoms won’t stop AIDS and won’t stop you getting pregnant. The only way to avoid them is abstinence. Y’all know condoms fail. The only way to make sure you aren’t catching AIDS is marriage.
All he had to say about abortion, and only because some brave kid asked, was that he knew girls who’d shove a coat hanger “up there” and if they didn’t die, they couldn’t have kids later on.
The sum of what I learned about abortion from my parents, my parents’ friends, youth ministers, and the like was just that—coat hangers, horrific death, pain, barrenness. Worthlessness. Hell.
They wanted us to believe coathangers were the only option. They wanted girls to die. That’s not hyperbole. It’s the goddamn truth and if you have any doubt, look at their actions. We talk about back alleys and infection and death because we want to evoke empathy. They have none, not for women who step out of line.
They want those stories. The more graphic, the more tragic, the better to scare their children. They want their children to believe abortion is terrifying, scarring, and life-threatening. They want abortion to be terrifying, scarring, and life-threatening. They want women to suffer and bleed and die. They want to imagine those whores and sluts burning in hell.
If you share anything this week, let it not be coathangers, let it be this: