By: Lindsey Frechou, Students for Life of America’s 2012 Missionary for Life
Well, she’s done it again. Oprah has managed to get thousands of women reading and discussing a book. She says jump, they ask how high. Normally, I’m not so cynical about Oprah. In fact, Oprah’s Favorite Things is one of my must watch Christmas specials. And I can’t begin to count the times I helped my grandma make sure the Oprah’s talk show was recording because she simply couldn’t miss it. Sure Oprah’s a hardcore Obama fan, but hey, it’s not her fault we aren’t all smart voters (or is it?). All Obama jokes aside, I truly believe Oprah’s a good-hearted woman and the best book saleswoman to ever walk the planet. Too bad she sucks at picking books.
Right now Oprah’s promoting a book called “Wild” by Cheryl Strayed. Basically, it’s a true story about Cheryl, who goes on a really long walk after her mother dies to reflect on the numerous times she cheated on her husband, her heroin addiction and how her mother’s death affected her. Oprah describes it, stating that “it is so enhancing. This book is about being brave when you didn’t think you could be.” At first glance, it really does sound like a good book. After all, this woman is contemplative about some of the negative turns in her life and takes a walk all by herself to figure them out. She must be so. darn. brave. However, Cheryl has another aspect of her life that she revealed in one short sentence of her book. Literally half of the readers probably read over it. See if you can find it. “I got an abortion and learned how to make dehydrated tuna flakes and turkey jerky and took a refresher course on basic first aid and practiced using my water purifier in my kitchen sink.” Huh, dehydrated tuna flakes. That sounds gross. Purified water, always important on a long walk…wait, WHAT? She got an abortion? And that’s…it? No explanation. No details. No…remorse?
Cheryl talks about her abortion once more in the novel. She writes:
“It was sunny and finally warm again, and as I walked, I thought that if I’d continued with the pregnancy I’d learned about in that motel room in Sioux Falls the night before I decided to hike the PCT, I’d be giving birth to a baby right about now. The week of my mother’s birthday would’ve been my due date. The crushing coalescence of those dates felt like a punch in the gut at the time, but it didn’t compel me to waver in my decision to end my pregnancy. It only made me beg the universe to give me another chance. To let me become who I needed to before I became a mother: a woman whose life was profoundly different than my mother’s had been.”
Does the word brave come to mind after reading this paragraph? Because to me (and my nanny who brought this to my attention), bravery would have been putting off this really long walk for nine months. Bravery would have been choosing life (ironic that the baby’s due date would have been her mother’s birthday, but that’s a whole different topic). Bravery would be talking about her abortion and the obvious affect it has on her life. But she sounds so happy and content with her decision! The abortion obviously wasn’t a big deal. Or was it really a huge deal and just an additional loss for her to mourn on top of her mother’s death? Is bravery running away from a problem and pretending there isn’t one or facing it head on and talking about it so other women don’t make the same mistake?
In another essay she wrote, Love of my Life (here’s the link: http://www.thesunmagazine.org/archives/2192?page=1. Just a heads up, it’s kind of vulgar) Cheryl shows many symptoms of Post Abortive Syndrome (PAS). Some symptoms women face after an abortion are nightmares, promiscuity, denial and psychological numbing to name a few. I bet you ten bucks and a strawberry shake from Sonic that you can find most (if not all) of these symptoms in her essay. She may appear to be loving life right now and look like the coolest woman ever (I mean, come on…she’s on Oprah’s Book Club) but I see right through it. Abortion is ugly. Cruel. Scarring. Damaging. It’s proven to be psychologically challenging on women and I just don’t buy it that Cheryl has walked away unscarred.
Most women don’t come to terms with their abortions until years after. Isn’t that upsetting? They have to spend their whole life carrying such a heavy burden on their heart because they are too scared to bring it up. Too scared to confront it. Too scared to be judged. I want Cheryl, and other women for that matter, to be able to feel like they can be brave. I want abortion to stop being such an awkward and untouched topic. I want women who have experienced the horrors of abortion to step up and say, “No. My decision to abort my baby was not brave. It was cowardly. It was irrational. It was devastating. But I am going to be brave now and share my story because I don’t want another woman to ever experience the pain that I have.” You want courageous women Oprah? Look for women who are willing to face their past mistakes head on and stop running from the shadows of their abortion. I know a few. And they’ll write the best darn book your book club has ever seen.