While the termination of the pregnancy is a personal decision and should not be debated, it is also a privilege that we need to have an open and courageous conversation about. Access to safe and medical termination of a pregnancy is by no means a matter of course for every person. As we have learned throughout the years, access to reproductive healthcare is a privilege of wealth, and mostly a white privilege.
Recently, I learned that my grandmother in Germany terminated her pregnancy in the early 1970s. She was a mother of four children, a nurse, and she took care of the needs of her many tenants in a small house in the suburbs. My grandfather was working as a coal-miner all day and could not help with housework and raising the children. Additionally, one could also argue that the classic and heteronormative role allocation did not give him much of a choice.
When my grandparents found out that my grandmother was pregnant again, they took the time to think about what that would mean to them. They barely made enough money to feed six people. Grandma was working so hard to satisfy everyone and be there for her family. There was just no more space, no more energy for another person to be part of this socio-economic system called family.
She had already been at an advanced stage of her pregnancy and the German law, at that time, prohibited the legal termination of her pregnancy. This is where her privilege stepped in. She did what people referred to as a “trip to Holland.” The restrictions in the Netherlands were much looser, and she was able to get a medical abortion in a country that was a few hundred miles away from home.
Grandma was able to do all of that - to travel, to pay for the medical procedure and such - because she comes from a certain privilege. While she was living a lower working-class life, she still was able to get the funding for a trip that gave her access to a safe and professional treatment. Upon return, the “trip to Holland” was never discussed and the children would not find out about it until much later; and only because my aunt was a noisy child.
2020 for sure taught us that we, as white people, need to voice our privilege for the underrepresented and oppressed to talk about important issues. Reproductive freedom and equal access to healthcare for everyone has always been on my agenda, but recognizing my very personal relationship to the topic, encouraged me, even more, to devote my time and efforts to Planned Parenthood and what the organization stands for. We need to make sure that we become aware of what we have in order to talk about what others do not have. We need to think about what all humans need and why we need to have an uncomfortable conversation about very intimate issues. We not only need to talk about police brutality and immigration and how white people do not face the same oppression as people of color, but we also to talk about access to health care, because in the end, access to reproductive health care for everyone is healthcare for all human beings.