Scarlet Letter – McSweeney’s Internet Trend

I know what’s best for you: Stories of reproductive freedomedited by Shelly Oria, is a multi-genre anthology focusing on the reproductive rights crisis in the United States. scarlet letterby Sarah Gerard, is an essay featured in the book. Pre-order the bookand receive the supplement, I know what’s best for you all over the world, free as an e-book. Editor and author Shelly Oria will be on tour throughout the summer of 2022, joined by contributors to the book as well as many other writers and artists.

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My husband was unemployed and I had worked for two months at a magazine where I stared at a computer screen all day for close to minimum wage. I confirmed I was pregnant in the bathroom of The Gray Dog on Mulberry Street the day after I found out my first book would be published, after months of rejection. I was twenty-eight.

I had been married for three tumultuous years. I dreamed of a way out that I wouldn’t find for three years. Our marriage from the beginning was badly planned, we were young and impulsive. We lived in a small studio the size of a prison cell. We called my parents from my husband’s car, parked across from our marriage counselor’s office, asking for five hundred dollars.

I called in sick the day I took the second pill. I had taken the first the day before and carried my dead fetus for twenty-four hours. I was crying in the tub with my husband, the blood swirling in the water around us, tinting him pink, the waves swirling through my abdomen.

My grief seemed to oppose my policy. It was dark and overwhelming, my uterus a cave. I bled for weeks. I was alone in my body, concerned about what I perceived as a debt to my mother’s generation for the sacrifices and stands they had made that freed me from unplanned parenthood. Admitting that I was in pain was an indescribable secret, something I could never reveal, even to myself.

The lingering cultural stigma around reproductive freedom deprived me of the right to properly grieve, so my anger and grief spilled out everywhere. Each successive failure to write about it only underscored its banality. I inserted it in the first paragraph of a book review, but the publisher who asked me refused it. “I had an abortion too,” she told me, “but it’s really nobody’s business.”

I had hoped to give my trauma at least some use. I struggled with the undramatic nature of it: I hadn’t been raped, I wasn’t a teenager, I wasn’t homeless, I wasn’t even single. At the time, I thought I needed some justification. I do not know. You neither. I was forced to admit that my story was banal – as it should be.

I never wanted to be pregnant. Some women find the experience of body transformation fascinating; No. I felt like my body had been stolen from me. I have had a conflicted relationship with my body since childhood; I struggle with gender and food. It took me a while to learn to nurture rather than punish, to understand my body’s needs and prioritize them. For these and other ethical and political reasons, I would prefer, and will, to parent in other ways.

It’s my choice. I don’t need to tell you that an abortion was good for me; that’s good for one in four American women. I don’t need to tell you what happens to women who are denied the right to a safe abortion, or what happens to their children – how many times they fall through the cracks of a fractured system, how they suffer – how we, spiritually, as a human race, suffer with them – or how easy it is to find the data of despair that follows unplanned pregnancies in the public costs of unemployment, government assistance, visitation emergencies, domestic violence, hunger and foster care. I don’t need to tell you that the abortion rate goes down with better access to contraception. That, if I had had access years ago, I would not have written this. I don’t need to convince you.

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Sarah Gerard is the author of the collection of essays The state of the shining sunand the novels binary star and True love. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Granta, The disconcerting, The believerand anthologies We can’t help it if we’re from Florida, Small blows against encroaching totalitarianism Vol. 2, Erase the patriarchyand Tampa Bay Black. She lives in Florida with her partner, writer Patty Yumi Cottrell.

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