On December 5, 2017, We Testify Abortion Storyteller Kristine Kippins shared her abortion story, and how she realized her experience was one of privilege, at the DC Abortion Fund’s Peace, Joy, and Choice Holiday Party. Her remarks are below. Watch the video on our Facebook page.
Thank you so much to the organizers of tonight’s Holiday Party for inviting me to speak with you all this evening. The DC Abortion Fund and the National Network of Abortion Funds are two organizations that are very near and dear to my heart, so I consider it a great privilege to be here with you all.
Privilege is a word that I did not necessarily relate to until I came to the reproductive justice movement. It wasn’t something that I was that cognizant of in my own life. As a first generation Black West Indian American, I never thought about my privileges, although I recognized it in others, particularly as I’ve had a career in social justice work. How could a person such as myself be privileged, with my dark skin, feminine body, and lower middle class immigrant upbringing? But I am. And it wasn’t until I had the support of the National Network of Abortion Funds in telling my story that I realized just how privileged I am.
When I was 19, I had an abortion. I was in a loving relationship and my partner and I had unprotected sex, which led to a pregnancy. Thanks to years of quality sex education from the time I was 12 years old, I knew soon after intercourse that I could be pregnant. At the earliest possible moment, I took a home test and learned that I was in fact pregnant. I knew I wasn’t ready to become a parent, and neither was my partner. I decided to end the pregnancy, and I also decided not to tell my parents. I was on their health insurance, and thanks to years of orthodontic care, I knew that detailed insurance bills came to our home. I couldn’t let them know, so I decided to pay for my abortion in cash. I visited a Planned Parenthood where they provided me with compassionate, competent care. I walked in, asked for an abortion, and received the first steps of a medication abortion that day. I took care of the second half myself at home and came back to Planned Parenthood a few days later for a follow up appointment. When I went back to college in the fall, I went to student health and started a regimen of birth control that would last for years.
My abortion was simple and easy to access–just as any form of health care should be. I never considered just how privileged I was in accessing abortion care until I came to this movement.
I had a supportive partner. I had excellent sexual education, which taught me the consequences of sex, when and how to get pregnant, when and how not to get pregnant, how to determine if I was pregnant, and what choices I had if I did not wish to be pregnant. There were health providers in my city who could give me the care I needed without having to jump through any government mandated hoops that have nothing to do with providing me with quality health care. I had the option of using health insurance, and then used it to prevent future pregnancies. And I had the personal funds to pay for my abortion, all on my own.
I was actually at a retreat hosted by the National Network of Abortion Funds for the first cohort of We Testify abortion storytellers when it finally hit home just how privileged I was. I had moving heard stories, first hand of people who had to take out payday loans in order to afford their abortion. People who had to relive traumas in order receive the care they needed. People who were unable to get the care they wanted and are now in the complicated position of loving children that they didn’t want. The sensation of recognizing my privilege was incredibly new and, I’ll admit, overwhelming for me, and I didn’t know how to handle it. I literally ran from the retreat and contacted one of the most privileged people I know–a straight, cisgender white dude who’s a friend of mine from law school–and I asked him for advice on how to process it. This is a snippet what he said:
You have to recognize your privilege and then decide one of three things:
- Hide it — which comes across as disingenuous.
- Reject it — which just makes you a douche because the people for whom you are rejecting it are actually insulted by that rejection, as you have something they long to have and yet you almost insulting their dreams by devaluing it. Or
- Own it, accept it, be honest about it, get comfortable in your own skin, and then try to make use of it to actually help others.
I try to own that privilege. I tell my abortion story, never forgetting to share the litany of privileges I enjoyed, as an example of how health care access could be in this country. It’s not a perfect tale, but it’s pretty damned close. At every moment, in every choice and every decision, I was in control and had the ability to do what I needed. There are too many people for which this isn’t the case. So, I tell my story for them. I tell my story in the hopes that it can be a similar story for anyone who wants an abortion.
All of us here, in our own way, are extremely privileged. How do you own, accept, and then use your privilege? If you haven’t done it before, I want all of you to think on that tonight. And as you ruminate on that, I have one way you can utilize that privilege right now. You can give to the DC Abortion Fund (DCAF).
The people who call in to the fund’s hotline need each and every one of us. Each day, DCAF receives calls from people who cannot cover the cost of an abortion. They sell cherished belongings, forego rent, and make sacrifices no one should have to make to afford health care–sacrifices that we in this room might not even be able to imagine. And I know that none of us here want that for anyone.
So I’m asking you to use your privilege tonight to provide a gift of hope. When DCAF pledges funds to someone who needs an abortion, the are giving tangible hope to the person at the other end of the phone line who desperately needs help–hope that they’ll get the care that they need. So let us all commit tonight to helping them, together.