Skip to Content


By Adele Hampton

I'm not afraid to say abortion. It's a word that falls lead-heavy out of the mouth like your tongue can't handle the weight society hangs from its unassuming letters.

Some claim it as a self-induced miscarriage; others name it a mistake.

My girlfriend calls it what it is. Doesn't redefine the negative, instead taught herself how to forgive her past, looked at her choice in the mirror and learned not to flinch.

She took a pill and now she wears trust in the shape of hands tattooed across the back of her neck. She tells me those hands would have been small, like hers. She tells me that sometimes everything's a littler harder than it needs to be. She tells me "I feel like I have a debt. And it's one I won't ever be able to pay." I tell her that I love her. I tell her I want to hear the stories she's already turned the page on but has never burned.

There are different stages of panic she says. When you accept the lines are real. Again when you pick yourself up off the floor. Again when you speak acceptance, but never apathy.

I've never had an abortion. I've never had to see life in a pink plus sign; I've never had to sit in recovery. I've never had to choose.

But I've been three weeks late and standing still in a CVS aisle--picturing myself 9 months along at 21 years-old with nothing to my name but fear and trembling repeating,"You can't hold a baby with shaking hands. You can't hold a baby with shaking hands. You can't hold a baby with shaking hands."

Stefanie is 51; she is a minister and a stepmother. She said, "I chose abortion over suicide. Twice." She said she marks the result of each rape, each year with great sadness. She said she marks them, each year with gratitude. Gives thanks for the right to make up her mind about how to handle her own body, gives thanks for impartial and kind treatment, gives thanks for safety. Stefanie prays to God no one has to go through what she did.

But we can't always choose. We can't always sidestep the hardships. Can't always uncrumble the voice box society has tried to stomp into dust.

There is a woman dressed simple in blue with a rosary held tight to her lips standing in front of the Planned Parenthood I walk by everyday. Does she pray for torment or forgiveness upon a place that provides sanctuary for so many? I want to tell her that there's no judgement in the building. I want to tell her that bulletproof glass and heavy locks bar out the hate, so pray for strength instead of penitence because there is no shame cast upon weeping eyes or shaking hands, there is no branding iron there.

Out there lurks the cattle prods. States are becoming laboratories for coercion and scare tactics. Trying to duct tape the mouths of survivors, to tarnish the names of good women.

They don't want us to questions the ultrasound, the waiting period, the heartbeat. They don't want us to peel back the label of murderer; abortion scratched red-handed across our breasts.

But you are not a photograph, you are not a silent image of a former pulse, not a caricature of sin. Do not let the legislation of those who will call you unclean stifle whatever courage you've mustered in order to look at yourself in the mirror and not see catastrophe because there are no disasters here.

There are no disasters here.

It's hard to write an ending for a poem that's about one. Abortion spills abruptly from the lips, but it is no stigma. It is no closed door, no political tool to weed out the unpleasantries.

It is what it is, an eight-letter word we should never be afraid to say.

Added: Wednesday, July 23, 2014  /  Hampton's poem tied for Third Place in Lighting the Way: The 3rd Annual Abortion Rights Poetry Contest in 2014 sponsored by the Abortion Care Network and Split This Rock.
Adele Hampton

Adele Hampton is a storyteller, poet, and lover of mason jars with roots planted in DC by way of upstate New York. She has performed at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Busboys & Poets, and is a Capturing Fire Queer Spoken Word Summit and Slam finalist. She is featured in Flicker and Spark: A Contemporary Queer Anthology of Spoken Word and Poetry. She is also a Literary Death Match finalist and a member of Washington DC's Beltway Poetry Slam Team. She now lives in London where she is persuing her Masters of Arts in Publishing.

Other poems by this author