"The Abortion" by Alice Walker (1980)


Wow, this was not an encouraging short story to read after “Giving Birth”. After reading both stories in one night, I’m considering parting ways with my uterus.

“The Abortion,” as the title might indicate, emphasizes the importance of a woman’s ability to decide when to have children, but it also suggests that the right to have an abortion is only a small part of a woman having sexual freedom. Imani’s reaction to her first abortion was a feeling of freedom:

she frequently remembered [her first abortion] as wonderful, bearing as it had all the marks of a supreme coming of age and a seizing of the direction of her own life, as well as a comprehension of existence that never left her: that life—what one saw about one and called Life—was not a facade.

After her second abortion she realizes “that the only way she could claim herself, feel herself distinct from [her husband and child], was by doing something painful, self-defining but self-destructive.” And that she was “Still not in control of her sensuality, and only through violence and with money (for the flight, for the operation itself) in control of her body.” The second abortion begins her self-definition, which she continues by telling her husband that either he started sleeping by himself or had a vasectomy. After he had the vasectomy, she still ended up leaving him, completing her self-definition.


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