Congressional candidate Darcy Burner didn’t think her request to have women stand up if they’ve had an abortion would become a controversy, but she hopes it will inspire more women to “come out” about their personal experiences.
At a women’s health conference in Rhode Island the First Congressional District candidate asked women in the room to stand if they have had an abortion. She says about 150 women stood. Then about 2,000 women stood after she asked if the rest of the audience would support a woman who has had an abortion and is “willing to come out about it.”
After the speech, Burner talked with a few of the women who stood up. They “never felt as loved and supported” as they did when everyone stood with them.
In an interview with Burner, she uses the term “coming out of the closet” several times.
Her message about abortion was inspired by the success of the gay rights movement.
There was a time when people felt they had to conceal their sexual orientation or gender identity because society shamed.
As more and more people came out about their homosexuality, others were able to see there’s nothing wrong or shameful about being gay, she says.
“Women who’ve had an abortion should feel like it’s okay to come out of the closet and talk about their decision,” Burner says.
“People think they don’t know women who’ve had abortions, when in fact their mothers or their sisters or their co-workers or their friends often have. Women being able to come out of the closet and being able to say ‘I’ve had an abortion’ would change people’s view of what it meant.”
I asked Burner a question I’ve never asked anyone before, “Have you had an abortion?”
“I have not had an abortion, but I’ve been in a situation in which during a very high-risk pregnancy my doctor sat me down and said their was a very real chance if I continued the pregnancy I wouldn’t survive,” she says. “The choices that are made at that moment are incredibly difficult and no politician has the right to make them for any woman.”
She believes abortion rights will become an issue in the congressional races across the country as those in the GOP try to restrict women’s access to medical care.
“It’s easy for opponents of abortion rights, and women’s rights in general, to paint the worst possible pictures. To claim that the only people this ever happens to are horrific horrible people and they’re not. They’re your neighbor, they’re your co-worker, they’re your mother, they’re your friend,” Burner says. “Politicians don’t get to stand between women and their doctors.”
The race to replace Jay Inslee is a crowded one that includes John Koster, who opposes abortion but did not return my request for a comment. Among the Democrats – Suzan DelBene, Laura Ruderman, state Rep. Roger Goodman and state Sen. Steve Hobbs.
By LINDA THOMAS
AP file photo