Saturday, May 19, 2007

Shero: Grayson Dempsey

Being an Oregonian is a privilege I find myself more and more grateful for. Having had the opportunity to make my own decision about whether to have an abortion, I deeply appreciate the pro-choice warriors of my beloved home state. And they are many.

This week, Beth Slovic of Willy Week introduced me to a pro-choice warrior I was unfamiliar with: Grayson Dempsey of Backline of Portland.

Slovic's Q&A with Dempsey is excellent. And for those of us who sometimes find ourselves weary of the constant drumbeat of anti-choice extremism, Dempsey's commitment is heartening and her candor is refreshing.

Dempsey's firm stand on choice is something that groups like NARAL and Planned Parenthood could learn from. I was especially pleased to read the following from Dempsey:

I think the pro-choice movement has participated in perpetuating stigma around abortion for the last 34 years. I think we became so eager to win politically that we did not stop to say, "You know what? Having an abortion is still a moral decision, and we know that women make this from a place in their heart that is good." I have worked for mainstream political pro-choice organizations that have said, "We're pro-choice, not pro-abortion." Every time someone says that I cringe, because I think, "We're standing here saying we're not pro-abortion." And here's Right to Life saying, "We're not pro-abortion," and the woman who's had an abortion is like, "Now where do I go?" I think we've participated in that stigma, which I wish we could start to reverse. I think that we have become so focused on abortion that we have neglected the reasons in women's lives that they've elected to have abortions in the first place. I don't know if that's harm, but I really think it's a way that we've lost our message. We often also are protecting the rights of urban middle-class white women, and have been willing in some ways to make trades for women who are more vulnerable.