Much buzz this week about two feature articles, Ariel Levy’s stunning account of her miscarriage in the New Yorker, and New York magazine’s cover story “My Abortion,” which includes 26 vignettes by women of various ages and backgrounds. It’s great to see these issues featured so prominently in magazines like these.
Levy’s account is brilliant and moving. As someone who has suffered a miscarriage, I can tell you that it is a strange and haunting experience in part because we have no culturally sanctioned way of grieving that particular type of loss. The first step toward making miscarriage less isolating is to tell our stories in public. Levy’s story is a gift to herself and to cultures everywhere that have yet to develop rituals of grieving and healing from miscarriage.
The New York piece is trickier, in part because it deals with the choice to end pregnancy, but also because it chooses quantity over quality. Its goal is to show just how common abortion is, in a culture in which – thanks to vehement politics and opposition – the level of rational public discourse doesn’t come close to matching the numbers of abortions that actually occur (approximately one women in three will have an abortion by the age of 45). In this sense, the choice to include many different stories makes sense.
But it does mean a certain loss of complexity and depth; the stories lack an adequate sense of the women’s emotional journeys, which is crucial for readers to develop empathy.
Most of the vignettes are also from the past decade, with only one from the 1960s and one from the 1980s. A wider sampling of the past 50 years would have underscored just how much ground we have lost in reproductive rights in the past two decades, how close we might be to returning to situations like the one represented from 1968.
Still, the piece is an encouraging step toward showing the diversity and complexity of our reproductive lives, and the women’s courage is admirable. Onward.