It's the last taboo in our culture: sharing our experiences and the stories of our reproductive lives, particularly stories about abortion and birth control. It is so important that we change the conversation to tell our stories and to understand why these stories matter, to us personally, to health care policy, and to Colorado.
When Republican John Bermingham, now 90, was elected to the Colorado State Senate in 1964, he decided to solve a problem. He learned that state employees could not discuss contraception when working with young women who were pregnant. He learned about it as a Planned Parenthood board member because he heard from employees who shared their stories and frustration with him in an effort to help these young women. These stories compelled him to solve a policy problem that increased access to contraception in the time before it was routine legislative business.
In 1967, Dick Lamm then a freshman legislator in Colorado House, decided to run a liberalized abortion law. He and his wife, Dottie, had seen firsthand the devastating impact of lack of access to birth control or abortion when they were traveling in South America and he was compelled to improve the laws at home. The groundbreaking legislation, in bipartisan co-sponsorhship with Republican John Bermingham and signed by Republican Governor John Love put Colorado first in the nation at that time, 10 days ahead of California).
Dick Lamm's peers assured him it would be the end of his nascent political career. He will tell you, to this day no one would say the word abortion out loud -- it just wasn't done. But what he remembers, as his bill was working its way through the legislature, the extraordinary number of women who approached him, thanked him, and quietly told him that they themselves had an abortion. The intensely personal stories shared by those women with a state lawmaker mattered at an important point in time for them and for our state. Lamm shared his own story in the Denver Post .
On November 20, NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado honored both of these men with Lifetime Achievement Awards and asked them to share their own stories. Today, nearly half a century later, legislators across the United States face a steady stream of bills that attempt to restrict access to birth control and abortion don't always have the history, context or stories of those who previously served, what they did to improve public policy around reproductive rights, and why it matters. Sharing those stories between former and current legislators was a powerful testimony to the continued importance of protecting reproductive rights.
A majority of Americans support reproductive rights, but you don't hear that from the angry rhetoric and media, nor the barrage of anti-choice legislative efforts across the country. We can change the conversation with something that does not cost money -- we can share our stories.
If you have not yet read it, My Abortion in New York magazine is a powerful read. It is not easy, but it is important. Read it and share it. More importantly, share your own stories and encourage your family and friends to do the same. Most of us have experienced or interacted with someone who has been faced with a decision about access to birth control or abortion. They are painful, sad, personal and, yes, necessary if we are to turn the tide on the continued threat to reproductive rights in our country.
In the end, the stories make it clear that we need to continue to make these decisions ourselves, privately, and without government interference. Stories matter in the fight to preserve reproductive freedoms.