02/23/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

What's So Funny About Abortion?

More than you might think. An anniversary is as good a time as any to engage in some self-reflection so on the 36th anniversary of Roe v. Wade I had to ask myself: why am I still invested professionally and personally in the policy, politics and practice of abortion after twenty years?

I suspect it is because I have a very dry sense of humor, which is basic equipment for an issue that can border on theatre of the absurd.

Take this Onion-worthy press release issued last week from the American Life League - a staunch anti-abortion and anti-contraception organization:

"Krispy Kreme Doughnuts, Inc. (NYSE: KKD) is honoring American's sense of pride and freedom of choice on Inauguration Day, by offering a free doughnut of choice to every customer on this historic day, Jan. 20. By doing so, participating Krispy Kreme stores nationwide are making an oath to tasty goodies -- just another reminder of how oh-so-sweet 'free' can be.

Just an unfortunate choice of words? For the sake of our Wednesday morning doughnut runs, we hope so. The unfortunate reality of a post Roe v. Wade America is that 'choice' is synonymous with abortion access and celebration of 'freedom of choice' is a tacit endorsement of abortion rights on demand."

Or take this story from a woman in response to the question "did laughter or humor ever help you feel better or cope with your abortion experience?"

"Some may not find this funny, but some people joke about using a clothes hanger to perform an abortion. Well, while I was in the clinic, one of the girl's boy friend locked his keys in the car and a nurse went by with a clothes hanger to help him unlock his car. It scared me at the time but it's kind of funny now."

Or yesterday's news, that a man intentionally drove his SUV into a St. Paul Planned Parenthood building. Obvious disclaimer: I would not find this amusing if someone had been injured. Unless it was the driver and it was a minor injury. I think I would have laughed at that.

Okay so maybe the laugh lines aren't always that big. But even nervous laughter reveals a desire to share a human reaction around a profound issue; to show some empathy for someone else's point of view or perspective. President Obama's decision to mark the anniversary with an unwavering statement of support for Roe while avoiding a political tit-for-tat on the so called global gag rule goes one step further and once again inspires my commitment to lean into differences without belittling or ignoring someone else's value system.

So maybe it isn't the laughs after all. Turns out I'm hooked on the drama.

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