By Philippa Willitts | 19 November 2009, 18:53
Penelope Trunk, a woman in America, was widely condemned after sending the following tweet:
I’m in a board meeting. Having a miscarriage. Thank goodness, because there’s a f**ked-up 3-week hoop-jump to have an abortion in Wisconsin.
The main criticisms aimed against her seemed to be that:
1. it was insensitive to those who had had miscarriages and were devastated about it,
2. that it was an inappropriately detailed message, which her many followers did not want to read, and
3. that she was heartless and abortions are bad.
I think these are all different points, and the former certainly has more validity as a criticism. A miscarriage can be an utterly awful experience for a woman who wants the baby. And indeed women who aren’t sure. There is huge grief, loss, fear and hopelessness. Penelope Trunk herself has experienced such a miscarriage, and said on her blog
there are many women who want the baby and have a miscarriage. I was one of them. I cried for days. I get it.
In a blog post at the time, she said
I am four months pregnant. But the baby is dead, inside me, and must be removed. I am devastated. I always knew this could happen, in the back of my mind. But you are never prepared for something like this to happen.
This is not a heartless woman talking! In defending her tweet, she says,
To all of you who said I should not be happy about having a miscarriage: You are the ones short on empathy. Any woman who is pregnant but wishes she weren’t would of course be grateful when she has a miscarriage. […]But if you have ever had an abortion, which I have, you would know that a miscarriage is preferable to an abortion. Even the Pope would agree with that.
It is clearly a difficult area to negotiate. Some women are devastated at miscarriages, others are relieved. I suspect that very few women who are relieved feel able to speak out about this, their fears confirmed by the attacks on Ms Trunk.
But if you have just miscarried a wanted child, I can only imagine how awful it would be to have read it.
On to point 2, it was detail that people did not want to know, it was gory and personal, and who wants to hear the details of that?
This is where I defend Ms Trunk absolutely. Women’s bodily functions are normal and natural, not dirty and shameful. I talk openly about my periods, about the joys of using washable sanitary towels, and about having endometriosis and PCOS and the problems that come with that. About spending 4 days of each cycle in agony and unable to move. About the amount of blood that comes out.