A Talk with Dr. Claire McKinney

On Tuesday, March 26, Dr. Claire McKinney hosted a talk titled “A Good Abortion is a Tragic Abortion” in one VCU’s academic buildings. McKinney has previously been in a published journal that holds the same title and a wide array of articles surrounding this topic. In her work, she describes the various stigmas that surround women and abortions. Within the journal, as well as her talk, she focuses her discussion and research on the two major stigmas that surround abortions of women. Those being the mother not being “fit” enough going hand and hand with disabilities of the fetus. The points that were brought up were interesting though, given that the majority of the times, women do not share their reasoning’s for getting abortions. It's just assumed. McKinney discusses when abortion is a public conversation, it is usually for moral purposes. That is a huge problem in the endless abortion debate. A quote from “A Good Abortion is a Tragic Abortion” that McKinney stated was, “The stories we do tell of abortion are often told to morally recuperate the status of the woman who has an abortion through recourse to tragedy. Tragedy frames experiences where every choice produces some suffering, so decisions are geared toward maintaining individual integrity rather than adherence to absolute moral truths."

Sub-topics to McKinney’s work and talk in regards to abortion includes the new “late-term” debates as well as race and class differences amongst women and how that plays into abortion situations for them. In regards to the late-term debate, Virginia has gone through a lot of backlash from the public on this issue. This past General Assembly session which occurs from January to early March, the bill was brought to the floor- with defending and clarification from Delegate Kathy Tran and Governor Ralph Northam.

Additionally, McKinney also has had a broad focus in the discussion of race and class amongst women. She has written a number of articles regarding this discussion. In her work, she describes the foundation of Planned Parenthood endorsing sterilization and abortions in the early 60s. She continues to point out how at this same time the first African-American chair of the organization which meant a lot for African-American women who were routinely being sterilized without consent. These rights were setting the stage for what t the time, was unknown to be a long journey for equality of all women, and for women to be able to have abortions without it being a tragic end.

As a woman of color, the uphill battle that is always present around abortion is disappointing. With battles beginning in the 1960s and still to this date, I hope that talks and words from McKinney will begin to allow people to think about how women feel in regards to this topic.

Image from Virginia Commonwealth Political Science Department.