The Brooklyn Rail

JUL-AUG 2022

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JUL-AUG 2022 Issue
The Miraculous The Miraculous: Music

14. 1983 and later, Virginia & Portland

Looking back from the age of 45, a musician who helped spark a global explosion of feminist punk rock, speculates how her life, and the lives of many others, would have been different if she hadn’t gotten an abortion at the age of 15. She was then living with her sister in Virginia and working at McDonald’s. Receiving no help from the person who had gotten her pregnant, she used what money she had earned serving burgers and fries, plus $40 she cajoled from her drug dealer, to pay for the abortion. She is certain that if she had had the baby and become a teenage mother, she would have never finished high school and never moved to Portland, and never become a key figure in that city’s thriving alternative music scene. She would never have started writing and never been in any bands. She’s not, she tells an interviewer, one of those people who say about an abortion “Oh, I really regret it.” Far from regretting her teenage choice, she believes it was one of the best things that ever happened to her. Not the actual experience, not being “on the table,” but the feeling that she was responsible for her own life, that when she made mistakes and there were consequences, she could deal with them, and live with them. She continually notes the ripple effects of her abortion, especially when fans come up to her to describe how her music has changed their lives. For instance, a young student tells her that without her music she would never have immersed herself in women’s studies. The musician marvels at the fact that her decision to have an abortion at 15 has affected the life of a stranger so many years later.

(Kathleen Hanna)

Contributor

Raphael Rubinstein

Raphael Rubinstein is the author of The Miraculous (Paper Monument, 2014) and A Geniza (Granary Books, 2015). He is currently writing a book about the Jewish-Egyptian writer Edmond Jabès. A Professor of Critical Studies at the University of Houston School of Art, he divides his time between Houston and New York.

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The Brooklyn Rail

JUL-AUG 2022

All Issues