THE STIGMA

Satanic Temple Leader Blogs Her Abortion

Her job is unusual but her experience—a medical abortion—is common. The Daily Beast talks to Jex Blackmore about her decision to blog her ‘unpregnancy.’

Laura McDermott for Hopes and Fears, via Facebook

As the national spokesperson for The Satanic Temple and the director of its Detroit chapter, Jex Blackmore’s job description is certainly unusual. But her blog about medical abortion resonated so widely because it is so common.

Nearly three out of 10 women in the U.S. will have an abortion by age 45, and over a quarter of women who have an abortion before nine weeks will, like Blackmore, choose a medical rather than a surgical abortion. A medical abortion is a timed combination of two drugs, mifepristone and misoprostol, that terminates a pregnancy. The first drug, typically administered in a clinic, blocks progesterone; the second drug, taken at home, induces the abortion.

Beginning in late November, Blackmore posted a series of gripping posts, collectively entitled “Unmother,” in which she detailed every step of the process from her positive pregnancy test (which she calls “a plastic stick that holds within it a cosmos tunnel of what-nows, what-ifs and oh fucks”), to navigating Michigan’s abortion restrictions including a 24-hour waiting period, to her choice of viewing material when she took the misoprostol on Thanksgiving day (John Carpenter’s 1988 horror thriller They Live).

Women have shared medical abortion experiences before—the #ShoutYourAbortion hashtag became a digital gathering point for personal abortion narratives in October—but Blackmore’s blog struck a particular chord. Her writing is honest, at times heartbreaking, but deeply relatable and occasionally biting. She says things that women are not “supposed” to say publicly about abortion such as, “Choosing abortion was not a difficult choice for me,” or, memorably, “Some of my pregnancy tissue was aborted in a Big Lots bathroom today.”

After her blog series was shared on social media, Blackmore earned the ire of abortion opponents who predictably highlighted her Satanism, accusing her of having “killed her baby.” The anti-abortion movement and The Satanic Temple have been publicly at odds since at least May, when a member of the organization’s St. Louis Chapter argued that Missouri’s 72-hour waiting period for abortion was a violation of her “sincerely held religious beliefs.”

The Daily Beast reached out to Blackmore to learn more about her experience, her Satanism, and the reaction to her viral blog series.

You wrote in your first post that you wanted “to fill a gaping silence surrounding the [pre-abortion] experience.” Why don’t we hear more experiences like yours?

I think the social stigma is too severe. Abortion is taboo. We expect women to feel ashamed about unwanted pregnancies. We also expect women to be facing some tragic internal struggle when they are planning an abortion when oftentimes that’s not the case. I think many women fear hatred and harassment from family members and friends who may not support their decision. However, I also think those of us who support choice are uncomfortable with discussing the topic. We often don’t know how to support the women in our lives, and that makes the situation awkward for everyone. Without a safe, impartial support network many women remain silent.

The fact that you were harassed online after going public with your abortion experience is, sadly, unsurprising. Did the public reaction catch you off guard?

It’s one thing to know about the kind of appalling harassment directed at women, and [another] to have it directed at you.

I estimate that over 95 percent of the negative emails and comments I’ve received have come from men, which has been eye-opening. The age-old rhetoric is clearly alive and well—claims that I’m insane, a murderer, a slut, an irresponsible idiot, and an attention whore have all been part of the message. I was surprised by how relentless and cruel some strangers can be. I was also taken aback by how much attention my sex life has received. Total strangers have demanded details about exactly how I became pregnant. I think that’s very strange.

Much has been made of your position with The Satanic Temple, especially by those opposed to your decision. How does Satanism intersect with abortion politics?

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The Satanic Temple believes that the body is inviolable, subject to our will alone. We consider theocratic reproductive mandates an attempt to control and degrade the individual. Throughout history, freethinking, independent women have been labeled heretics, or under Satan’s influence. I do not allow that characterization to be applied pejoratively. I embrace the Satanic concept and demand that my deeply-held beliefs are respected under the law just as any others.

And how has your Satanism influenced the sort of harassment you receive? I trust that the whole “baby-killing” moral panic is still culturally salient enough to have come up…

It’s interesting because at this point, I don’t think that anyone’s surprised that we are in support of choice. The pro-choice movement has already been deemed “immoral,” and “depraved.” The outrage [against The Satanic Temple] stems from our claim that access to abortion is an extension of our deeply-held belief.

You took the Misoprostol on Thanksgiving. The next day, Robert Lewis Dear allegedly killed three people inside a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood center. How did you react when you heard that news in such close proximity to being inside a clinic yourself?

At the time I didn’t want to jump to any conclusions about the situation. I also think I wanted to believe that it was unrelated to the anti-abortion movement because I’d hoped that we’ve moved past violence against clinics.

After more information came out about his motivations, I felt numb. I could see myself in the same position as those who found themselves under fire and I felt so betrayed by the community, and our country. How can we allow those in elected office, individuals whom we call “leaders,” to encourage such rhetoric of hate and violence against women? It’s okay to disagree about abortion, but we should be ashamed of those who demonize clinicians, young women and mothers who support abortion access. We can still respect each other and disagree.

In one post, you note that that the politicization of abortion makes it a difficult subject to discuss honestly. You touch on this theme later when you write: “Choosing abortion was not a difficult choice for me. I’ve never felt sad, or depressed, or unsure. I haven’t shed a single tear. My perspective does not detract from the physical and emotional hardship of the abortion itself.” What is it about the political or rhetorical climate around abortion that makes such a nuanced sentiment almost impossible to express?

I think pro-choice women avoid discussing the hardship of the experience because they fear it will fuel the anti-abortion rhetoric. Many medical procedures are painful and difficult. It’s okay that abortion falls into that category.

I was very uncomfortable with others sending me messages assuming that I must be emotionally devastated, because I wasn’t. However, I felt that in saying “I’m fine with this choice,” I was giving up my right to acknowledge the physical pain and exhaustion associated with pregnancy in general and the procedure itself.

It’s difficult to navigate life as a pregnant woman planning for, and undergoing an abortion. We expect women to be devastated or insensitively flippant. The experience is more complex than those two categories. I think the experience is difficult to package for the pro-life or pro-choice movement.

You describe the state-mandated obstacles to abortion access in detail, and with such political savvy. I think most women are aware they exist but too few have read a first-person experience about navigating them all sequentially. Have readers been surprised by what you had to go through to obtain a medical abortion?

Many readers have been shocked. Many more have written to me personally or posted comments about their own unique experiences and the legal obstacles they faced in other states. I know it’s difficult to grasp just by reading about them in a paper, but I hope my account will help others realize how unnecessarily difficult many of these regulations are and how they burden women exclusively.

Was there any significance behind your choice of the John Carpenter thriller They Live as viewing material on the day of the abortion, or am I reading too much into it?

You’re reading too much into it. I just really like the movie and hadn’t watched it in a while!