For many young brides, having a wedding featured in the New York Times wedding announcements is a dream come true. But having one of your most private secrets revealed is a nightmare. In the case of one bride, however, she chose to share one of her most private secrets in her wedding announcement.
Faith Rein recently married Miami Heat player Udonis Haslem after nearly 14 years together. But while the alma maters of the bride and groom and the professions of their parents tend to be the highlights of many Times announcements, the Haslem announcement threw a curveball. In it, the new Mrs. Haslem shared that early in the couple's relationship they made the harrowing decision to terminate a pregnancy. While relationship ups and downs are occasionally featured in wedding-announcement profiles, they tend to consist of the occasional breakup and makeup, not an abortion.
Feminist site Jezebel hailed the reference as groundbreaking progress that will help in efforts to destigmatize abortion, something that, while more widely accepted today, is still rarely mentioned in polite company. But commenters are divided. Even among those who are pro-choice, the announcement has raised questions about the appropriateness of discussing something so personal and uncomfortable in a wedding announcement. Some likened it to confessing an STD in a public forum.
It is worth noting, however, that while black women account for 30 percent of all abortions obtained in the United States, there is still a great stigma around the procedure within the black community. Polls have found that those who regularly attend church service are more likely to oppose abortion, and the Pew Research Center, among other research institutions, has found African Americans to be more religious than other American groups.
In addition to attendance, African Americans tend to be more active and involved in their churches. Recently a number of African-American clergy members and activists have mobilized around the issue of abortion, specifically labeling it a form of genocide within the black community. A controversial billboard campaign sprouted up nationally featuring photos of black children and the caption, "The most dangerous place for an African American is in the womb."
But what the billboard leaves out is the fact that for many black children, the most dangerous place will be the abusive homes in which they may be raised (which is statistically more likely if they are born into poverty) and the gun-violence-plagued neighborhood in which they may be raised (which is also more likely if they are born into poverty).
The Haslems may have picked a questionable venue in which to share their story on this issue, but it is an important story and perspective worth hearing nonetheless.
Perhaps instead of sharing their tale in a New York Times wedding announcement, they could have shared it in an ad for Planned Parenthood, which is currently under assault nationally. The overwhelming majority of Planned Parenthood's services are devoted to providing young people, like the Haslems were when they were faced with an unplanned pregnancy, with the resources necessary to avoid ever having to consider having an abortion in the first place. Had the Haslems encouraged their wedding guests (including devoted Planned Parenthood supporter Gabrielle Union) to give to the organization in lieu of gifts, they could have helped other young couples struggling with the dilemma of an unplanned pregnancy and the knowledge that they do not have NBA stardom and a life of wealth in their future.
But perhaps thanks to the conversation sparked by the Haslems' wedding announcement, some young couple who finds themselves in the predicament in which the Haslems once were will know that a relationship can weather such a decision. But just as important, they will be reminded that a crucial issue in the pro-choice debate is not whether or not to have an abortion, but how to make informed and empowered choices so that ideally they never find themselves at such a harrowing crossroads.
(Keli Goff is The Root's special correspondent. Follow her on Twitter.)