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What's an Abortion, Anyway?

Carly Maines kept seeing the same problem at work. An abortion doula, she noticed that many of her clients had children in the waiting room while having their procedures, or talked about having kids at home. “I want to talk to my kids about my abortion,” clients often told her, “but I don’t know how.”

According to the Guttmacher Institute, 59% of people who get abortions in the U.S. have had at least one previous birth. There are plenty of child-appropriate books about reproductive health, birth, and even miscarriages; but to her surprise, Maines could not find any about abortion.

“I didn’t have anything to share with people,” she says. “So I started writing it.”

Despite the expressed need for such a book from her clients, and despite working with numerous reproductive health experts to craft the book, no agent or publisher was willing to take the project on. So Maines and an illustrator, another abortion doula named Mar, turned to Kickstarter. Their campaign is close to wrapping up, and so far has raised more than double their initial goal.

“I had also experienced similar asks,” Mar says, whose full-time job is illustration. But, they added, the publishing industry was reluctant to get on board. “We met with a publisher who was super pumped about the book,” says Mar. But ultimately, they heard back: “I don’t know if I can get my comms people and PR team to get on board.”

“I was at a children’s book conference,” Maines says, “and when I said what book I was working on, people didn’t approach me any longer.”

That resistance continued after the team turned to crowdfunding to get the book made.

“The first week we launched our Kickstarter, we got tons of backlash on social media,” says Maines. “From folks who don’t believe in abortion access generally.”

Maines also notes that they may have inadvertently made the book harder to sell to a publisher because they avoided the term “women” throughout. (“When a person gets pregnant, many different things can happen,” the book begins.)

“I think that was hard for some folks to understand,” Maines says. “Did it fit into their idea of abortion?”

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One bookstore in DC agreed to carry the book, but in the adult section; it took days for back-and-forth conversations to persuade them to put it next to other children’s books about reproductive health.

But despite some timidity in the book industry, the support on Kickstarter indicates that demand is there (they’ve just reached a stretch goal to translate the book into Spanish). Maines and Mar also say that they’ve heard from numerous clinics eager to have a resource for parents and kids, and they’re working with Planned Parenthood to send a free copy to every clinic in the country.

“I think my dream is that when you go to your local library and bookstore, it’s just among the books about pregnancy and miscarriage, among the books about reproductive healthcare,” Maines says. “And hopefully, there’ll be more.”