Abortion is a common, low-risk medical procedure. We live in a country committed to ignoring this basic fact.
Abortion is a common, low-risk medical procedure. We live in a country committed to ignoring this basic fact. Joel Carillet / iStock

Yesterday was a shitty day if you care about reproductive rights: In a poll of 2,000 people who voted for Cruel Joke-Elect Donald Trump, 39 percent said that they believe women should be punished for having abortions if abortion is made illegal. Meanwhile, Twitter got very mad at Lena Dunham for saying on her podcast that she wished she'd had an abortion. I bring up both of these facts now, because they say a lot about the current state of abortion rights in America, and none of it is good (sorry).

While I get the outrage at Dunham's comment, she's a noted word-vomiter and she's already apologized for it. Unlike some prominent "feminists" (okay, unlike Amy Schumer), Dunham is practiced in the art of delivering a genuine apology when she says dumb things, and I'm less interested in her comment than what it tells us about a much bigger problem when it comes to how we view abortion. In the full quote, Dunham describes being asked to share an abortion story, and feeling bad that she was so quick to say that she hadn't had an abortion, as if that somehow made her different from or superior to women who've had abortions, when, really, access to safe and legal abortion is something that should be important to everyone, regardless of whether or not you've had an abortion or driven a friend or partner to the clinic for one or just known on a very deep, primal level that if you were to find out you were pregnant tomorrow, you would not choose to become a parent.

What Dunham was describing is abortion stigma. It's what makes women like her (I suspect) perceive a profound chasm between women who've had abortions and women who haven't. It's what led to the Clintons' "safe, legal, and rare" messaging and wording like "a woman's right to choose," which suggests an option rather than a necessity. It's what we have to blame for the left's inability to defend access to abortion in the face of religiously motivated right-wing attacks on reproductive rights. And it's what people who want to punish women for having abortions are counting on.

Because this stigma is what blinds us to the fact that women are already punished for having abortions. They're punished by laws that limit their access to the procedure in the first place. They're punished by regulations that make it more invasive, prescriptive, and traumatic than it needs to be. They're punished by the knowledge that walking into an abortion clinic means having your privacy invaded by clinic protesters, means acknowledging the threat of domestic terrorism—against doctors who perform the procedure, against clinic staff, against you. For going to the doctor. For exercising what's supposed to be a constitutionally-protected right. For undergoing a procedure that carries few long-term risks to the patient's mental or physical wellbeing.

Women are already punished for having abortions, because we live in a country that normalizes the idea that a common, low-risk procedure should be up for debate, and that that debate can be carried out through violent misogyny. We live in a country that is so terrified of women's sexual freedom that it allows antiabortion protesters to congregate around clinics, and stubbornly refuses to name clinic violence for what it is: terrorism.

So if you voted for Trump and you want to punish women for having abortions, I have bad news for you and worse news for everyone else: It's too late.