Coming up as a teenager in a mostly progressive environment, the message about abortion was clear—my body, my choice. I felt happy and empowered by my fist-pumping right to make decisions about my reproductive present and future. The politics behind this choice were relatively clear to me. In school I learned the basics: Roe v. Wade and the history of organizations like Planned Parenthood. I have always been grateful for the right to choose. But not once was there any discussion, in school or elsewhere, of what it actually meant to have an abortion in the physical sense. Like, what actually happens when you go in to have one? Once a woman decides to have an abortion, what choices does she have? These are all very important questions that so few seem to talk about—except for Leah Hayes, that is.
In her new book, Not Funny Ha-Ha, Leah Hayes follows the experiences of two women who decide to have abortions. The how and the why of these women’s decisions are not addressed in the book. The emphasis is more on what steps need to be taken once the decision is made, what will happen during the process, and what takes place directly after. The book is not a “how to” or a self-help book. Its title suits it well; it really is a handbook with images. Not Funny encourages women to seek knowledge through and beyond the book. It’s easy to read and truly informational.
Not Funny also does a great job of not essentializing the experience of getting an abortion into one dramatic lump. Hayes acknowledges that women experience a range of sentiments and physical experiences through the abortion process. Hayes writes, “Sometimes having an abortion is a no-brainer, sometime’s it’s not.” I love how Hayes uses the language of possibility to anchor this book. Not Funny is full of mights, probablys, and maybes. This leaves lots of room for a multitude of experiences.
Perhaps my favorite thing about Not Funny Ha-Ha is the way in which it takes the political and makes it both visceral and physical. So often when we talk about women’s bodies we are afraid to name the things that happen. Like bleeding, for instance. Or pooping. Or god forbid, flatulence! I experienced this strange moment of recognition while looking at an image of one of the women in the book doubled over on the toilet bowl with cramps. I know this experience well; it was life-affirming to see it on the page.
Pretty much everyone should read Not Funny Ha-Ha. Chances are we all know someone who will have an abortion, has thought about having one, or has had one. I truly believe that we can be more empathetic toward each other by being informed. We can also be better to ourselves through the affirmation that who we are and what our bodies sometimes do as women is okay. And finally, that we are not alone in our experiences. In this way Not Funny builds a wonderful bridge for us all to walk across.