Artwork by Ashley Lukashevsky. TW for heavy mentions of abortion.
It’s been an exhausting week to be a woman. I mean, most days can get exhausting. If you’re an avid news reader or social media user, you know some highly pivotal laws are up for debate. Laws deal with women’s health. That are, for some absurd reason, being discussed by predominantly old white conservative men. The past few years introduced some unsettling individuals into the Supreme Court, and this is a perfect example of why. Earlier this week, it was released that the Supreme Court would be debating the landmark cases Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey. According to a released first draft, the majority already intended to override both cases that have shaped history and protected women everywhere. Let it be known that while these cases are in place, they still have not made it easy for women all over the US to receive the kind of care and nurture they deserve in this matter. But even with limiting restrictions in place, the option was still available. Unfortunately, we have already witnessed terrifying events in history manifest themselves in new ways since the past few elections. We have seen a lifetime in which women did not have the right to choose what they should do with their bodies. History has shown that women will remain resilient in doing what they believe needs to be done even without safe, legal options available. To demonstrate why a woman deserves the right to choose (besides common sense reasons such as equality, fundamental rights, etc.), I’ve compiled a variety of Hip-Hop songs from several perspectives that outline issues dealing with abortion rights.
Hip-Hop is known for its vulnerability. Many artists didn’t hold back when recounting their personal (or fictional) stories detailing the challenging decision to abort a child. They show they grapple with the choice, debunking the idea that people use abortion as a casual form of birth control. Abortion is often simplified to vilify those who choose to have one. Conservatives construct it like a rash and easy decision, as though people, especially women, don’t go through emotional hardships when enduring the process. But these songs show that some never really get over the series of events, even if they still stand by their decision.
Common’s music is obviously no stranger to this site. This one song, in particular, is a track that I revisit often. In “Retrospect For Life,” Common enlists the help of Lauryn Hill to tackle Stevie Wonder’s “Never Dreamed You’d Leave In Summer.” In the song, Common wrestles with the guilt that he still feels after he and his girlfriend chose to terminate her pregnancy. He begins his verse by asking about the morality of his decision, personifying this unborn fetus to emphasize his point. While this embodies a whole different debate about the scientific development of a fetus and actual personhood, in this case, it puts more weight on his decision. He acknowledges his irresponsibility in leading to this decision, “believin’ [he] was sterile.” And even then, accidents happen. He contrasts a fictional upbringing of this aborted child, such as their “first breath, first step, and first cry,” with their reasons for choosing not to have the child, like not being “prepared mentally nor financially,” to show that choosing to have the child would not have guaranteed a solid upbringing. While it is abundantly clear that Common feels terrible about the choice he made, he continues to stand by his reasons for the abortion. Although he wonders about a life in which they chose to keep the child, his mind continues to double back on the things that would have been wrong, proving that they were enough of a reason to solidify his choice. Regardless, this song took place in a time in which Common and his partner were able to reassess all of their options. Even after contemplating a number of scenarios as illustrated throughout the song, they felt that abortion was the choice they needed, demonstrating just one reason why it is essential for women and couples to have access to safe and legal abortions.
In the second verse of 2Pac’s “Words 2 My First Born,” he uses the song to address aborted fetuses, especially in rougher areas where he grew up in. He begins his verse by recognizing the state of his life, rapping, “since my very first day on this Earth, I was cursed. So, I knew that the birth of a child would make my life worse.” This can be taken in a few ways, but I think given how he describes how dangerous these areas are, it means that child wouldn’t be safe, inflicting more pain and stress on him. Like in “Retrospect For Life,” he does mention that the choice brought him misery, rhyming, “though it hurt me, there was no distortion, ’cause wild seeds can’t grow, we need more abortions. Quiet your soul, ’cause you know what you had to do, and so did the victims of a world they never came to.” Once again, he suffers a lot of guilt from the decision. Still, he again personifies the unborn fetuses by stating that they understood why that choice was made in this instance. He continues to explain that this is a bit more prominent “in the hood/[with] love letters to the innocent and unborn.” But again, he counteracts that by explaining why it happens, rapping, “all the babies that died up on that table, wasn’t able to breathe, ’cause the family wasn’t able. Can’t blame her, I would do the same, all I could give her was my debt and my last name.” At some point, you have to wonder if you would be able to provide a child with a life worth living. In a country rooted in systematic racism and other measures set to fail a large portion of the population, options need to be available for those who do not think they can provide for a whole new life. It’s not an easy or inexpensive thing to do, and while foster care is another option, it still isn’t the safest or best option for a child. We should have the ability to decide for ourselves if it really is the best option to bring a child into the world.
In Illogic’s “First Trimester,” he divides the songs into 3 perspectives, 1 verse from the man’s point of view, 1 from the girl’s, and 1 from the child’s. In this instance of teen pregnancy, he describes his girl as carrying “a gift, the virus of new life,” depicting just how daunting this situation is for the 2 of them. He demonstrates his awareness of the events unfolding before him as he thinks, “here I sit, a child embracing a child that’s probably more scared of this than I am. It’s too late to question if I’m ready for this responsibility. Cause I knew the consequences of lust, but I took part willingly.” While his girl attempts to calm his racing thoughts, which eventually lean towards naive excitement over the prospect, her own fears plague her mind. She thinks about her cousin, who was disowned for having a child out of wedlock, and how she would gain 1 family but lose another. She also acknowledges that should he choose, he could leave her to face this problem on her own, while she’s left “to hold this bag of bricks and carry it for a lifetime.” She meets the situation differently, recognizing that while she loves him and wants to have a child with him someday, she’s “not ready to spring a life into this world/[since she’s] still a little girl.” She then confesses that she aborted her child, first to the listener and then her significant other. While he first reacts with anger, he begins to understand, realizing that she was the 1 who would have to carry the product of their actions. She explains that she needs “time to mature before [she gives] birth, [they] need time to explore and find what [they’re] worth.” But the actual resolution comes from the voice of the aborted fetus, who responds with forgiveness and understanding of the situation. The song was never created to shame children for their mistakes but rather to show just why abortion is offered as an option. And there are plenty of adults who find themselves in this position with a similar mentality. But either way, the girl in the song had the choice to have a safe and legal abortion rather than put herself in harm or danger or potentially lose her family.
It’s a bit sad how few songs I could find actually advocating for a woman’s right to choose what she does with her body. I think we typically always think of 2Pac’s “Keep Ya Head Up,” and his infamous lines about treating women with respect. It really will always be 1 of my favorites. Oddly enough, when doing my research, I found this song on a pro-life website trying to argue that 2Pac was against abortion. And yet, in the song, he blatantly raps,
I truly do not understand how someone could hear all of that advocacy for treating women with respect and allowing them the equal space and treatment they deserve, and then believe that this is a song for the pro-life movement. It’s all in the last line. These lawmakers are trying to tell women when and where we can create life, and it is not their decision to make. These are our bodies, and no one should have a say but us.
Digable Planets have created another incredible example of advocating for women’s rights in their song, “La Femme Fetal.” The track tells the story of Nikki, who confides in Butterfly about her and her boyfriend’s choice to terminate her pregnancy. Unfortunately, the song also details the difficulties poor Nikki endured to get to that point. She recounts that “the feds have dissed me, they ignored and dismissed me,” hinting that although we have Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey in place, it still isn’t a simple process to get an abortion. States are allowed to place their own restrictions, including mandatory waiting periods and biased counseling, which, as you can imagine, have made it more difficult in some regions of the country. She continues to explain, “the pro-lifers harass me outside the clinic, and call me a murderer, now that’s hate.” I go to Planned Parenthood all the time simply because they treat my body with care and love. I’ve experienced the “protesters,” even when just going for regular check-ups. Still, I can only imagine how it must feel if going for reasons beyond that. When imagining being faced with such a difficult decision, having someone peck at the guilt you’re already feeling sounds cruel. Butterfly’s response is everything and more. He eases his friend’s pain by saying, “the fascists are some heavy dudes. They don’t really give a damn about life, they just don’t want a woman to control her body, or have the right to choose. But baby, that ain’t nothin’, they just want a male finger on the button. Because if you say war, they will send them to die by the score. Aborting mission should be your volition.” These may be the most accurate lines I’ve ever heard in Hip-Hop. How often have we seen pro-lifers completely contradict themselves in matters actually protecting the safety of others, such as police brutality and BLM? How come they don’t care about those lives? But they’re so pressed to advocate for a life that hasn’t developed yet? He describes her potential life without having the ability to choose, explaining that she would be “standing in line unable to get welfare while they’ll be out hunting and fishing,” also arguing that abortion would still be available for the rich, especially these politicians. He further proves the points of the 1st few songs I discussed. The couples knew keeping the child wouldn’t provide them with a good upbringing when he rapped, “pro-lifers need to dig themselves, because life doesn’t stop after birth. And for a child born to the unprepared, it might even just get worse.” Tragically, he also envisions a life in which Roe v. Wade was overturned, stating, “if [it] were overturned, would not the desire remain intact? Leaving young girls to risk their healths, and doctors to botch, and watch as they kill themselves?” As morbid as it sounds, history will repeat itself.
While the men showed bravery by sharing their own stories or standing up for the issue, a few female rappers have demonstrated heartbreak, strength, and fearlessness with their songs. One of those artists is the incredible Jean Grae, who detailed her experience with having an abortion in the song “My Story.” She begins the song in a haunting manner that none of these men could recreate, no matter how exceptional their story-telling skills are. She starts the song by stating, “‘If I could swim a thousand lakes to bring your life back…’ I write that. But infinity can’t rewind facts.” While the other artists mentioned throughout the posts shared their stories of dealing with remorse, none were in the position to have the child physically aborted from their bodies. Sure, they felt the grief and the hardship that came with the decision. But they were not the ones who carried those children. She courageously detailed her experience of being 16-years-old and traveling to the hospital to have an abortion using Medicaid, unable to tell her own mother out of fear of disappointing her. As she goes through the motions of the procedure, she shares how it has impacted her mental health, putting her through turmoil. Similarly to “La Femme Fetal,” she talks about her experience with protesters rapping, “you don’t know what it’s like in waiting rooms, and outside, their picketing pictures could slay you. They’re screaming, ‘Victims,’ and spitting tell they shame you. I hold my head low and shiver, push my way through.” The thought of being a child and enduring this is terrifying. The thought of being a child and having to find illegal methods to get an abortion simply because you’ve been robbed of your choice is even scarier. While the rest of the song, unfortunately, tells more of her battle with depression after another abortion and a miscarriage, this song shows the difficulties of making this choice and living with the consequences. With abortion being legal, children in this position, especially those with strong religious backgrounds, as demonstrated here, do have resources. The unfortunate truth is that many youths have to undergo this by themselves. But at least with proper precautions and doctors in place, they aren’t going through it even more alone with riskier factors at hand.
Noname expresses compassion for any woman like Jean Grae, who has found themselves in such a position in her song, “Bye Bye Baby.” In her music, she expresses that abortion can be an act of love, wanting the best for the child and referring to the unborn baby as her “golden child.” The 2nd verse showcases the unborn child’s compassion, harboring no resentment. He “[could see that [she] loves [them], [he knows her] heart is heavy,” while using childlike diction such as playdates and presents to explain his naivety that contrasts so heavily with his understanding of the situation. She uses her outro to express optimism for the day that the timing is right, and she does become a mother. This song acts as a lullaby for women who have had an abortion. It demonstrates peace and compassion in the justification behind the decision to the forgiveness from the unborn child, offering a bit of closure for such an exhausting period in a person’s life.
Tupac’s “Brenda’s Got A Baby,” is just one example of what can happen when a young woman does not have access to or the resources for an abortion. In the song, Brenda is a 12-year-old with a junkie father and an absent mother. Her boyfriend got her pregnant, but in reality, her boyfriend was her cousin molesting her. She attempted to hide her pregnancy, but truthfully, no one cared enough about her to even be bothered if she was having 1 child or triplets. After being left by her cousin, she was forced to have the child alone. Unsure of what to do, she throws the child in the garbage. As a result, she’s kicked out by her useless family. She tries to make a living by selling crack and prostituting herself, only to end up killed. The sad truth about this story is that it isn’t uncommon and can occur far more regularly without access to abortions. Had Brenda had the resources or access to a clinic, she may have been able to receive some guidance. But instead, we have groups trying to defund clinics such as Planned Parenthood, taking away the tools many cities may need. While some may view abortion as inhumane, bringing a child into the world with absolutely no way to care for it isn’t a solid alternative.
With that being said, let’s not get it twisted. All of Hip-Hop isn’t pro-choice. And the misconceptions about those who choose to get abortions are abundant and, quite frankly, extremely disgusting. Sadly enough, these examples come from some of my favorite artists, with the first being Doug E. Fresh, who felt so strongly about an issue that has nothing to do with him, seeing as he cannot produce a child, that he felt the need to write a whole song titled “Abortion.” Ugh. His misogynistic, church-worshipping approach to this song is a bit terrifying, with him first calling the girl going through this heart-wrenching decision “crazy/[and] so lazy.” The whole record is absolutely absurd and stupid, so I really don’t want to give it more attention, although I could do a much better job at analyzing it. But in the words of Doug E. Fresh, “my voice sounds different cause it makes me mad!” Stick to beatboxing, Doug E. Fresh.
Now, you guys know how much I love Geto Boys. I really fucking love Geto Boys. But this song infuriates me. The disrespect thrown at women in their track, “The Unseen,” truly pisses me off, but let’s take a look at it. Scarface begins the song by rapping, “these busted ass whores are going crazy. You might as well pick up guns and point them at babies.” Alright, Scarface, so you can rap about murdering women all the time, but you have an issue with an abortion? But don’t worry, after continuing to refer to women as stupid bitches and other reiterations, he does, in fact, threaten to kill them! But it gets better. He then raps, “that’s why I’m glad we got n*, because this world would be fucked if it was ran by you stupid bitches.” Like Butterfly mentioned in an earlier song, bans on abortion are not as much about saving babies as it is about controlling women and their bodies. Scarface makes his opinion on women evident, especially as he then chooses to shame women for having unprotected sex, with absolutely no mention of the men participating. I have covered a lot of disgraceful music on this site, but I think this may be in the top 5 most disgusting Hip-Hop songs I have ever heard. Whether pro-life or pro-choice, the apparent hatred of women in this song is terrifying.
To cap this post off with some humorous irony to offset that last garbage can of a song, we have Nick Cannon’s “Can I Live.” Besides the fact that no one in Hip-Hop would regard this man as a rapper, it is hilarious that the TV host with like 10 different children from different women felt the need to make a song about this matter. In the track, the failed rapper takes on the point-of-view of the fetus. Throughout the song, he’s essentially guilting his teenage mother into keeping him while acknowledging the hardship it will bring her life. Truthfully, it isn’t a compelling argument. But that’s probably why I have no children, and Nick Cannon has 50. He continues on to share his fears of being aborted, all while neglecting to discuss his pregnant mother’s, highlighting just how little regard we have for women’s lives. You can give it a listen if you want, but I completely understand if you choose to skip this one. I’m sure Nick Cannon’s used to it by now.
Despite the lighthearted tone of that last paragraph, the decision to overturn Roe v. Wade is no laughing matter. Women have every right to fear what repercussions could occur, and even the fact that it’s being debated again is unsettling. And I’d like to clarify something, pro-life and pro-choice do not need to be mutually exclusive the way we make them out to be. You can be personally against abortion and still understand that a woman should have the right to do what is best for her body. At the end of the day, you aren’t raising that child. She is. Abortions happen for many reasons, but that isn’t the point. The point is that it still needs to be available as an option because the alternatives are far more terrifying. If this post resonated with you and you have the means to do so, donate to your local Planned Parenthood or volunteer to be a Planned Parenthood escort. It’s just 1 small way to make an impact throughout all of this uncertainty.