I walked into Planned Parenthood feeling increasingly disillusioned by the pro-life movement but still believing that a fetus was a baby. God created it. It had to be a baby. I spent a lot of time wondering how to deal with that belief. I had been raised to believe that abortion was never okay, never a viable option. Possibly it could be excused if it was for the life of the mother but even then it was still a choice. And if the mother chose to give up her life for her child, well that was an amazing gift, wasn’t it? I remember those lines of logic. I remember using them myself. A woman had chosen to have sex and so getting pregnant was a possibility. If she didn’t want to get pregnant, she shouldn’t have sex. If she was raped… well, that wasn’t really a viable argument because realistically we were never going to get rid of abortion in cases of rape and incest and it was such a small percentage anyway. My father told me so.
During my practicum I had been having ongoing conversations with a few friends, but one in particular, about these issues. I pressed, she pressed back. Through these conversations we came to different places. She realized she was certainly pro-life, I realized I was certainly pro-choice. She would ask me about the baby, what about the baby? The baby who was an innocent in whatever had taken place, who couldn’t possibly be to blame. I would sit there, trying to picture the baby but nothing really came to mind. There was no baby to picture. There was no person to picture because I didn’t believe that fetus was a person yet. Instead I pictured the mother. I thought of women making incredibly difficult decisions, women who might be making the choice between feeding children they already had or not, women who might be in abusive relationships (reproductive control in all kinds of forms is a very common form of exerting power), girls who didn’t dare tell abusive parents, women who perhaps suffered from mental illness and didn’t dare change their medications, women who simply knew what they were capable of. There are millions of stories. The truth is that I fall into the last category. I have never wanted to be a mother. There was a moment for me, and I don’t know exactly when it was, when I allowed myself to admit that yes, if it was on the table, I would do what I knew I truly believed would be the best thing and that wasn’t to have a baby.
I was raised with a narrative, with an imaginary person who gets an abortion. It’s the person who casually uses an abortion as birth control or the well off suburban housewife who selfishly chooses to have an abortion because she just doesn’t feel like having more children. The point was the callousness, the idea that this decision meant nothing to them. It was made clear to me repeatedly that the image of the desperate 16 year old was a myth, this was not the majority of women who sought abortions. At the same time, horror stories were constantly told of Planned Parenthood pushing abortions onto unsuspecting 13 year olds brought in by their abusers. I did not find any incongruity in these somewhat disparate narratives. But you know, I’ve noticed something funny. I’ve never ever met the callous person who didn’t care about their abortion or used it as birth control. I don’t see this as proof of it being a child or deep and unending guilt, although I know there are women who struggle with that. But you’re making a definitive choice. In that moment, you’ve decided to not be a mother, to not take this path. It’s a fork in the road, you’ve taken away a possible future.
Here’s what I learned – believing that people were not evil meant that I trusted women. I trusted them to know their lives and make the best decision they could given their circumstances. Sometimes we will choose wrong but I don’t believe it will usually be out of malice or even callousness. There are women all over the world who risk their lives to get abortions and I believe in protecting those women, I don’t believe that they should ever have to do that. I believe that women are capable and able of knowing their own lives, of making decisions about them. Whether that means you walk into an abortion clinic tomorrow or you are having 19 kids and counting. That doesn’t mean I always agree with every decision but it means I fight to protect the right to make them.
So to all of my sisters, I trust you. I trust you to use your bodies and make choices in your lives. I believe we have power and the ability to make change. I believe that when we have choices taken away from us, we can fight for them. I believe we’re powerful, I believe we’re strong. I trust that when you walk through the doors of a Planned Parenthood clinic for an abortion, you chose that fork in the road for just as strong of a reason as I trust the woman walking into an OB clinic. I trust in your ability to be a wonderful mother if that’s what you choose to be. I trust in your ability to be an amazing woman regardless of if you ever have a child. I believe that you have the right to any feelings you may have around an abortion or a birth or never getting pregnant at all. There’s no blueprint or map, there’s nothing we have to do or be. But I think if we can trust each other’s intentions, it could go a long way.