I was six, maybe seven. I know I was in the first grade when my mother took me to my first abortion protest. We met up with some women from our church, who also had their children with them, outside of a local Women’s Center that did abortions. Signs were passed out and hung on strollers or around small children’s necks and everyone was given a handful of pamphlets to give out. Up until that point I did not know what abortion was.
Before the protest started there was a prayer by those who had gathered. I looked around at the signs but had just begun to read. There were pictures of dismembered fetuses and pictures of babies on the signs and words like God, Jesus, hate, love and killer. After the prayer people spread out on the sidewalk right outside the clinic. This was 1980(?) and there were no laws keeping protestors back. Women going into the building literally had to walk pass all the protestors, even brushing up against them, as they were yelled at not to go in and called murderers. Some of the women were crying, some yelled back at us, some turned around and didn’t go in which was considered a victory by my mother’s friends.
This was my introduction to the abortion debate.
My mother was an anti-abortion activist. She belonged to the National Right To Life Committee and attended local and state rallies, donated her money and time to the pro-life cause. Pro-life brochures and magazines could be found in our home, full of graphic pictures and descriptions of abortion proceedures. She once had a list of all the doctors who performed abortions in the United States and at the top of the page they were listed as murderers and baby killers. My mother showed me and my brother films about abortion. Graphic films. Films that put slasher movies we were not allowed to see to shame.
When I was fifteen I attended a pro-life speech that was put on for youth at a local church I attended with friends. A man stood on the stage and gave this lengthy speech about abortion that was followed by a slide show of abortion in America. After it was over there was a question and answer session. Several people stood and asked about how they could prevent women from having abortions or moral questions in the case of rape or incest. Then I stood with my question. “Sir, I am wondering what you are doing right now for those children who are unwanted or neglected by their parents who might have chosen abortion. Are you a foster parent or an adoptive parent?” My friend sitting next to me slumped in her seat and hung her head low. The man, whose name I forget, responded “No, but I do donate my time and money to places like Sav-A-Life and agencies that provide baby beds and clothes to women who have had babies.” I remained standing even though I had asked my question. “So, what you are telling me is that, once we prevent a woman from having an abortion and give her a few baby items, she is on her own?” There was an uncomfortable pause, and then a stuttering response “Um, well, no that isn’t what I am saying. However, these young women need to take responsibility for their sexual misconduct. Their, um, sin. They need to repent for their sexual sins.” I sat down dissatisfied and disturbed that a man who was such an advocate for life, didn’t really give much thought for taking care of the lives of children that are already here and essentially saw these children as a repercussion for sin.
These memories that stand out to me left a lasting impression. They are not ones that led me to take up my mother’s cause either. When ever I was around pro-life advocates I never felt they were compassionate towards women or that they even cared for women. This was something that often caused arguments between me and my mother when I questioned her about the rights of women or the health of the woman. One of the most disturbing things I realized is that the majority of pro-lifers who advocate so strongly for the unborn are the very ones who are against social programs that would feed, house, clothe, and provide medical care to the unborn once they are born. They will talk to you till they are blue in the face about the right of the unborn to be born, but once they are here, they turn their heads and say not my problem, not my responsibility. I realize that not all those who are anti-abortion are like that, but many are and it is something I have never quite understood.
One of the other problems I have with the pro-lifers is the way they speak for God and the way they use the Bible to judge and hurt other women. As a child I did not understand why there was such violence and hate speech hurled at women who were seeking abortions. It seemed like the most un-Christian way to go about “saving a life”. It was such a contradiction to the teachings of Jesus and the whole “judge not lest ye be judged”. I believe it is best that we leave women and the choices they make about their bodies between them and their partners and their God. None of us know what God wants for another’s life. As my Aunt Bonnie always said “No one is God’s Vice President”.
When protesters are standing across the road from an abortion clinic, holding signs, and screaming out judgments they are unaware of why that woman is walking into a Planned Parenthood or a women’s center that does abortions. They could be going in there for a pap smear, breast exam, blood tests for STDs or birth control. If a woman is going into a clinic for an abortion, you may not know what her life circumstances are. You may be completely unaware of why she has come to the decision she has. You may not realize what horrible thing has happened and that you are making an already painful time in her life all the much harder. What pro-lifers have deemed a holocaust is really no more than religious terrorism with a platform for a modern day witch hunt.
Today I am pro-choice. Not because I advocate for abortion, but because I advocate for women’s reproductive freedoms. I am fully aware of what an abortion entails and what it is. I’ve been pregnant plenty of times and had ultrasounds at every stage of pregnancy. No one needs to sit down and explain to me each developmental stage of an embryo and fetus or when life begins. I’ve got that down pat. While I am not as far to the left on this issue as one might think, I hold firm on not restricting access to abortion or making it illegal; this I am quite certain my mother would not be proud of.