My friend wishes to remain anonymous, so I will not name her. But I will say this. She is a gift to the world and she is a gift to God’s Church.
I am not Patrick. Let’s start there. And I am a feminist. I even studied Women’s Studies in college. I was asked by Patrick to write about an experience from my life that’s pretty sensitive. Honestly some of the things I told Patrick I hadn’t told anyone before, other parts I had never told a man outside of my own family. So, I just hope you will take this with that in mind, and understand this is just one woman’s experience.
Before I start I do want to say that if you are uncomfortable with reading about the graphic nature of illegal abortions or sexual assault, please stop reading. I would hate to bring anyone who has experienced those things or are sensitive to them to be triggered by my words.
Today I am going to talk about my journey from 3rd generation radical Pro-Choice advocate to pro-life. And maybe if I get ambitious I will even comment on how modern feminism needs to include pro-life women.
3rd Generation. My grandmother and my mother were/are vocal pro-choice advocates. Neither are Christian and both are liberal in their political beliefs. My grandmother passed when I was only thirteen, but I spent a lot of time with her as a child and she definitely shaped my original set of political ideals.
When I was only ten or eleven years old, George W. Bush proclaimed his intention to overturn Roe V. Wade. As we know now, he was unable to do so. But my grandmother was concerned and she wanted me to know why it was important that Roe v. Wade should stand.
On a drive in the lake country of Minnesota, she explained to me what life was like for women that sought abortions before 1973. She told me of women she personally knew that died from the horrendous back door procedures. Metal coat hangers and fish hooks used to remove fetuses which gave women infections which would kill them in the process. She informed me that women would find a way to have abortions either way, so we as a people needed to provide a safe way for them to do so. I was traumatized at the idea of young women dying of infection. I didn’t think of the pregnancy that was ended, and the life there. I was taught that it wasn’t a life until it can survive outside of the womb on its own. Before the second trimester so many pregnancies end from natural reasons (miscarriages) that I was taught it wasn’t really a baby until after that point. Life started the moment you were born and took your first breath.
And that’s the problem with the debate between pro-choice and pro-life. Both would agree that murder is wrong, but disagree on what constitutes life. Also the pro-choice movement looks to the pro-life movement and sees hypocrisy without seeing it in themselves. It’s a clear example of trying to remove the speck in your brother’s eyes while you have a plank in your own. If you are pro-life, how can you be pro-war, a pro-choice advocate would say. Is not an adult human’s life as valuable as these babies in the womb? They say this while denying that there is life inside the womb. Until we are using the same definition of life, and understanding that all life has dignity and value, child and adult, we are never going to find a place to agree.
Anyway, back to my story. This is the realm of thought that I was in throughout high school. On my purse I even had a pro-choice pin of my mother’s that read, ‘Against Abortion, don’t have one.’ I believed that with proper sex education and affordable and accessible options, not many women would choose abortion, and those that did would have their reasons for doing so. They were too young to be a parent, they didn’t have proper financial or emotional support, or I naively assumed that most, if not all abortions were pregnancies that were the result of rape.
I became a Christian in the fall of 2009, my freshman year in college. And as far as my social policy beliefs stood, nothing really changed when I added Christ to this. I still didn’t believe that an unborn child was alive. I was still adamantly pro-choice but I also started to see that that women needed to know all the other options out there. Accessible birth control and a way to see how the adoption process might go was crucial to providing safe options alongside abortion to women.
The more I grew in my faith, the more I believed that for me personally, abortion was not a choice that I could ever make. It was one that if a friend or family member came to talk to me about I would try and steer them away from. But I still didn’t stand by policy change and I still was unsure about when life really began. And then there was the concept of God’s eternal plan, He would know that those fetuses would be aborted, so He must have a redemption plan for them as well. Honestly, I just tried to avoid the subject at all costs.
But I still at my core didn’t believe that the fetuses that were taken from the womb through abortion were real lives. They didn’t have humanity for me, so there really wasn’t anything to mourn. It was the possibility of life that was lost, not a life itself.
That all changed for me very quickly in the fall of 2012. I was studying in Manchester, England and for the first time since my conversion was without Christian community. I wanted to show my American friends that I was a ‘cool’ Christian, that I was just a normal person like them. I just also believed in God. I did this through a variety of sinful acts that were considered normal for a college student in normal society. This mostly included drinking alcohol excessively, and dressing and dancing provocatively to gain the sexual attention of men.
For the most part I was able to do this without crossing my self-imposed ‘boundaries’. I never blacked out, though there were times that were a bit harder to remember all the facts to, and I never engaged in any overtly sexual acts with the people that I was dancing with in the clubs. (other than the dancing itself)
One night I was past the point of drunkenness, but could still catch my bearings. I knew where I was, how to catch a cab home, and the basic outline of the night. Then I saw a guy with a shirt that I really liked, it was a geeky shirt that I found funny, so I told him so. He offered to buy me a drink, and then another and another. He kissed me and I liked that he wanted me in that way. That was still something new and exciting to me. Another drink and he had me in a cab and was taking me back to my dorm room.
I was raped. I woke up the next morning and had some vague recollections of what had happened once we entered the cab. I remember asking why his accent didn’t match where he said he came from, why he had a hard time remembering his own name. Why he didn’t seem that drunk and I didn’t see him have a drink while we were together.
In the morning I knew what had happened, but I thought that I consented to it. Assumed that he also was drunk and it was just a mistake of too much to drink. It wasn’t until much later that I started to get the sinking feeling that something about it wasn’t right. That I wouldn’t have consented if I was even just a bit less drunk than I was.
About a month later, I started to worry about it more. I was a week late for my period and that was very unusual for me, each day I grew more and more anxious. What would I do if I was pregnant? Where could I even go to get tested? I started looking at women’s clinics and started considering my options.
I always said I would never get an abortion myself, but here it was staring me in the face. Could I go home to the US in a month and tell my friends and family that I was pregnant? That I didn’t know the name of the man who did this, although I think his first name was Nick? I knew I couldn’t raise a kid, I was 21, not finished with school and honestly could barely take care of myself. Some people are mature enough to parent at 21, I was not. I knew that I wasn’t going to be a mom.
I would lie in my little dorm bed and think about this, a never ending soundtrack to my days. I’d go to class, even church and the campus ministry but it was always at the back of my mind. The question that loomed over my head the most, that kept me from saying the obvious choice I wanted to make (adoption) was, “What would my Christian friends think?” I heard their voices in my head telling me all the things that I already was believing about my situation. They would condemn me for being drunk, for having sex outside of marriage, for even going to the club in the first place. They would wonder why I couldn’t fight off the temptation of male attention and just stay home on a Saturday night to go to church in the morning. They would tell me I was of the world, not in the world. They would judge me. They would look at me and see my sin. Because it was my fault that I was raped.
I know now that it was not my fault. I understand that but it was hard to really feel that in my heart. I just saw all my own choices and failures that night. Not the sin that was committed against me.
Could I have an abortion to avoid their judgment? I looked into women’s clinics in the UK that would take US insurance.
Then I remembered an amazing couple I knew back home that were desiring to parent but were unable to conceive. I thought of how they were looking into adoption, hoping that one day a young woman would allow them to raise a child when she couldn’t. I looked at my own flat stomach and thought about my ‘baby’ for the first time. My baby. If I was pregnant, this was a baby. A baby that was wanted by someone out there, even if that person wasn’t me.
It was a baby. That was the moment that the definition of life changed for me.
Now, I wasn’t pregnant. 12 days of misery, probably made worse by the fact that I was stressed out and freaking out about it. (Which for the men out there… stress can postpone your period)
But something dramatically changed. I was now pro-life.
But my version of pro-life looks different than the mainstream. I prefer to say I am somewhere in the grey area. I believe that we need to do everything that we can to prevent women from ever getting to the point that this is a decision they might have to make. That means sex education at a young age, because I had classmates pregnant at 12. And it means access to birth control. Because if they don’t get pregnant in the first place, they can’t have an abortion. Now you might believe that birth control is a form of abortion, but I can’t sit in that camp. If there is no fertilization and implantation, there is no life. Abstinence is still the easiest and most obvious answer (Abstinence plus education is the school of thought I am in, if you want to do more research) but there needs to be relatively easy access for women to seek options if they do have sex. Once they are pregnant, they can’t just be faced with the question, “Well, are you going to abort it or not?” which is too commonly the question in America. The question needs to be reframed to just ask if the mother is willing and able to raise the child. If the answer is no, she needs to be shown what adoption options are available to her. There are great organizations out there that provide these services, such as New Life Family Services here in Minneapolis. I have known people on both sides of the adoption process with them (biological and adoptive parents) and have seen how they are committed to helping women see that they aren’t trapped in a pregnancy into motherhood. And that motherhood can have many different appearances. The woman I know that’s a bio mom has an open adoption, but chooses for her own sake not to see much of the child (it’s too painful). Her daughter still sees her biological grandparents and gives and receives gifts with her entire biological family. She is being raised knowing that her bio mom is out there, and loves her, and that it was her love that made her make the decision to have another couple raise her.
I want this to be the story that’s so normal it’s not even really considered unique. That adoption is such a widespread option for people that abortion is not even considered other than life and death circumstances.
And that happens through education.
I still consider myself more on the liberal (hence the birth control) and I still consider myself an advocate for women’s rights and feminism (rape culture sucks y’all). But I am pro-life.
Politically speaking what should the government do? Right now? Nothing. We can’t eliminate abortion without first reframing the situation entirely. Until our culture shifts to see adoption and birth control as primary options, we can’t end abortion here in America. As my grandmother taught me at ten years old, “Women are going to get abortions whether it’s legal or not, so we need them to be safe.”
Until we can get women to not want abortions, we will never succeed in ending it.