Ever since Texas passed its recent law banning abortion, all I’ve been thinking about is women. All the beautiful, talented, and tremendous women I have known who have faced excruciating decisions day in and day out regarding their future. How they looked ahead and decided that they didn’t have enough to give beyond giving to themselves, and how that should be accepted without question rather than facing an imposed barrier.
People who oppose abortion like to present it like a Rorschach test: black and white with crisp edges and clear design. But it’s never simple, or without muddled, blended, overlapping considerations. Rather, it’s like a watercolor without boundaries where the colors bleed into each other without abandon, emotions running across the page, not knowing where they begin and stop. I have known women who have chosen abortion for many different reasons. They weren’t stable and prepared for the experience of parenthood, or they have a family they didn’t want to grow, or they were the victims of sexual assault, or they simply chose themselves for the unforeseeable future. Any response a woman has to a decision that requires commitment and follow through for the rest of her life is valid. Period.
In college, I faced the potential of this decision when I had a pregnancy scare with a boy that I couldn’t see myself dating the next week, let alone sharing the commitment of parenthood for life. One of my mentors, a woman of strong faith, very gently and kindly told me in no uncertain terms that if I was pregnant, I should consider abortion. In retrospect, she could envision the life that I would have to live mapped in front of me that I couldn’t quite see clearly at such a young age: the 19 year old still learning to be responsible having to bear the burden of raising a child when she was still one herself. The relief that came when the test magically displayed a minus sign was palpable, and I was spared having to make such a hefty decision. The agony of facing that choice, of having to determine what I would do if confronted with such a decision, was a burden I wouldn’t wish on anyone.
I have also known women who didn’t choose abortion because they felt powerless. Women dominated by partners or family to go against their gut. Women fearful of the tenants of religion and scared it would make them unlovable in the eyes of their faith. Women who were so worried about letting down everyone else around them that they forgot they count too.
I once was asked to spend time with a woman who was struggling to bond and nurse with her newborn, because the staff didn’t have time to sit bedside and figure out her resistance. I sat in her room with her in silence as she held the infant at arm’s length, picking at the blanket she was swaddled in. It was not her first child. It was one she never wanted. After holding space with her for a time, she shared that she didn’t feel she could handle another baby but it was against her faith to have those thoughts, and her family and spouse had convinced her having the child was the only option. Her face was stony and defeated, like the last vestiges of joy had been pushed out with the delivery of her daughter. As if she had birthed a future where she no longer existed to herself. I could see the black space she was slipping into, slowly, the depression gathering strength. No place in this world should prevail where women have their light extinguished by outside expectations, where peoples’ words become torrents of water that slowly kill off the flame of personal existence. I continue to be haunted by how, or if, she survived.
For me, those musings are more to bear than giving someone the option to choose a live they can live with. Ending a pregnancy may not be what I would choose personally, but it doesn’t have to be what I want, or you want, or whatever you imagine the universe/god wants. The person making the choice gets to choose what they can endure, and that seems fair enough in a world filled with a myriad of inequities and cruelties that women already have to navigate and overcome. Having the option to deem one's self worthy of an equal chance at living isn't selfish, or mere self-preservation, it is a supreme, radical affirmation of being. I exist. I am worthy. Take me as I am. Love me just the same.
And if that isn't 'pro-life', how can anything else be?
Reflections of a woman spawned in a cement cocoon...