By now, we’re all aware of the Politico leak about the court’s intent to overturn Roe v. Wade. To most of us, it didn’t come as a surprise, but that doesn’t mean we’re not in complete and utter panic. The people we’ve elected into power are somehow bringing their own religious beliefs into the law, and it is going unchecked.
It’s especially troubling to witness politicians misrepresent and use God’s name for their own gain — a God that I respect and love.
I’ve never addressed religion in my writing, but I grew up surrounded by a protestant Christian family that passed down a myriad of values and attitudes to me. My parents taught me that life begins at conception and that you shouldn’t have sex until you are ready to have a baby.
Unsurprisingly, I used to be staunchly anti-choice in high school. Slut-shaming propaganda in the media led me to think that only a ‘certain type of woman’ gets into ‘trouble.’ The shame around sexuality that exists in Chrisitan spaces only reinforced this idea.
The topic of abortion was never mentioned in our health curriculum, so I didn’t even fully understand what it was outside of the term “murder.” Frequently I would get into debates with peers at school about how science shouldn’t justify the termination of life — and I truly believed a fetus was a life at the time.
As a teenage girl in America, I had almost zero understanding of bodily autonomy, so I blocked my ears and let any opposing arguments roll off my shoulders. I began to think I was better than the others because I would never need or elect to have an abortion.
The messages from my Christian upbringing mixed with harmful patriarchal culture conveyed to me that women who have sex deserve to have babies — as if children were some punishment for opening their legs. Despite the fact that I was sexually active in high school, this pro-life label allowed me to feel as if I was righteous and others who disagreed were always morally reprehensible.
But as I grew up and broke out of my shell, I started to make a point of listening to stories that sounded much different from my white Christian middle-class experience. By venturing out of an echo chamber of my own comfortable viewpoints, I learned the importance of being uncomfortable.
I began to see beyond certain fabricated myths and stereotypes about the droves of slutty career women who supposedly use abortion as birth control. Through new perspectives, I developed a stronger sense of empathy, critical thinking, and, in turn, self-acceptance.
Cutting through some extremities that I found in Christian teachings, I came to realize that what matters is my personal relationship with God and what I can contribute to His creation. Although I dwelled away from some of the more traditional values, the most crucial lessons that Jesus Christ preached — of compassion and mercy and love for your neighbor — are what stuck with me.
My political views took a sharp left turn after high school, as it became difficult to ignore that in our society, my very existence is political. That being said, there are many reasons I am grateful for being raised the way I was. The words I read in the Bible are what introduced me to the significance of storytelling, which is one of the most sacred and powerful forms of communication we humans have.
The narratives of others have helped me to grow, and, at some points, saved my life. Oftentimes, stories — whether they be tragic or hopeful — are essential when it comes to inciting change. Social media has made it possible for the people of the new millennium to create rapid social change as we are able to communicate our lived experiences to the masses at the click of a button.
In the past few days after the Politico leak, Twitter was set ablaze with the narratives of hundreds of thousands to millions of people whose lives had been affected by the right to choose abortion. As outraged by the news that I was, I followed the discourse obsessively.
One man recalled a former colleague who found out she was pregnant while undergoing radiation after chemotherapy for breast cancer. Her tumor was hormone receptive, which meant that her pregnancy could reactivate it. She had to decide whether to terminate the fetus or risk her life. A horrible and seemingly impossible decision to make, but her decision nonetheless.
One woman was informed at 12 weeks that a large cyst had formed on her fetus that would likely result in a miscarriage by 18 weeks. She was able to make the choice to terminate the pregnancy before having to put her body through an intense amount of grief, trauma, and possible bacterial disease for the next several weeks.
One woman had a molar pregnancy at age 52. Without an abortion, she could have developed cancerous tumors and died. Another woman’s placenta tore at 17 weeks. She would have bled out or developed sepsis if she hadn’t had the right to choose.
Hundreds of women echoed similar stories about abortions that saved their lives. Most of them were prepared and excited to have a baby, but their bodies couldn’t physically handle pregnancy. Like the previous women, they had to make unimaginably difficult decisions.
Many of them, who were having what they described as one of the worst days of their lives, were harassed by pro-life protesters before they could enter a clinic. The crowd screamed “MURDERER!” or hurdled trash at them. One clinic escort tweeted about his experiences having to act as a bodyguard for these patients, and hundreds of other escorts and clinic personnel commented under the thread with similar narratives.
Many women experienced miscarriages that their bodies were unable to fully expel. One woman went to the ER when she became septic, but the head nurse denied her access to medical care for two hours due to religious beliefs — which should have no place in medicine (or politics).
There’s the woman who was denied dilation and curettage (D&C) — a procedure to remove tissue from inside your uterus — after her miscarriage wouldn’t expel. Her doctor considered it abortion and was more worried about his guilty conscience than his patient’s wellbeing. He decided to pull out her placenta with his fingers while she was awake. Not surprisingly, he missed some. She became severely ill, was put on several medications, and bled for two months after.
Many remember the tragic story of Savita Halapanavar. Savita died of a septic miscarriage due to an abortion ban in Ireland. Her story is known for inciting the uprising of a movement that led to the legalization of abortion in her country six years after her passing.
Similarly, Olga Reyes of Nicaragua was denied medical care because of a strict abortion ban in her country. The doctors were afraid to treat her due to potential legal consequences. She died of ectopic pregnancy at twenty-two years old — just two weeks after her wedding.
One in every fifty pregnancies is ectopic, which is the leading cause of maternal mortality in North America. Saving the life of a woman suffering an ectopic pregnancy requires a procedure that many consider an abortion. Although these pregnancies can never end in a live birth, we have Senators like Warren Hamilton of Oklahoma questioning their exemption, as well as the exemption of rape and incest, in a future state bill that will ban abortion.
Ohio has a similar bill raring to go that will yank the license of any doctor who performs an abortion — even in case of ectopic pregnancy, rape, and incest.
“It’s a shame that it (rape) happens, but there’s an opportunity for that woman, no matter how young or old she is. She can choose to raise the child, she can choose to give that child to a loving family member or to give it to someone else — and that child can grow up and be something magnificent, a wonderful family person, cure cancer. Just because you have emotional scars doesn’t give you the right, right to take the life.”
-Rep. Jean Schmidt of Loveland, OH
We already know how common rape and sexual assault are, but many anti-choicers still seem to think that these are rare occurrences. According to Representative Schmidt, victims of these crimes should be forced to view their assault as an opportunity to be a mother.
A brave survivor disclosed her harrowing experience with sexual violence on Twitter. She was 17 years old, at a party. It was her first time drinking alcohol, so she blacked out fairly quickly. She woke up to two adult men brutally raping her, which left her covered in bruises. She couldn’t bring herself to tell anyone about it.
Nine weeks later, she took several pregnancy tests and they all came back positive. She knew she couldn’t tell her parents because they would want her to keep the baby. Believing she had no other options, she decided to take her own life.
In the nick of time, her best friend called before she could attempt suicide — ensuring her that there was another option. She didn’t need parental consent. She had the right to choose abortion.
One woman on Twitter claims she is still haunted by the screams of a past patient she will never forget. A nine-year-old little girl was wheeled into the hospital accompanied by her rapist — her own father — who wouldn’t allow her an abortion or epidural. Because she needed a parent’s consent, she was not allowed to choose.
Many paramedics, nurses, and doctors in the thread vouched for the fact that these incestuous circumstances are not at all as rare as they are represented because most of them are not reported.
To someone who would dismiss these stories as rare or “fear-mongering propaganda”, I’ve found that there is no statistic that will change their narrow view of the world. I could scour the internet for all of the scholarly articles, studies, and findings, but it would all be moot.
Because to a person who disregards the lived experience —rather the survived experience — of even one person, information that isn’t in line with their own agenda will never be valid.
Besides, even if, separately, these occurrences were all rare, the culmination of them co-existing together, in the same society, at the same time proves the complexity of abortion. These experiences happened, and they will continue to happen.
Most people think in simple terms — “good or bad?” — just as I did when I was in high school. But health is anything but simple, so how can we look at this as a black or white issue?
While there were many tragic medical stories shared, there were also narratives that didn’t involve trauma. Many were people who simply did not want to be pregnant and had the right to choose not to be.
One woman found out she was pregnant due to a condom failure in the second year of her Ph.D. She did not want kids at this time, and she was able to terminate the pregnancy early and easily. We can speculate about why, because there are many possible reasons, but there is no justification needed. It is her body and her life, and she wanted an abortion.
Another woman who recently escaped an abusive relationship found out that she was carrying her abuser’s child. She chose to terminate the pregnancy, which enabled her to cut any possible future ties to a man who tortured her for years. As a survivor of abuse, there’s no doubt in my mind that abortion saved this woman’s life.
Another young woman spoke of how a broken condom as she lost her virginity at the age of fifteen could have destroyed her life. Thankfully, one little mistake didn’t cost her the rest of her childhood and education, because she was able to elect to have an abortion.
Now, at the age of 24, she has a Master’s Degree and a beautiful baby girl that she is both physically and financially prepared to nurture and provide for. She had the right to choose her potential and her future.
Within this discourse, there existed a mass of devastating tweets from people whose parents never wanted them, which caught me completely off guard. Many detailed that they grew up in poverty, starving, abused, neglected, and severely traumatized.
One woman stated that as a child of unwanted pregnancy, she promises that abortion is the “kindest choice” in many circumstances, subtly revealing that she wished her mother would have made that choice.
As morbid as it sounds, we can only imagine what past horrors could bring someone to truly wish that they’d never been born. But these are the stories we need to read about so that we stop pretending that they are not happening all over our country. These voices are completely pertinent to the discussion. It’s a hard pill to swallow, but not everyone believes that life is a gift.
Realistically, I very well could have needed an abortion at any point within the last ten years of my life. I’ve been raped multiple times, condoms have broken and pills have been missed. I was never better than any of the women who needed an abortion, I just had different, privileged circumstances.
The toxic myths about abortion that I grew up believing in were not true, and I am a better person now for being able to see beyond them. Having sex does not make you a heathen deserving of horrible consequences. If you don’t want children, it doesn’t mean you are selfish. You are not a murderer for choosing to do right by your own body.
Ironically, the men who fuel this propaganda will never have to think twice about whether they are ready to be a father every single time they have sex, or whether they could successfully co-parent with each of their sexual partners.
They, of course, benefit from leaving the weight of these issues on the shoulders of people with uteruses, which gives them the insensible audacity to support the abolishment of human rights.
I’ve never felt the desire to have children, and any sliver of a doubt that I had before has been obliterated by the Politico leak. Being pregnant, or even having intercourse, has now become even more of a life-risking act than it already was for anyone who can give birth.
An abortion ban can never be the solution.
If not because it will severely increase the maternal mortality rate, if not because it will create legal uncertainty and potential liability for doctors, if not because it will severely decrease the overall quality of healthcare provided for people who can give birth, if not because it will disproportionately affect people with low-income while the wealthy will always be able to go around the law, if not because it will be ineffective in reducing the number of abortions and only reduce the number of safe abortions for those with low-income, if not because there is no possible way to regulate something like this without it ending in the suffering and fatalities of living, breathing, full-grown and functioning human beings who contribute to society — then because it is a human rights issue that will give the government an egregious amount of power over all of us.
Even if Roe is never overturned, the revelation of such misogyny and ignorance surrounding women’s health and autonomy displayed by our lawmakers in the past few days has shaken me to my core. I doubt I will ever be able to fully trust our healthcare system.
For now, all I can do is pray to God — who loves me unconditionally and wants nothing but the best for me — that I will never have to choose between my life and a potential life. I pray to God — who blessed me with human rights — that if I do, my decision will never be taken away from me and placed into the hands of a government that feigns moral superiority for profit and power.
If you’re looking for ways to help make sure women still have access to abortion care, Kendall Brown put together a thread of local abortion funds in the states most hostile to abortion rights, and this article from The Cut provides information about additional state resources. Please donate any amount and/or retweet and share on social media.
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