Tuesday, July 28, 2015

How I left the pro-choice movement and found true liberation

Above: pro-choice counter-protesters hold altered signs denying post-abortive parents' pain

[Today's guest author writes anonymously.]

I was atheist, feminist, left, libertarian and pro-choice since conception. My mother was an English woman who had a weekend affair with my African American father, and then raised me on her own. She was independent, liberal and proud. She had abortions before conceiving me, and several abortions after conceiving me. So I was her choice. I was the child she chose to keep.

I had my own abortions, for varying reasons. If I said I didn’t regret them, I would be lying, but liberated women aren’t allowed to feel regret over a clump of cells that would ruin their lifestyle. We couldn’t show other women our tears, because then they might not be able to kill their clump of cells, and then their lifestyle would be ruined.

My friends had abortions too. Some of their reasons were very similar to my own. I had a friend who was raped; she had an abortion, and went on to live a loveless life because the rape had scared her away from men indefinitely. I had a friend who lived in poverty; she had an abortion and went on to live a life of poverty. I had a friend who lived with domestic violence; she had an abortion and went on to be beaten by her partner for the next five years, until she met another partner who also beats her. I don’t know what would have happened if they kept the children. I guess we never know what happens with a life unless we let it live.

I also had friends who had abortions for reasons very different from mine. I had friends who didn’t like using condoms because it didn’t feel as good, and didn’t like the side effects of the other contraceptive methods, so they used abortion as their contraception. Although I didn’t really agree with their choices, who was I to judge? Just because it’s not something that I would do, why should I have an opinion? It was their body, they could do what they wanted with it; why should they give up their lifestyle for a clump of cells?

I had friends who didn’t have abortions too. I had one friend who was very young, living in poverty, had an abusive partner and was a drug user. When she told me she was pregnant, I immediately suggested abortion to her. I was such a supportive friend that I even offered to pay for the abortion and drive her there. I was even willing to help her hide the after abortion grief that she was not supposed to have.

She disappeared for a few months, returning with a pregnancy that was far too far along to terminate. She gave birth and kept her child. She loved that child so much that she got rid of the abusive boyfriend, stopped taking drugs, and is now an amazing mother with a reason not only to live, but to live a productive life. I don’t know what would have happened if she had an abortion. I guess we never know what happens with a life unless we let it live.

So as you can see I was very pro-choice; freedom, social justice, logic, women’s rights, it was all there in one neat little package.

Until it wasn’t…

The first little cracks started showing with my second pregnancy, but only the first pregnancy I considered keeping. My first scan was at 12 weeks. I thought I knew what I was going to see, because I had been 12 weeks pregnant before. And my doctors, teachers and mother had all told me the same thing; it was just a clump of cells. That’s why it had seemed perfectly logical to terminate it, because liberated women don’t let clumps of cells ruin their lifestyle.

I went in there expecting to see no more than a blob on the screen, but what I saw chilled me to the core. It wasn’t a clump of cells, it was a little human with a functioning heart and a functioning brain, arms and legs, and a little body, which was flipping around doing somersaults over and over again, just like a child playing in the park.

That should’ve been enough to make me change my pro-choice views, but it wasn’t. I thought maybe a fetus wasn’t a clump of cells, but an embryo pretty much was, and pro-choice rhetoric told me that abortions rarely happened after the embryonic stage anyway. Pro-choice rhetoric also told me it’s still okay if you do have an abortion after that time, because women who have abortions after that time only do it because it’s the best choice; because they don’t want to live in poverty, or with domestic violence, or have a reminder of rape, or to bring an unwanted child into the world. Even if it did kill little humans, it was for logical, leftist, libertarian, feminist reasons.

I was still pro-choice enough to go on and have a second abortion, suffering far less regret this time. It was an easy choice now. It was easy to hide your pain away. And I was doing it for all the right reasons; all those reasons the pro-choice movement had given me.

I got a double major in education and psychology, and pro-choice rhetoric told me this was because I chose when to have children. If I had have kept my children then there is no chance I could have gotten my double major. None at all.

I taught young people, I counselled young people. I did both paid and volunteer work at education centres, victims of crime centres, and also in child protection. I was a true humanitarian, and I thought all life deserved a chance to be great… at least, all born life. My pro-choice beliefs remained strong.

The second lot of much deeper cracks began to show some years later when my ability to hide the pain of my abortion wavered after a miscarriage, and I made an attempt on my life.

Once I had made a recovery, and managed to hide my pain once more, the humanitarian in me said I had to help other women hide their abortion pain too, because if they couldn’t hide it well enough, they might attempt suicide too, and life was precious to me. All born life, anyway.

I had two options: a pro-life Christian support group that I assumed would shame women and condemn them for their choice, or a pro-choice family planning group that would help women accept abortion as the right choice. Despite the pain abortion had caused me, I was still pro-choice, so of course, I chose the latter.

I participated in online support, talking to women I would never meet, and knew nothing about. Coaching them on how to hide their feelings like I did. Telling them to look to the future instead of the past—that’s what we were trained to say. We were trained to put all the focus on the woman, because she was important. We were trained to focus on all the positive things that come out of abortion, a child saved from poverty, a child saved from abuse, women given their liberty. We were trained to lie—no, avoid the truth. We had to avoid the truth, because if women knew the truth, they might not have abortions, and if women didn’t have abortions, they would be slaves to their clumps of cells. And hiding the truth would help them with their own pain, because it had helped me with my pain…

That was when the cracks grew so deep, I knew there would be no repair. Hiding the truth had not helped me with my pain. It had just made me bury it deep down inside, and take the risk that it might explode to the surface every now and then, and maybe one day be fatal. Obviously it wasn’t working at all. Yet the pro-choice movement had been hiding the truth for years now, for at least as long as I had been involved.

Why were we hiding the truth from women, if they were still being hurt anyway? Women should be able to make choices based on all the facts. We are not delicate little flowers that need to have the truth hidden from us. Even if the truth is hidden from us, we are smart enough to figure it out eventually.

This made me take pause and think; what other truths were the pro-choice movement hiding? It already seemed they thought women delicate and stupid, so was it a possibility they lied about being feminist? They did tell women that their own natural bodily functions would deprive them of liberty. This seemed to suggest that a woman’s body was abnormal and needed to be corrected. Women accepting that they were wrong, and society was right—that their bodies needed changing, not society—that didn’t seem very feminist. To add to this they were fighting against legislation that protected women, and supporting legislation that put women’s health at risk. It didn’t matter if the abortionists weren’t properly trained, or if the clinics didn’t meet safety and hygiene standards. They wanted abortion clinics to be open so women could fix their “abnormalities” at any cost. 

The pro-choice movement was beginning to sound more and more misogynistic, and if they were misogynistic, how could they be feminist?

I thought maybe they weren’t feminist, but they were still leftists, right? They still cared about social justice. They still wanted every child to be wanted and loved, fed and homed. They still cared about the weak and needy... except the weakest and neediest among us. They were okay with them not being loved or wanted. They were okay with them not being fed or homed. They were okay with them losing their lives, so that the strong and powerful could live their lifestyle.

So if the pro-choice movement was supporting the powerful, by denying services to the weak, how could they be Leftist?

Maybe they weren’t feminists, and they weren’t leftists, but they must be libertarians, right? That was what we were always told, a woman’s liberty to do as she chooses is more important than a clump of cells... except a woman is only more important than the clump of cells, because the clump of cells is undeveloped and non-sentient, and hasn’t given anything to society. But a newborn baby is also undeveloped, non-sentient, and hasn’t given anything to society, and we still value its life. We value it because it has potential. And if we value a baby because it has potential, then we must value a clump of cells because it has potential too. So if a clump of cells has the same value as a baby, shouldn’t it have the same rights? And if it should have the same rights, shouldn’t it have the right to life? And does its right to life trump the mother’s right to bodily autonomy? Did it even violate the mother’s bodily autonomy in the first place? It was forced inside her body by the actions of others, who did have freedom of choice. So that means killing it would be condemning it for the actions of others, and violating its personal liberty.

So if pro-choice said that the freedom of one group of people meant taking away the freedom of another group of people, how could they be libertarian?

It seemed obvious the pro-choice movement were not feminist, they were not leftists and they were not libertarians. But they were definitely logical and scientific, like atheists, and they did not rely on a fallible belief system to support their claims.. except they do hold the belief that personhood is judged by the law, even though history has shown us over and over again that the law can get personhood wrong. And they do hold the belief that a life in the womb isn’t valuable unless its mother says it is, and she can change her mind about its value at any time prior to 24 weeks gestation. And they do hold the belief that birth turns a clump of cells into a human, even if it has only gestated for 22 weeks, and can’t breathe on its own, but only if they want it, and it is born alive. If they don’t want it and its born dead, then it is still just a clump of cells. So if they hold beliefs that have no physical evidence and no scientific basis, and have been disproven before, then how can they be logical and scientific like atheists?

If the pro-choice movement uses fallible belief systems to justify the strong taking life from the weak, tell women their bodies need to be fixed, and do this all in the name of freedom, then it goes against everything I believe in. If it goes against everything I believe in, how could I possibly support them?

I am still an atheist, feminist, left, libertarian, but I am no longer pro-choice.

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