I once considered myself adamantly pro-life . . . well, I still do . . . it would be more accurate to say that I once considered myself to be adamantly against the legality of abortion. With the exception of any religious argument (it never came from a religious perspective for me, just my personal feelings about life in the womb), if you’ve made a statement against legal access to abortion services, I’ve made them too. It wasn’t until about 4 or 5 years ago that my position changed, but the more I think about it, the more I understand that my thought process began changing nearly 20 years ago.
I was 15 years old when I found out that a 12-year-old neighbor of mine was pregnant. As far as I know, the sex was consensual with another child of the same age. I also found out that she had an abortion and that the family’s decision was based primarily on the fact that her 12-year-old body . . . the body of a child . . . might not have survived pregnancy, labor, and delivery. I still believed abortion was wrong, but I also believed that a 12-year-old should not risk death because she made one mistake.
For years after that, I was the typical “except in cases of rape, incest, and danger to the life of the mother” pro-lifer. I was very firm in that position. I believed in the overturning of Roe v. Wade. I remember having a discussion with a friend in college and explaining this position to her. She said, “Well, what about a woman who suffers from severe depression? What if she can’t psychologically handle a pregnancy? What if the change in hormones is what will put her over the edge?”
I stumbled a bit. I said it wasn’t the same. She asked me why. I couldn’t answer. She knew I wouldn’t be able to answer because we had had several discussions on mental illnesses . . . on those silent diseases that people are told to just “get over,” as if the effects are not real. She knew that I never met my paternal grandmother because she was bipolar and committed suicide when my father was 8 years old. She knew I lost a friend to suicide when I was in high school. She knew I was on medication for anxiety. She knew that I believed that mental illnesses were every much as real as physical ones.
Still, I didn’t change my mind. I’m stubborn and when I believe in something strongly, it takes a while for me to admit I was wrong. But over the next few years, this thought festered inside of me.
And then, thanks to technology, thanks to the internet and social media, I began to hear more and more personal stories. I began to comprehend the choice other women might make. And most importantly, I began to understand that it was none of my fucking business.
What I believe, what thoughts I have, what makes me uncomfortable is completely irrelevant. If we make it necessary for women jump through hoops to obtain a safe and legal abortion, we risk lives, we risk health, we risk sanity. Let’s say we made abortion illegal “except in cases of rape, incest, and danger to the life of the mother,” who decides those things? Do we put a judge in every hospital room? Do we ask the Todd Akins of the world what constitutes “forcible rape”? Do we allow the Joe Walshes of the world to decide when the life of the mother is at risk?
All of those thoughts started running through my head and they made me uncomfortable. The more “exceptions” I understood, the more I realized fighting to criminalize abortion was not only the wrong answer, it was just wrong.
I am still pro-life. I am pro- the life of the mother. I am pro- the lives of the future children she wants to have. I am pro- life-saving information and education. I am pro- affordable access to birth control that would prevent the need for an abortion in the first place. I am pro- understanding that I can’t understand what another person is going through and that I have no right to impose what would be my decisions on her life.