An Open Letter to Moms Marching “For Life”

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Image courtesy of Cheryl Coward.

Dear moms marching for life,

If the March for Women was a pro-women cry for the support of women’s rights, the March for life is seen in the eyes of many as being its antithesis.  I don’t know if I believe this.  But I do think the constituencies that overlap here are small.

Women’s rights face opponents in Congress and statehouses across this world.  I am no stranger to abortion legislation as the official “abortion lady” in our office.  I have to assess it regularly.  I do it from a non-political perspective but I am not a robot.  I’m a woman with a uterus.  I’m a feminist.  I’m a mom.

Abortions are not something everyone agrees with personally.  I get that.  Prior to my pregnancy, I didn’t think I could have terminated a pregnancy.  That’s probably why I’ve always been anal retentive about contraception.  Then I got pregnant the first time and had a miscarriage.  I had a relative assume that miscarriages would make a woman more supportive of “life”.  My response to miscarriage was the opposite.  I felt so out of control with my body.  So vulnerable.  So miserable.  And I was thankful for the compassion I was shown by my provider.   And because I had good insurance, I would have been provided a D&C no questions asked if I had needed one.

My pregnancy with my daughter only strengthened this pro-choice feeling.  I had a terrible pregnancy which I’ve posted about often.  My body definitely not my own.  I was in hell.  I wanted to end my life at times.  I didn’t because I loved this life inside me.  But I also resented the hell out of her.  I wasn’t sure I would say it was worth it when she was here.  In fact, I was terrified that it wouldn’t feel worth it and that I wouldn’t bond with her. I did, though.  I fell head over heels the moment she was placed on my belly.  I am so in love with her-beyond what I ever thought was possible.  I also thought to myself, “Who would do this if they didn’t want this baby?”  I didn’t think it was humane to put a person through that against their will.

While pregnant, I also met other moms who made me realize I may have made that difficult choice under different circumstances.  I met wonderful, loving moms who had to terminate pregnancies because their babies were “Incompatible with Life”.  That’s the actual term when a baby will never be able to live outside the room or would not make it to term.  Instead, the baby would suffer and only know pain before certain death. Choosing to end the pregnancy was the most humane and compassionate thing even though it killed these mothers.  I also met mothers who had even worse HG than I had suffered and chose to terminate because it was literally killing them and destroying their marriages. They couldn’t do it anymore.  I couldn’t judge any of these women for their choices and I began to realize that there absolutely were situations where I would terminate a pregnancy. I have always supported a woman’s life to choose as long as I can remember.  My mom was ardently pro-choice and I was, too.  I hated the idiotic, male youth pastor who, when I was 11 and in youth group, decided it was wise to show a totally fake and traumatizing video about “late term abortion” without parental consent and without any context.  I didn’t even know what an abortion was before this.  I just learned that it was heinous and I felt so opposed to this atrocity.  Later, I asked my mom about it and she explained that some people oppose it and it wasn’t her choice.  However, she said that she could never tell anyone else what to do with their body and that every baby should be wanted.  That seemed logical.  I didn’t tell her about that awful video until years later.  She blew a gasket when she found out.  As a mom myself, I would have also been enraged.

I don’t think you can be a feminist and anti-choice.  I think you can absolutely be against abortion but not against a woman’s bodily autonomy and right to choose.  I think you can hold strong religious beliefs about life, death, and the death penalty and realize that we have a secular government that has a lot of people to protect who don’t share your theology and values.  I think a lot of women choose compassion but I also think many of us haven’t had to walk in those difficult shoes.  So, you can be pro-life and still not believe it’s the government’s right to interfere with the rights of women to get abortions.  You can work to make it happen less often, can support women who choose not to terminate pregnancies, etc. I think you can also morally defending being pro-life and feminism if you agree to the following:

  1. Support free contraceptives to all women regardless of ability to pay, type of contraception, etc. The thing that is shown to be most helpful in lowering abortions is not legal prohibitions, it’s contraception (especially options you don’t have to take every day which are often the most expensive).
  2. Support welfare services that help mothers pay for breast pumps, formula, diapers, and other things babies need. Babies are expensive.
  3. Support free or reduced childcare for people. If you expect a mom to work to keep benefits, you need to help her care for her child.
  4. Better public education and head start.
  5. Better family leave policies so families can bond with their babies appropriately, people can assist family members that need them, and so women who choose to give their babies to adoptive parents can recover from pregnancy. Also better protections for pregnant women and requirements about disability policies to help women who need to stop working early. This is not a rare thing. It’s all too common.
  6. Free or affordable maternity care for all women regardless of ability to pay.
  7. Immigration laws which are equitable and help provide shelter for refugees – especially children who are suffering every day in bad situations.
  8. Better civil rights protections for women, people of color, and the LGBT community. These people are at risk and deserve your protection.
  9. Oppose the death penalty.
  10. Support sex education in schools. Abstinence only programs don’t work and they set kids up to fail and contribute to teenage pregnancy and higher abortion rates.

Being pro-life shouldn’t set women up to fail.  Life shouldn’t require martyrdom.  If you truly believe in life, it must be cradle to grave.  And charity is not the answer.  One should not have to submit to unscientific and awful videos or proselytizing to receive care and support in times of trouble.  If you agree all lives matter, you should care about everyone not just Christians.  Charitable organizations do admirable things.  Don’t misunderstand.  But they are not the government.  People don’t have the same protections and rights to goods from charities that they do from the government.

I would encourage any of those women who marched yesterday to consider that they don’t live in a religious state.  I would appeal to their senses of compassion and empathy for other women who have to make difficult choices.  I would hope they would understand pregnancy is not and should not be a punishment and babies should be gifts and not burdens. And I would compel them to support everyone – cradle to grave.

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