My Steady Conversion from a Pro-Life Evangelical to a Pro-Choice Ally: an in depth look at the abortion issue

First, you will not tell anyone my name.
Second, you will do what you want to do with your life.


—Dr. John Sharpe to Gloria Steinem

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My earliest introduction to the issue of abortion, and, consequently, the adult world of politics, occurred when I was eight years old, in the midst of the 2000 presidential election. I was at a friend’s house, contemplating two American flag-printed Beanie Babies—a donkey and an elephant—when my friend asked which one I liked better. At the time, I didn’t understand the implication of her question, and therefore I based my choice solely on aesthetics

“The donkey,” I said.

Much to my shock and confusion, my response was immediately reprehended.

“The donkey is bad,” my friend said. (Being one year older, she was always trying to explain the adult world to me. Before the new year, she had tried in vain to explain the Y2K hysteria, saying, “The bug is going to come down from space and destroy all the electronics.”)

“Why?” I asked. (Up until that point, I had always assumed that a donkey was a donkey in the same way that the sky is blue, or the sun is hot. I needed her to elaborate.)

Earnestly—perhaps out of fear for my immortal soul—my friend proceeded to detail a nine year old’s interpretation of republicans and democrats, “The donkey is for the democrats, and they’re the ones who kill babies while they’re in the mom’s stomach.”

Naturally, I was horrified; so my friend quickly offered the one bit of solace she had, “Don’t worry, the elephant is for the republicans, and they don’t do that.”

Armed with this information, and, consequently, my newfound sense of social justice, the “right” political identity seemed to be a simple decision: at the tender age of eight, I began to identify as a republican. Something that would ultimately endure into my late teens and would eventually come to rely on factors more serious than Beanie Babies, such as the fact that I was brought up in the evangelical church. (As an adult, I tend to completely block out this major aspect of my childhood and adolescence; the rigid moral logic of organized religion didn’t come naturally to me, and it took a significant toll on my mental health.)

As a teenager, I coped with what I felt to be my inherent heresy—an aggressively repressed desire to be in control of my one and only life—by doubling down on my predetermined Christian identity and subscribing to some of the most fundamentalist interpretations of the faith imaginable. Therefore, and by default, I was strictly pro-life. (Like, I was the kind of pro-life person who said things like, “If you weren’t ready to have a baby then you shouldn’t have had sex.”)

Bringing me to one of my most shameful memories: when I was sixteen, or seventeen, I was at a friend’s house with a group of girls that I didn’t know very well. Everyone was surrounding and comforting one girl, and I didn’t understand what was going on—no one was taking the time to tell me. However, I eventually caught wind of the A-word, and, being a sexually repressed idiot who had never experienced a complicated situation in her entire life, I assumed the conversation was abstract, and political, with no personal bearing on the present moment. Therefore, I remained completely unsympathetic in my opinions, and at some point I said something grossly simplistic, like, “There’s birth control. There’s no reason anyone should get pregnant who doesn’t want to be.” (Obviously the girl everyone was comforting was going to get an abortion, but I was too self-absorbed to sense that.)

Now, having had a decade to reflect on who I was from ages 14-18, I can recognize that being pro-life—or, more appropriately termed, anti-choice—had always been a projection of my own fears and neuroses surrounding premarital sex. Growing up in the church, premarital sex had always been presented as something that was inherently traumatic for women, and abortion was often presented as something that had to be opposed. Therefore, I truly feared and believed that any form of support in the way of abortion rights put my immortal soul in danger; that I couldn’t be pro-choice because that would mean I wasn’t a “real” Christian.

Basically, I had fallen for the rhetoric of an anti-choice agenda long before I’d even acquired the life experience, or critical thinking skills, to fairly question or judge it. And that’s the dangerous thing about it; it’s a corrupt and dishonest movement that has always relied on manipulation and scare tactics.

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1.

The movement to end legalized abortion
has never been able to make progress by telling the truth.
Instead it has relied on deception
to force certain values onto American Women.

—Jessica Valenti, for Medium
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A driving motif in the rhetoric of anti-choice activists, and advocates, is that abortion is somehow equitable to genocide. Just last year, after Donald Trump nominated Amy Coney Barrett for the Supreme Court, Marjorie Dannenfelser (president of the anti-choice group, The Susan B. Anthony List) spoke on the issue for NYT’s The Daily. She insisted that the erosion of Roe v. Wade is about “saving millions and millions of lives”, and I had a flashback to a pro-life t-shirt that I saw at church camp when I was a teenager. (It said: You will stop killing my generation.)

Once the memory had resurfaced, my stomach twisted itself into a pretzel; the idea of abortion being somehow on par with the mass murder of fully formed, cognizant, human beings felt so insulting to those who have survived actual genocide. (The governor of Arkansas, Mike Huckabee, once called abortion “the incredible Holocaust of our own in America”.) Furthermore, what makes these comparisons doubly insulting is the amount of evidence showing that the anti-choice movement is rooted in white supremacy, and, historically speaking, has nothing to do with “saving” unborn babies. From the very beginning, it was about population growth and control.

For example: abortion wasn’t even officially illegal in the United States until the 1800s, when racist doctors became concerned about the number of abortions among married, middle class, Anglo-Saxon women. They viewed abortion as a threat to the white race, and this resulted in criminalization of the procedure. In the meantime, protestant opposition to abortion was gaining traction; the Catholic population was increasing due to their strict rules surrounding contraception and abortion, and, as a reaction, the protestant faith slowly began to adopt similar principles in an attempt to not be overtaken demographically.

Moreover, anti-choice evangelicals and white nationalists have a history of working side by side in the fight to prevent abortion and overturn Roe v. Wade. (The vice president of the anti-choice organization, New Wave Feminists, identifies as an “ethnonationalist”. This means she believes that a nation is defined by ethnicity, and only supports a white political agenda. Meanwhile, the regional director of the militant anti-choice group, Rescue America, was a klansman before converting to Christianity; he once told the New York Times that he believed white supremacists and fundamentalist Christians would eventually find themselves “in the trenches together”. And in 2012, Todd Akin, a former representative of Missouri, said that rape victims should not be able to receive abortions because “if it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try and shut that whole thing down”—a theory that is not only biologically false but originated in Nazi death camps.) Generally speaking, this is not a good look if you’re trying to give your cause the same amount of urgency as the holocaust.

However, beyond its white supremacist roots, the anti-choice movement is manipulative and dishonest to the point of flat-out lying. (One anti-choice site that I found even admitted to using manipulation tactics for its cause, stating that manipulation within the anti-choice movement is “manipulation for a good cause”.)

Following the passing of Roe. v. Wade, Norma McCorvey—a.k.a. “Jane Roe” of Roe v. Wade—was paid almost half a million dollars by religious anti-abortion groups to publicly convert to Christianity and condemn abortion. Eventually she admitted that her conversion and renunciation had been a total lie—she never opposed abortion, and she never truly converted to Christianity. She only accepted the offer out of desperation. (She was addicted to drugs and struggling with poverty at the time, and the anti-choice movement took advantage of her vulnerabilities to benefit their political agenda.) This major case of dishonesty within the anti-choice movement, however, is just the tip of the iceberg.

In red states, where the anti-choice movement is particularly aggressive, many elected officials have been successfully pressured by the movement to pass laws that require abortion patients to receive counseling prior to the procedure, and a good portion of that counseling contains inaccurate information. (Among the 34 states that are required to provide medical counseling prior to receiving an abortion, 4 are required to say that the procedure can be reversed with a pill, 5 are required to say that abortion increases the risk of breast cancer, 13 are required to say that fetuses can experience pain, 4 are required to exaggerate the possibility of infertility due to abortion, and 8 are required to exaggerate the link between abortion and mental health problems.) Which, basically, is another way of saying that doctors in certain states are required, by law, to lie to their patients. (Abortion cannot be reversed with a pill; the link between breast cancer and abortion has been medically disproven; it’s estimated that fetuses cannot feel pain until 29-30 weeks—a point at which no abortions occur; and being denied an abortion is more likely to have a negative impact on a person’s mental health than receiving one.)

Furthermore, as if laws mandating inaccurate information surrounding abortion isn’t bad enough, anti-choice politicians utilize misleading rhetoric to promote their cause, such as the term “partial birth abortion”. (The term “partial birth abortion” is used to describe a surgical procedure in which the fetus or fetal tissue is removed from the uterus. This term is misleading because it: A.) implies that a live baby is being extracted from the womb and then killed, B.) accounts for less than 0.5% of abortions, and C.) is rarely an elective procedure. Basically, the people who undergo “partial birth abortions” are often people who wanted their pregnancies and are experiencing late term miscarriages. Furthermore, I think it’s important to note that 89% of elective abortions occur within the first trimester, and the majority that occur afterward are for medical reasons—such as saving the life of the mother, and/or the fetus is unviable and will likely die in utero.)

And finally, the anti-choice movement operates and supports Crisis Pregnancy Centers—arguably the most dishonest tool at their disposal. (These are federally funded facilities that out number abortion clinics across America. They pose as medical facilities in an attempt to convince unsuspecting pregnant people to carry their pregnancies to term. They employ no medical professionals, and are known to give out medically unfounded, and disproven, information. In fact, a 2006 congressional report revealed that CPCs lied to pregnant people about how far along they were, claimed that fetuses have a heartbeat after 18 days [not true], told pregnant people they were probably going to miscarry anyway, and further endorsed the myth that abortion can cause cancer and infertility.)

In a heartbreaking personal account for the podcast Choice/Less, a woman named Cherisse shared her experience with one of these facilities. She knew she wanted to have children eventually; so, when the employees at a PCP told her that getting an abortion would likely cause infertility, she decided to opt out of the abortion that she would have otherwise chosen. Afterward, she described raising a child alone as “traumatizing”, and explained that, although she loves her son dearly, she wishes she could have had the abortion she wanted.

Ultimately, it’s a corrupt history of manipulation and deceit, this anti-choice movement; there appears to be no consequences for those coercing others into the lifelong commitment of parenthood under false claims. Cherisse said, that day, at the PCP, they sent her off with nothing but a rattle and a onesie; they never contacted her again. She was left alone to raise her son.

As I got older and grew away from my evangelical roots, my stance on abortion shifted. From ages 18-21, I gradually became the kind of pro-choice that said things like: “I respect another person’s right to decide for themselves, but I could never get an abortion.” I suppose it was a step in the right direction. However the impulse to state my disapproval was still judge-y, an echo of my dwindling phobia of premarital sex.

On a fundamental level, I had at least begun to understand that it’s wildly narcissistic to insert my personal beliefs into the life-altering decisions of others. However, I still didn’t understand how limiting access to safe abortion, or making abortion illegal, was “controlling” people’s bodies. Some part of me was still holding on to the ignorant logic that said “unwanted pregnancies shouldn’t happen” and “at least there’s adoption”.

I didn’t interpret access to safe abortion care as a human right until I read an essay by Roxane Gay, titled “The Alienable Rights of Women”. It put everything into perspective, and I learned that, being a millennial, I had never lived in a pre-Roe America. Therefore, I had no idea what lengths people would go to terminate unwanted pregnancies. In fact, I was so ignorant I didn’t even know there was a history of truth wrapped up inside the tasteless “coat hanger” joke; I didn’t know people had actually resorted to drinking bleach and throwing themselves down stairs.

Upon learning all of this, however, I decided that my remaining judgment surrounding abortion was incongruent with my belief that no one should ever be put in a position where hurting themselves is the only way out. And, furthermore, I felt I’d been denied some fundamental truth. Like I’d been deprived of the reality that abortion saves lives and dreams; that it often does not end in regret, and could even be an empowering experience. (Honestly, if cis men could get pregnant, abortion stories would be canonized as transcendental classics.) Being an emerging adult, I finally had the capacity and experience to grasp how bodily autonomy was inextricably intertwined with one’s hopes for the future: there was no denying it anymore, access to safe abortion care was a human right.

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2.

Restrictive abortion legislation,
in whatever form it takes, is a rather transparent ploy.
If these politicians can’t prevent women from having abortions,
they are certainly going to punish them.

—Roxane Gay, “The Alienable Rights of Women”
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Since outlawing abortion completely is unconstitutional, many states have gotten thrifty with their abortion restriction laws—many of them are designed to stall the abortion process, and to guilt pregnant people into carrying their pregnancies to term. These mandated processes are not only inconvenient, expensive, and distressing for people who don’t want to be pregnant, but are also inconvenient, expensive, and distressing for people who do want to be pregnant.

Many abortion restriction laws exacerbate the trauma of losing desired pregnancies, and retraumatize people who have conceived under traumatic circumstances, such as in instances of rape and incest. (Some of these restrictions include mandatory counseling, 24-72 hour waiting periods, prohibiting Medicaid, or other healthcare plans through the Affordable Care Act, from covering the abortion procedure, defunding planned parenthood—the only medical facilities where abortion care is provided in most states—and forcing abortion clinics to close by making facility standards impossible to meet, also known as TRAP laws.)

One of the most exemplary stories about this particular complication belongs to a woman named Valerie; someone who was pregnant and wanted to be pregnant. However, when her doctor discovered that her baby’s brain was developing in a way that was 100% incompatible with human life, she was advised to get an abortion. And, although she knew it was going to be an arduous process, she agreed. (The decision to get an abortion in this instance was simple—logical, however heartbreaking. In many ways, it was the “right” thing to do. That being said, making the decision wasn’t the problem, it was obtaining the medical care that she, and her unborn child, required. Because, unfortunately, Valerie lives in Texas—a state where abortion restrictions are so tight that her doctor’s opinion isn’t worth a dime.)

The most her doctor could do was advise her to find a Planned Parenthood, where she could begin the prerequisites that would qualify her for an abortion as soon as possible. (The only facilities that can legally perform abortions in Texas belong to Planned Parenthood, and, due to strict regulations regarding room measurements in abortion facilities, many Planned Parenthood clinics have been forced to close. This means the number of abortion clinics in Texas is limited, and, therefore, the waiting lists for the procedure are extensive. Furthermore, all people seeking abortions are required to complete an hours-long counseling session, followed by a 24 hour waiting period—a process that is required to start over, from the beginning, should it be obstructed for any reason, such as a scheduling conflict or overbooking.)

Despite her harrowing, unchosen, circumstances, Valerie was not exempt from the same process that people seeking “elective” abortions are subjected to in Texas. And therefore, on top of carrying a dying baby that she loved and wanted inside of her, she was forced by law to undergo a narrated ultrasound—she had to look at pictures of the fetus and be advised in the way of “alternative” options that weren’t even applicable to her situation. (Valerie eventually described these counseling sessions as “cruel”, not only for a pregnant person in her position, but for anyone seeking an abortion under any circumstances.)

Depressingly enough, however, Valerie was lucky in many ways: in the end, she could afford to fly to Florida, where abortion regulations are less strict; she could afford to take time off work, because she had a job that offered paid vacation, and she could afford to pay for the procedure out of pocket—in congruence with most private insurance policies, her insurance did not cover abortion care. (One study found that, on average, people who sought abortions traveled 42 miles, and spent an average of $146 on travel and childcare costs. Furthermore, it should be noted: wanting to provide optimal care for existing children is the most frequently cited reason for getting an abortion, and 59% of women who get abortions in the U.S. are already mothers.)

Complications of this nature, and abortion stories comprised of these circumstances, are conveniently omitted from the anti-choice narrative, lest they be presented to a person so callous he believes it’s a woman’s moral obligation to remain pregnant, even under hopeless conditions. (Georgia representative Terry England once said that women should carry stillborn babies to term because cows and pigs do it. In 2012, as a bill was debated—one that would require pregnant people to carry stillborn babies to term—he argued in its favor, saying, “I’ve had the experience of delivering calves, dead and alive—delivering pigs, dead and alive… it breaks our hearts to see those animals not make it.” Now, I would just like to point out: while this comparison is fucked up for obvious reasons, there’s also something incredibly sociopathic about comparing one’s “heartbreak” over losing livestock—animals that were fated to be slaughtered and sold as, like, hot dogs—to the trauma of carrying a stillborn baby to term.)

Terry England Compares Women to Pigs & Cows

Either way, this ideology that says the only “right” way to handle complicated and unwanted pregnancies is to stay pregnant, no matter what, has seeped into the considerations of other reproductive rights—such as the right to obtain birth control—and, as a result, the politics surrounding reproductive issues have become very convoluted and messy. Because if many states feel comfortable with the fact that they’re preventing pregnant people carrying dead, or dying, fetuses from receiving proper health care, then it’s not surprising that those same activists, and politicians, pushing and implementing the restrictions that have created this reality, view pregnancy as a kind of punishment for all manner of sex—including sex with the intent to procreate. Making for a hypocritical kind of logic that says pregnancy is both the punishment, and the reward, for being a sexual person in any capacity; as if the state of one’s pregnancy is both a defining and accurate indication of moral character, regardless of whether or not one has any control over that state. (It feels like the only “right” way to be pregnant is to renounce your own humanity by embracing your identity as a mere vessel—like, even those who get pregnant under the “purest” of circumstances, with the “purest” of intentions, aren’t exempt from moral judgment; they still have the potential to become whores and baby killers in the event of one false move.)

One story I encountered, one that irrevocably changed my views on abortion, much like Roxane Gay’s essay, belonged to a woman named Mindy, who, prior to her experience, was a devout Christian, and—admittedly—very judgmental of those who identified as pro-choice.

What happened in Mindy’s case was very similar to what happened with Valerie: her baby’s brain was forming in a way that wasn’t compatible with human life. Her doctor told her, if she were to wait it out, she would likely develop an infection and need to be induced early anyway. He recommended terminating the pregnancy as soon as possible because her life was at risk, and carrying the pregnancy to term, should she survive, put her at risk of becoming barren. Mindy knew she wanted to have more children, and, like Valerie, Mindy did not want to prolong an unviable pregnancy. She wanted her unborn son to pass without suffering, and she wanted to survive for her existing children. She agreed with her doctor: terminating the pregnancy was in everyone’s best interest.

However, like Valerie, Mindy had to face her own set of obstacles: she only had access to a hospital that was owned by the Catholic Church—a common issue that I’ll discuss later. (Catholic hospitals adhere to their own code of ethics regarding reproductive health. Meaning, Catholic hospitals will only terminate pregnancies if there is an “imminent grave threat to the mother”. And, although Mindy should have fallen into this category, her hospital did not recognize her as such.)

Mindy went back to the hospital multiple times with abnormal bleeding, and every time she was told that she wasn’t bleeding enough. Eventually, she got so fed up that she brought all of her bloody pads to the front desk and asked, “Am I bleeding enough for you yet?” (They actually measured the blood.)

When Mindy’s son was finally born, he came out gasping for air. She watched him turn blue for 3 hours and 15 minutes before he passed away. No one wanted to hold him, and Mindy said watching him suffer was the loneliest experience of her life. (Leading up to her son’s birth, people from Mindy’s church would come up to her after they found out she wanted to terminate her pregnancy; they would tell her that she should pull through it, and, if she died, then it was God’s will—an idea that even her own mother agreed with. And then, following her son’s death, Mindy’s pastor gave a sermon about how David and Bathsheba’s baby died because of their sin—not only was Mindy grieving the loss of her son, she was being blamed for it too.)

She said she was angry that she wasn’t trusted to choose what was best for her own child, and she was angry about how little her community valued her life and the wellbeing of her existing children. She was abandoned the moment shit got complicated; when reality blurred into a state that went beyond right and wrong.

Ultimately, her story begs the question: if a virgin who waited until marriage to have sex, who wanted her pregnancy and was already a devoted mother, can’t be granted proper healthcare, or basic human decency, in the eyes of an anti-choice agenda, what hope is there for the rest of us?

A few years ago, I was at a bar with a friend and some other young women who I didn’t really know. We were in the midst of the 2016 election, and the subject of abortion came up—this was after my conversion from pro-life to pro-choice, after I’d read Roxane Gay’s essay. No one seemed to have a clear stance on the issue; everyone’s opinion erred on the side of caution—in the direction of pro-life, but not without hesitance. (They were of the “but I don’t think I could ever” pro-choice variety.)

I remember feeling flooded with all the information I’d accrued in the past few years, and it was like a sock had been shoved into my mouth. I wanted to say: But there are so many reasons… And: We don’t have time to put them all on trial…

(It’s so traumatizing what pregnant people are put through; what many political agendas want to put pregnant people through. It’s dehumanizing to not be trusted to make decisions about your own ethics, body, and future—just because your parts do what cis male parts can’t. We underestimate all the time, how terrifying it is to be pregnant, especially when you don’t want to be, or can’t be. [Why else would pregnancy be an enduring theme on American Horror Story?] So many difficult questions go unacknowledged: at the end of the day, whose job is it to grow, birth, and raise that child? Whose responsibility is it to pay for the medical bills—for childcare? And, in the case of adoption: who’s the one who will have to give something up, let go of their own creation? Not wanting to be a parent doesn’t negate that love or connection. Having sex and not wanting to be pregnant, or a parent, shouldn’t be treated like a crime. [I’m sure a lot of dudes would agree.] And yet, religious conservative ideology has crept into secular society.)

None of these young women struck me as particularly religious, and they definitely had no qualms with premarital sex. Furthermore, I think it would’ve really pissed them off to know that there are “pro-life” politicians who have advocated for unnecessary, government mandated, transvaginal ultrasounds—in other words, probing someone for no reason—and have justified their support with a kind of logic that says pregnant people should have no problem with these procedures because they are “similar” to having sex. (A right-wing public figure really said that!) Still, these young women hesitated when it came to supporting abortion rights. And I remember thinking: But wouldn’t you feel so much safer, in your body and in your life, knowing that the option is always in your back pocket?

Honestly, it’s already depressing enough, knowing that people with uteruses are conditioned to hate themselves in relation to sex and reproductive health—to consider every undesired outcome a personal failure. (Mothers are the ones who get blamed for every lapse in childcare or development; feminine people are the ones who get called easy and loose—they’re the ones who get called “stupid” and “irresponsible” when their reproductive choices end badly. And whose fault is that?) Too often an individual gets blamed when a major systemic fallacy is present.

It became very clear to me: I was not the same person I once was.

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3.

I suspect [anti-choicers] have a vision of the world that is flawed.
I think when they imagine that world of outlawed abortions,
they imagine a world full of adorable, bouncing babies.
They imagine happy mothers, and fathers who are,
unexpectedly, delighted and doting.
That is not reality.

—Jennifer Wright, for Harper’s Bazaar
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In a country as dedicated to bringing undesired babies into the world as the U.S., one would assume that such a society and culture would at least foster a reality in which becoming a mother is preventable, bearable, or, at the very least, survivable. However, that is not the case.

It might come as a shock, but the U.S. is not an ideal place to be pregnant. While the world maternal mortality rate has been decreasing since 1990—after the United Nations declared the issue a priority—the U.S. maternal mortality rate has increased. As of 2018, the maternal mortality rate in the U.S. was determined to be 17.4 deaths per 100,000 live births, making it the highest maternal mortality rate in the industrialized world. (Side note: this number increases and decreases depending on race, with black mothers dying at a rate of 37.1 per 100,000 live births—22.4 more deaths than the rate of white women.) Furthermore, and presumably because the U.S. is rich in resources, the CDC has estimated that at least 60% of these deaths are preventable, causing certain American doctors to conclude that a cultural indifference to women’s health, compounded by an already faulty healthcare system, has created the perfect storm for a high maternal mortality rate.

One OBGYN, Eugene Declercq—a doctor who has improved protocol for maternal healthcare in hospitals across the country—has outlined at least five circumstances that have put American pregnant people at risk; citing less access to contraception, strict abortion regulations, poor healthcare due to lack of insurance, and a rise in unnecessary C-sections as the primary reasons for America’s maternal mortality rate. (Unsurprisingly, carrying undesired or uninsured pregnancies to term puts one at risk for complications. Meanwhile, a rise in unnecessary C-sections—due to any number of reasons, from doctors wanting to reduce labor time, to patient requests that are unrelated to health—puts women at risk for developing placenta accreta in future pregnancies. This condition shows up in 1 in 500 births, and 1 in 14 women die from it. The condition is difficult to predict, and it has the potential to cause mortal hemorrhaging—something that many maternal wards are unprepared for, despite hemorrhage being one of the most preventable causes of maternal death.)

Moreover, Dr. Declercq is one of those experts who have concluded that America doesn’t value its women. (He said: “The argument that we make internationally is that [a high maternal death rate] is often a reflection of how the society views women. In other countries, we worry about the culture—[when] women are not particularly valued, they don’t set up systems to care for them at all. I think we have a similar problem in the U.S.”)

Beyond the disproportionately high maternal mortality rate in America, evidence for this idea that America doesn’t value its women can be seen in a myriad of ways. The first being maternal deaths weren’t properly documented for decades. A checkbox wasn’t added to the standard U.S. birth certificate until 2003, and, on top of that, many states weren’t required to use it. Therefore, the collection of this data was indefinitely frozen from 2003 to 2018, making our most recent numbers questionable. (As of 2017, only half of all U.S. states were formally reviewing the causes of maternal death on a regular basis. Meanwhile, our current maternal mortality rate only accounts for women who died within 42 days of giving birth, despite CDC findings that say 24% of postpartum deaths occur 6 or more weeks after giving birth.)

Secondly, women’s health is still considered somewhat of a mystery, as science has historically excluded their bodies from studies and still does not prioritize health problems that either primarily, or solely, affect women and people with uteruses. In fact, medical research trials weren’t even required to include women by the National Institutes of Health until 1993, and there was no policy in place that required federally funded doctors to consider anatomical differences in their research until 2016. All of which has resulted in some serious consequences, such as incorrect dosing of medications for women, and a delayed understanding of how women’s bodies respond to heart attack.

And thirdly, despite all these revelations, our current health research still fails to prioritize the health of women and people with uteruses.  (Less than 2.5% of publicly funded research is dedicated solely to women’s reproductive health, and few large charities are dedicated to such research. Therefore a number of serious health issues that only affect people with uteruses have been ignored. Endometriosis, for example, is a chronic and painful disorder that is widely misunderstood and underfunded even though it afflicts 1 in 10 women, making it as common as diabetes. Furthermore there is 5x more research in erectile dysfunction—something that only affects 19% of men—than there is in premenstrual syndrome, which affects 90% of women. And, finally, as if things weren’t bad enough already, as recently as 2017, senate republicans pushed to replace Obamacare with The Better Care Reconciliation Act—a healthcare plan that wouldn’t require private insurance to cover maternity benefits.)

While this is all incredibly infuriating, it’s not particularly surprising. When one considers the past, it becomes clear that taboos have surrounded women’s bodies for a long time—especially as they relate to sex and reproductive health. With the mystification of virginity—rising in the Victorian era and enduring into the present as purity culture—women’s bodies, sexuality, and agency, have been regarded as unmentionable. (Please see conservative men everywhere having a collective meltdown over the release of “WAP”.) Something that has not only added to the knowledge gap in women’s health, but has found its way into the U.S. education system in the form of abstinence-only-until-marriage sex ed programs.

Despite extensive government research that has found that these programs fail to delay the initiation of sex, or reduce STI rates and the frequency of teen pregnancies, at least 2 billion in federal dollars has been spent in funding for these programs since 1996. This is due in large part to sex ed legislation being biased in the way of Christian ideology—it tends to prioritize information about deterring sex over information that would empower students to protect their health and wellbeing. (In the U.S., 28 states require abstinence to be stressed while only 20 require information on contraceptives; 19 states require sex-only-within-marriage to be stressed, while only 9 are required to stress the importance of consent; a mere 3 states prohibit the promotion of religion, while 32 are not required to make sex education medically accurate.)

These circumstances make it incredibly easy for abstinence-only-until-marriage programs to project personal beliefs into a discourse that should be objective and 100% medically accurate. (According to the ACLU, more than 80% of government-reviewed abstinence-only-until-marriage programs contained false, misleading, or distorted information. Some examples include: condoms cause cancer, condoms fail almost 100% of the time, emergency contraception is the same thing as abortion, taking birth control poisons the body, contraceptives lead to infertility and birth defects, STIs can be contracted just from standing near a naked individual, sex within marriage is the only certain way to avoid contracting STIs, and LGBTQ+ children are the result of adulterous and sinful parents.)

These programs often promote religious concepts by presenting them as both the expectation and the standard. The most damaging—in terms of girls’ and young people with uteruses’ health—being the perpetuation of gender stereotypes, slut shaming, and straight up lies about contraceptives. (These programs uphold the dated concept of girls-as-gatekeepers-of-sex, and put the onus of sexual responsibility onto young people with uteruses. Regurgitating metaphors about virginity—or lack of it—that demonstrate how a girl’s chastity or promiscuity is indicative of personal worth. In short, they perpetuate the idea that every time a person has sex with someone new, they are giving away a piece of their soul.)

Such ideology has no place in a classroom—or anywhere, in my opinion—and research continues to show that it’s not only ineffective, but damaging. These programs prevent educators from fulfilling their ethical duties, and deprive youth—especially girls and young people with uteruses—of potentially life saving/ altering information. (Program evaluations in 11 states found that teens in abstinence-only programs were less willing to use contraception, including condoms; this is probably because, as demonstrated by the examples above, contraceptive and condom use is not only presented as pointless, but potentially hazardous.)

Furthermore, these programs groom young people with uteruses to believe that sex outside of marriage is inherently traumatic; that their identity and value to society is completely defined by their body and what its functions can do for others. They deter them from making informed decisions about their general health, and foster a generation of people who are more likely to experience undesired pregnancies and unhealthy relationships—not to mention, the normalization of marital rape. (It should also be noted that comprehensive programs that provide complete, unbiased, information regarding sexual health—especially accurate information on contraceptives—while emphasizing the importance of waiting until one is ready to have sex—successfully delay the initiation of sex, reduce the number of sexual partners, increase contraceptive/ condom use, and report less pregnancies among teens than abstinence-only education. However, there are no federally funded programs with these outcomes as a primary goal—something that I believe is quite telling.)

Ultimately, this disregard for women’s health at all levels, not only implies a low regard for women—generally speaking—but, in the case of abortion, has left people who can get pregnant with very few options in the event of an undesired pregnancy. (If no one has ever given a person accurate information about contraception, then, should that person ever experience a pregnancy that they do not wish to carry to term, the only option they’ve been given is abortion: you can’t prevent what you don’t know how to prevent.)

Therefore, one would assume the pro-life movement would priortize knowledge and access surrounding contraceptives, given this would reduce the frequency of abortions. However, this is not a movement in favor of logical solutions. Ironically, the same group of people most likely to identify with the pro-life movement (religious conservatives) is the same group of people most likely to support abstinence-only-until-marriage sex ed, and, subsequently, the suppression of knowledge and access to contraceptives. Because, as it turns out, certain religious conservatives and pro-life radicals not only seek to eliminate abortion, but all forms of contraception as well.

This is something that the Catholic Church has already been doing successfully through their ownership of hospitals across the country. (20% of U.S. hospitals are owned by the Catholic Church; and, while these hospitals have thrived, many non-profit and community hospitals have struggled to survive.)

These hospitals limit access to birth control by following standards called “Catholic Directives”—standards that are implemented by a counsel of bishops and often focus on limiting access, or completely prohibiting, contraceptives and tubal ligations. For example: doctors employed by Catholic hospitals cannot prescribe birth control for preventing pregnancy—it can only be prescribed for reasons beyond its intended purpose, like acne and painful periods. Doctors are also not allowed to insert IUDs, and if they do, the procedure is done under the table. Most of these hospitals don’t carry the Plan B pill, and—in the event that they do carry the Plan B pill—for victims of rape and sexual assault—some will still refuse to distribute it. (In fact, in the event of rape, some of these hospitals will exacerbate trauma by making the victim take an ovulation test; if the test comes back positive, they will refuse to distribute emergency contraception, completely defeating the purpose.) They avoid performing tubal ligations at all costs, even when a tubal ligation is in the patient’s best interest. And, finally, many of these hospitals are ill-equipped to provide the necessary or recommended care in the event of an ectopic pregnancy. Moreover, they are allowed to refuse necessary reproductive care under the guise of “conscience refusals.” (The idea that one is allowed to refuse care if it contradicts their religious morals—something that Mindy, whose story I wrote about earlier, was a victim of.)

All of these medical refusals surrounding contraception and reproductive care for people with uteruses are completely legal under the protection of religious imposition laws—legislation that makes exceptions for religious individuals in cases of discrimination. And the effects of these laws extend beyond Catholic Hospitals and into our everyday lives. (6 states allow pharmacists to refuse to fill prescriptions related to birth control and abortion—for example, in Arizona, a pharmacist refused to fill a prescription for a woman experiencing an involuntary miscarriage, and under Arizona law this was completely legal; 9 states restrict access to Plan B, with 3 denying it altogether; the Supreme Court has granted employers the right to deny insurance coverage for birth control based on religious values, and there has been an increased effort made by conservative groups for Plan B and IUDs to be classified as abortifacients—something that they are not, as they aren’t capable of terminating existing pregnancies.)

Furthermore, beyond religious imposition laws and those who exercise their right to utilize them, there are secular biases surrounding women’s reproductive health, as many regular doctors, working for regular hospitals, have personal hang-ups surrounding tubal ligations that they project, knowingly or unknowingly, onto their patients.

Tubal ligations are most common among women who are 35 or older, married, and already mothers to 2 or more children. However, this isn’t due to them being the only demographic that desires these operations—they just face less obstacles when seeking sterilization than other groups of people with uteruses. Other groups, particularly younger, childless, women who do not want children, or trans men and non-binary people experiencing gender dysphoria, are often subjected to a set of obstacles similar to those who are seeking abortions. (Waiting periods, age restrictions, psychological evaluations, and—depending on the physician—a husband’s signature.) Furthermore, the most frequently cited reason for tubal ligation refusals is age combined with a lack of children, causing one to assume that such refusals are a reflection of society’s inability to comprehend a childless woman as natural. (Side note, 80% of women under 30 who receive tubal ligations do not regret their decisions later in life.)

One story I came across in the course of writing this post focused on a woman named Alanna; a twenty-something-year-old woman who knew she didn’t want children. Coincidentally, she also experienced heavy and painful periods that birth control wasn’t helping—so, she asked for an endometrial ablation. (A common treatment for heavy periods that also makes it difficult to conceive.) Her doctor ultimately denied her request; she was told she’d “change her mind” and that no doctor would perform this kind of surgery on someone her age anyway. (Something that, after asking and being denied by a number of doctors, Alanna realized was true.)

Meanwhile, in another story I found, a married woman in her late twenties had a preexisting condition that made carrying a pregnancy particularly dangerous. Again, this woman knew she didn’t want children, and neither did her husband—she requested a tubal ligation and a total of 4 doctors denied her request, all of them citing her age and lack of children as the reason.

Basically, at this point, I think it’s safe to assume that we live in a country that finds both the idea and the reality of a childless person who wants to remain childless intolerable, and therefore, this intolerance is baked into the anti-choice movement. Because, if one’s primary concern is eliminating abortion, then there would be more emphasis and advocacy surrounding methods and procedures that are proven to reduce the rate of abortions. And, since this is evidently not the case, it has to be assumed that the pro-life agenda is a movement that wants to force certain lifestyles and values onto people with uteruses. (Women are supposed to become mothers, and sex is for procreation inside a heterosexual marriage, et al.) Which, okay, fine: so you want to force women to have babies, or you want to force them to “take responsibility” for having sex via having babies… If you eliminate abortion, and all manner of preventing undesired pregnancies, and if you’re not going to prioritize maternal care in order to make carrying a pregnancy to term more palatable, could we at least prioritize setting up a society where mothers and parents have the resources to provide themselves and their children with a satisfactory quality of life?

And the answer is… no, apparently not. Logically speaking, more undesired pregnancies being carried to term will beget more single parents. And, since our society is not set up to support single parents, our current government assistance programs, combined with stigmas against single mothers within the workforce and higher education, create circumstances that make it very difficult for single mothers to adequately care for their children and succeed financially.

First, and foremost, having a child is expensive for anyone. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, it costs about $233,610 for the average middle class family to raise a child to the age of 17. And, generally speaking, single parent households are typically headed by mothers, as mothers reportedly head 80% of the 12 million single parent households in America. This does not, however, result in higher wages for single mothers as a demographic. In fact, single mothers are more likely than any other demographic to fall below the federal poverty line, as the gender wage gap only increases when women become mothers. (This is called the “motherhood” penalty and it is especially common among low paying jobs with little to no benefits—jobs that just so happen to employ a large number of single mothers.) Therefore, single mothers need to subsidize their low earnings with government benefits in order to make ends meet, something that is both difficult to receive and difficult to escape.

For example, in most places the requirements for maintaining benefits are not sympathetic to a hectic schedule; this means that many government assistance programs are especially unsympathetic to a college schedule. (According to The Atlantic, most state assistance programs do not recognize college classes as work. Meanwhile, many assistance programs will actively steer single mothers away from higher education, despite ample evidence showing that many single mothers get off public assistance after completing their degrees. This is mostly due to federal policies that require caseworkers to push their recipients into trade school, even if they believe their recipients should stay in school.)

All of which is to say: if the pro-life movement really wanted to stop abortions from happening, then it wouldn’t prioritize the outlawing of abortion. It would prioritize medicare for all and maternal health; it would support the distribution of accurate information surrounding reproductive health, and it would prioritize access to a full range of contraceptives. It would respect childless women who want to remain childless by supporting access to voluntary tubal ligations. And, ultimately, it would foster a society and culture where merely surviving is not the standard—in short, this movement would prioritize people who are already born.

I’ve harbored a lot of resentment toward the Christian faith, and most of that resentment is directed at purity culture. (Many of the messages I received about sex from the Christian church were akin to the ones taught in abstinence-only-until-marriage sex ed programs; I was told that sex could only ever be truly fulfilling within the confines of marriage, that my soul and spirit were intertwined with my virginity, that sex was the ultimate “gift” in an intimate relationship, that premarital sex only warranted negative consequences, and that there was no such thing as a “good” sexual relationship outside the context of marriage.)

I remember my value in the eyes of God and men being compared to used tape, chewed gum, and rusty nails. I remember rules of feminine modesty being enforced; having to wear T-shirts over bikini tops only to get shamed anyway. (A friend and I were swimming at camp during a fire drill, so, naturally, we were in our t-shirts and bathing suit bottoms—we didn’t really have much choice in the matter. And some counselor made us cover up after sneering at us about how our butts were “hanging out”.) And I internalized all of it.

In my teens I struggled a lot with what I now understand was disordered eating—apparently anorexia is rampant among girls who are exposed to purity culture—and severe anxiety; I had really low self-esteem and an obsession with being perfect. Ultimately, this combination of neuroses probably made me difficult to relate to, and I often felt isolated from my peers.

I didn’t feel as if I could talk to any of the adults in my life about my deeper struggles, in part because I didn’t trust that anyone could comfort me; I viewed myself as morally defective because the message I constantly received was that this one religion was the only way to find “truth”, and—since I often felt unsafe in Christian settings—I assumed that something was fundamentally wrong with me. (Basically, instead of realizing that I just didn’t agree with the Christian faith, I assumed I was evil. I learned to distrust my own intuition and judgment; I was robbed of spiritual freedom, and many of the “choices” I made surrounding my budding sexuality didn’t feel like choices at all.)

Regardless of how I appeared from the outside, I didn’t feel like a kid, and, throughout adolescence, I spent a lot of time telling myself that I didn’t have a body. Existing as a girl felt wrong by default, and now, of course, I can see why—purity culture has a funny way of sexualizing young women in its efforts to desexualize them.

It’s strange to me now, how girls’ bodies are considered offensive (always under the guise of “sacred”) while boys’ bodies are not—or, at least, only one part of the male body is considered offensive, while all the other parts that can be sexualized are only sexulized in certain contexts. In which case, those parts are rarely sexualized on teenage boys because teenage boys usually get to be exactly what they are: not adults. (For example, a teenage boy with abs is allowed to wear swim trunks, while the mere existence of a teenage girl with breasts calls for modesty—the female nipple is so offensive that a bikini top isn’t enough and any possibility of exposure is to be stopped.)

Honestly it’s all very stupid to me. Bodies are bodies, and the idea that we need to protect teenage boys from teenage girls’ bodies, or teenage girls from teenage boys looking at their bodies, is kind of psychotic after a certain point. Like, I hate that I grew up believing you couldn’t lust for a person and respect them at the same time—as if one always negated the other. Because the truth of the matter is, one cannot micromanage their own natural (healthy) desire without feeling an undercurrent of self hatred. It’s so perverse—everything I was taught about sex within the Christian church as an adolescent. There was just no regard for, or acknowledgement of, reality; no recognition of how natural impulses aren’t always wrong. And now that I’m older and have developed my own moral compass, I have decided: disrespect for other people’s boundaries and personal choices is wrong; violating any form of personal autonomy and treating people like objects is wrong. Not premarital sex, or lust, or sexual orientation, or baring midriff, or kinks, or cleavage, or being physically attracted to a person you’re not in love with.

Purity culture, however, violates so many forms of personal autonomy; it objectifies girls and young women to the extreme. When girls and young women are compared to a piece of dirty tape and told, Once you have sex, you’ll never be the same again, you cannot expect them to compartmentalize their sexuality from the whole of their merit. The message is: You are a thing that can be permanently broken. And I think that hits someplace very deep in a young person’s core; I think it takes a lot of inner work for certain people to unlearn that message.

Furthermore, purity culture is one of many reasons I don’t want to have children of my own. I don’t want to risk having a daughter who might be compared to a dirty piece of tape behind my back someday. Which, I think, hints at one of the most heartbreaking realities in life: all of the things our mothers cannot protect us from. (I don’t think my mom ever knew what I was being told about virginity, or how I really felt in religious settings; there were so many struggles I didn’t have the language for, so many things that felt wrong but I couldn’t explain why—and mostly because I had yet to learn that it’s possible for adults to be wrong and for children to be right; that the “wrong” feeling I couldn’t explain was the painful reality that the person with the most power is the one who too often gets to be “right”.)

There’s a lot about life that just isn’t all that great, and I feel like this isn’t discussed enough in the debate over abortion rights.

Yes, life is a gift. But it’s also confusing and arduous; the natural order of things is unkind. And, I do believe that, due to a combination of personality traits and experiences, and regardless of circumstances, life is just harder for certain people; accepting the primary lesson—that life isn’t fair—hits certain people a little deeper, and it feels hopeless to have to be a part of such a world. Like, I’d be lying if I said I’ve never found myself thinking: I did not ask to be here.

Ultimately, what I’m trying to say is: I’d rather not bring a child into this world because I’ve experienced a number of things that I would never want anyone else to experience. And I think the biggest mistake pro-lifers make—the most honest among them, at least—is that life is something everyone would choose; that life is always right and good and everyone should want it. They say eliminating abortion is about protecting the fetus’s right to life, but how can any of us know what a potential human being really wants? Who says all fetuses want to be born?

Of course the moral questions surrounding abortion are worth asking—I’m not trying to dispute that. However, when we think of those questions as a society, we naturally gravitate toward the less important one. Instead of asking: Is it a life? I think what we should be asking is: What makes a life worth having?

People who consider getting an abortion face that question, and they decide whether or not they can provide a life worth having; they decide whether they want to provide that life, or they decide whether they’re still learning how to provide that life for themselves. Regardless of their reasons, we should trust them to know what’s best; to care for their potential children in the most humane way that’s available to them. The rest isn’t for any of us to judge.

✦✧✦✧
4.

The past can prove inadequate
to understanding the depravations of the present.
Rather than moving backward,
we’re charting awful new frontiers.

—Michelle Goldberg, for
The New York Times
✦✧✦✧

In order to understand where we’re at with abortion in the present day, one must first understand that, despite the constitutional right to safe abortion care as established by Roe v. Wade, convenient access to abortion has never been fully realized. This is mostly due to the abstract nature of the legal language surrounding abortion rights. (Loosely speaking, early trimester abortions were adequately protected for two decades following the passing of Roe. However, in 1992, states were granted more power over abortion restrictions, under the implication that these restrictions would not place an “undue burden” on people seeking abortions. This phrase—“undue burden”—was never explicitly defined, and, therefore, conservative politicians took advantage of their newfound leeway, ultimately culminating into the nightmare of obstacles that abortion patients face in red states today.)

Therefore, under the thumb of a 6-3 conservative majority on the Supreme Court, Roe v. Wade feels more vulnerable than ever; conservative anti-abortion lawmakers have been turning out abortion regulations at a rapid pace, with 2021 being a record year in anti-abortion laws and bans across the country. (561 abortion restrictions were passed, with 86 restrictions and 10 bans being enacted, this year alone.) While most of these bans and restrictions have been blocked under the implication that they are unconstitutional, their mere existence is unsettling in our current political climate. Many of these laws, such as heartbeat bills, are based on the concept of “personhood”, which is arguably the biggest threat to abortion rights today. (This concept didn’t even exist in a pre-Roe world; it’s a new development created to challenge the very glue that holds Roe together.)

When Justice Harry Black wrote the majority opinion on Roe v. Wade, he concluded that, when the constitution refers to a “person” it is not referring to the unborn, and therefore, abortion before viability is a human right that does not affect the rights of another individual. Anti-abortion lawmakers then located this vulnerability (often referred to as the “Blackmun Hole”) and, as they have created more abortion restrictions and bans, they have been steadily closing in on the heart of Roe; they have created new laws that could (should they go into effect) establish pre-viable fetuses as people in the eyes of the law. Something that could either overturn Roe, or render it completely irrelevant, should one of these laws be deemed constitutional by the Supreme Court.

On May 17th of this year, the Supreme Court agreed to take on a case that could potentially re-write the definition of personhood within Roe, as the case (Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health) began as a challenge to a Mississippi law that would ban abortion at 15 weeks—a time well before viability—including in cases of rape and incest. Since personhood does not begin until viability in the eyes of the constitution, this ban would normally be blocked long before it could reach the Supreme Court. However, because the Supreme Court has agreed to take on the case, it appears they are willing to renegotiate the parameters of Roe. Meaning, in this specific case, pre-viable fetuses might be granted personhood. Something that would, in effect, overturn Roe v. Wade, however directly or indirectly. Ultimately thrusting us into a post-Roe America filled with novel legal implications for people with uteruses.

In a pre-Roe America, those who provided abortions faced the threat of criminalization, however their patients rarely, if ever, faced the same threat. And therein lies the primary difference between a pre-Roe and post-Roe America, as granting fetuses personhood could potentially subject people with uteruses to any number of criminal charges, including kidnapping, child abuse, and murder. (If this future seems doubtful, I think it’s important to note that this nightmare has already been realized for a number of women. In 2014, a pregnant woman was arrested for child abuse just because she took half a valium. And, in recent years, a pregnant California woman was charged with kidnapping when she moved to New York.) Furthermore, granting fetuses personhood will affect people receiving IVF treatments, as embryos created in petri dishes will incite their own philosophical questions in the eyes of the law, like: How different is an embryo in a petri dish from an embryo in utero?

Mississippi has already been considering this implication as they have proposed initiative 26, a law that would ban the disposal of fertilized eggs. Should this initiative be signed into law and enforced, Americans could find themselves in dystopic territory. Because if all fertilized eggs, including frozen ones, are considered people with human rights, does that mean they have the right to be implanted in a uterus? And, if they do, whose uterus do they have a right to? (If we were to look for a point of reference for the future of IVF in a post-Roe world, Italy would be a good place to start. In 2004, Italian policy makers placed regulations on IVF that limited the number of embryos that could be created each cycle to three. The freezing of eggs was completely outlawed, and, therefore, all 3 embryos had to be transferred each cycle. This led to a number of complications: IVF became less successful and more expensive, and there was an increase in dangerous multiple pregnancies—one of the reasons people started freezing their eggs in the first place. Ultimately, most of these regulations have been outlawed because they created a lot of unnecessary problems. However, this could be the direction America is headed.)

Moreover, the outlawing of safe abortion care is linked to higher rates of mental health problems, pregnancy complications, suicide, domestic violence, poverty, avoidable hospitalizations, and/ or death, among people with uteruses. (It’s a well known fact that outlawing abortion doesn’t stop abortion from happening, it just makes the procedure less safe. A 2011 study found that 11% of women who undergo illegal abortions die. Meanwhile, another study found that—in El Salvador, where abortion is illegal—suicide accounts for 57% of deaths among pregnant girls, ages ten to nineteen; this rate is linked to a myriad of DIY abortion methods, like ingesting rat poison, or thrusting sharp objects into the cervix. And, finally, as of right now, 13% of the 1.5 million pregnancy-related deaths, each year, are due to unsafe abortions.)

Overall, it’s not difficult to say what the future holds for people who can get pregnant in America, should a pro-life agenda become fully realized. If the laws being passed and entertained in red states are any indication, we could find ourselves, not only regressing in terms of reproductive rights, but creating new forms of unjust persecution for people with uteruses. Meanwhile, if a pre-Roe world is any indication, we will find ourselves in a world where people with uteruses die from completely avoidable causes; where there will be even higher rates of mental health problems, poverty, suicide, and domestic abuse among them; where violence against abortion providers is further emboldened, and their risk of imprisonment is returned.

When I think of this world, it hurts my heart. I don’t want to live in a world where young people have to resort to jabbing themselves with sharp objects, or eating rat poison, in order to preserve the future they always dreamed of; I don’t want to live in a world where anyone has to resort to such dangerous measures, just because they have no other choice.

Isn’t life hard enough?

As an adult who has chosen to remain childless, I am often shocked by the number of people who regard my reproductive choices as if they are wide open for comment. On more than one occasion someone has told me that when I “start having babies” my adult acne will go away; at my annual physical, every year, the nurse practitioner tells me to start taking a prenatal vitamin, because I’m not on birth control; one time, at work, when I told a coworker I didn’t take birth control, she said, “Well, I’m educated, so I take mine.” Everyone either assumes I want to have children, by default, because I am a woman, or they assume I am stupid because I don’t want to have children, and I don’t take birth control. (I guess that’s fair on some level, but it’s still really annoying.)

More often than not, I withhold the truth from these people: I have been told that I probably can’t get pregnant. Furthermore, I hate the pill, everyone I know who tried an IUD had to get it taken out because they had issues, and a lot of other options make you gain weight—something I am simply too vain to accept. (Perhaps more research and funding should go toward improving contraceptives, but that’s a topic for a later date.)

I have never had a pregnancy scare, and the state of my fertility makes my getting pregnant very unlikely. However, should I become a natural anomaly: I’d get an abortion.

*all personal stories cited in this post came from
the podcast Choice/Less, unless cited otherwise*

A note: I am not a historian, doctor, or political science expert; I am just a private citizen with a writing degree, a keyboard, and internet connection. While I do my best to make sure all of my research is accurate & derived from reputable sources, I am an enthusiastic supporter of people doing their own research in order to draw their own conclusions. Therefore, if anything I’ve written here has inspired doubt, or questions, I encourage you to dig deeper for yourself. In the meantime, I have provided some podcasts, book, and movie recommendations below.

Podcasts & Episodes

Choice/Less



Women of the Hour
Season 2, episode 5: Choice



NYT’s The Daily
September 23, 2020: A Historic Opening for Abortion Rights



Movies

Obvious Child
available to rent on Amazon



Never Rarely Sometimes Always
available to rent on Amazon



Plan B
Hulu



Reversing Roe
Netflix



Books

Who Will Run The Frog Hospital?
Lorrie Moore



The Purity Myth
Jessica Valenti



Pure: Inside the Evangelical Movement that Shamed a Generation of Young Women
Linda Kay Klein



Bad Feminist
Roxane Gay



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