"If you are opposed to abortion don't have one." I squealed with delight upon finding it at the bottom of a stack of bumperstickers at a local feminist book store. I was 20 and it was ohhh so clever. I didn't even wait to get home before sporting it on my cherry red pickup truck. When it came to supporting abortion I was one eager beaver. And it only gets worse.
My family went to a liberal church (United Church). It was so liberal that our pastor was a lesbian. She cussed, drank, creatively interpreted the Bible, and staunchly supported abortion. As a liberal, Clinton-voting, collegiate "NOWbot", nothing could have been cooler to me. Our church was very active on the political front. It held many lesbian and gay film festivals and even a few abortion rallies.
I drove my red ragtop past a line of flickering candles held by "strange and scary" praying pro-lifers who protested one of our evening celebrations of "choice". Through the window I could still see the delicate flames that dotted the public sidewalk outside. I wondered how they could be so backwards, and their presence only fueled my rebellion against them. Many of us stood up and regurgitated novel little sound bites. I myself rose out of the seat and said, "Abortion must remain legal, because I don't ever want a daughter of mine to look at a coat hanger and think of it as anything other than something to hang her coat on." The rest of the room could barely contain their applause. (Disregard the fact that there has never in all our history been one documented case of a self-induced coat hanger abortion.)
Before the evening came to a close our pastor stood up and began to tell a story that took place in the 70's when she was in college (and still sleeping with boys). Our interest piqued, we excitedly awaited the glorious abortion-advocating denouement. Shockingly, there was no happy ending. She spoke of a child she had aborted and how she often thought of that person, wondering what her world would be like if she had allowed him/her to grow and live and be a part of her life. Her regret unfolded and formed death bed images of her lying still with no hand to hold. Those in attendance shot confused glances back and forth across the room. What could it mean?
This was no story of the triumph of "choice". What she described was not liberating and free. It was poignant and sad. We didn't want to think. We wanted sharp slogans. We were uncomfortable and put off; if she was going to bust out with an abortion story, the least she could do was end on the upbeat. Her sadness was turning us into criminals. If she had left the building and lit a candle on the sidewalk I'm not sure any of us would have been surprised at that point. But somehow she snapped out of her stupor and ended the rally with a lecture on the necessity of abortion and the glory of "choice". It was weird and contradictory but as is typical fashion for the abortion supporter, we simply chose to ignore it, chalking it up to some quirkiness or lack of sleep.
The following Sunday I highlighted the rally by providing a pro-abortion lesson for my 9 to 13-year-old Sunday School students. Two of them walked in the room thinking abortion was wrong, but I offered them the twisted compassion that had been impressed upon me, and by the time they left I had a couple of converts. Perhaps more horrific even than ruining the minds of two sweet children is the fact that I didn't know I was doing anything wrong.
I don't know what the answer is for those who are taught by people they love and respect to believe in abortion. I used to be one of them. I remember talking to pro-lifers at county fairs, not because I wanted to learn about life, but because I wanted to learn more about them and how they could be so archaic. Once one of them gave me a 12-week fetal model, and I kept it with me for the longest time not because I was intrigued by the appearance of the developing child, but because it became a hilarious fetish our college click dubbed "Pocket Fetus". Need an answer? Ask "PF". Need change for a phone call? "PF" to the rescue. In a drunken stupor I eventually left "PF" in a bar as a tip to a waitress. "PF" had been no match for any of us. (We were all, by the way, students in the elementary education program.)
One of our gang, a Catholic friend (who was in no sense of the word practicing), argued that, jokes aside, she would take ALL the babies. Just bring 'em on, because abortion was terrible and wrong. She was outnumbered though, and it never impressed anything on us other than how stubborn and primative we thought she could be at times. She was the one who told us about the Genocide Awareness Project that squatted at FSU's student center. Evidently, they displayed large pictures of mutilated babies for anyone who would look. The whole campus was talking about it. Our popular group thought the GAP folks were lunatics, and we sought out alternate routes so we would never have to see any of their pictures.
Some people can shoot fruit off your head blindfolded. We could pull it from your wombs with one sightless vote.
I reflect on the times friends or people I knew got pregnant in college. If it was someone I barely knew, I'd offer to drive her to the clinic myself. (Thank God no one ever took me up on it.) But curiously, if the person was a friend I had known for years and genuinely cared about, abortion was the last thing I wanted for her. I desperately tried to talk her out of it and then agonized when she wouldn't listen. I knew I must be contradicting myself somehow, but I didn't want to explore that. Abortion was good enough for all the uncaring faceless women of the world, but not for me, and not for anyone I cared about. What that says, what it really says about me is that I didn't care about all those other women for whom I advocated abortion. I didn't care about them or their children. Abortion was just a solution for people who, outside of my own little world of acquaintances, existed to me as much as individuals that pass by in cars on the interstate.
I don't think anything ever would have changed my mind, because to evolve would have required genuine thought, and it never occurred to me to think at all about it. It was abortion for crying out loud, the big solution. What was there to think about? Besides, it was always someone else's problem. It would never effect me, because I was smarter and nicer and made better choices. It was settled, and there was nothing anyone could say to cause me to reexamine my hollow beliefs. But one person did come and grow with me for a time, and I learned everything I needed to know without any words at all.
In every pro-lifer's secret wet dream, a resolute abortion supporter is forced to face the truth. In my case, an unbelievably debilitating disease compelled me to contradict my own will and become one of the many faceless, "nonexistent" women who slide their legs into stirrups each day in this country. In exchange for physical refuge I literally broke my child's heart. S/he was tortured and killed and sacrificed for me, because I didn't know what else to do and no one I knew would help me any other way.
My child died in a second trimester abortion. My child. There is no denying the reality of that pregnancy or that child. If s/he was real then they all are. If mine was worth protecting, then they all are. If abortion hurt me this badly, there are others. If I'm worth protecting, then they all are. The logic is simple and pure and, for me, very expensive to finally gain.
Not a day goes by that I don't remember the clever comment I made regarding coat hangers and my hypothetical "daughter of the future". I often wonder if my first child was a girl. And if she was, the irony is not lost on me. She'll never look at a coat hanger and think anything thanks to legal abortion. I guess in the end I got exactly what I asked for at that rally. And it's everything I never thought it would be.