Every day on my walk to and from work, I pass by Planned Parenthood. Most days, it is a very quiet street. Every so often, though, there is a mass of people gathered across from Planned Parenthood. Most of them kneel. Some of them are nuns, others are dressed pretty similarly to me. Most of them are holding rosaries and praying in the direction of Planned Parenthood.
On these days, there are also often people handing out pamphlets on the same side of the street as Planned Parenthood. Each time I take the pamphlet waved in my direction, I find it advising me on the other options I have: preparing for motherhood, adoption, etc. I take the pamphlet on the slight chance that it might be literature from Planned Parenthood itself and then toss it out in the next bin when it isn’t.
I find myself being angry. I’m angry at these people that are making it harder for others to do their job. I’m angry that the outrage at Planned Parenthood isn’t just ending access to safe abortions, but also to sexual health education, STI testing and treatment, contraception, cancer screening and prevention.
I have for a long time known that I don’t want children. I am not ready. I am not sure I’ll ever be ready. Should I ever need it, I hope that an abortion will be a viable option for me. Of course, my greater hope is that I won’t need it, but every birth control has a failure rate and I know that I am in no position to raise a child. That is not the full truth, either. In a moment of reoccurring irrational paranoia that I might in fact be pregnant, my mother assured me that it would not be the end of the world. She would be happy to take the child and raise it for me while I was off at college pursing my bigger, brighter (and, though she didn’t say this nor I believe think this, selfish) dreams. My mother is great with children and has been considering fostering for a while. Although I appreciate her offer, I do see bringing a child into the world that you are neither ready nor prepared for as selfish. Honestly, bringing any child into the world is a type of beautiful selfishness when there are so many children that were brought into the world and into families that could not take care of them, whether they wanted them or not.
If we were in a country where abortions were unavailable, I would be lucky enough to have a family that is able and willing to support and help me, but that is often not the case. Even when it is, that still doesn’t guarantee the best possible life for this new baby. There will always be women pregnant for whom a child or pregnancy itself is not an option and who out of desperation will need an abortion, whether they can find it in a sterile, safe place, or whether they find a way to do it themselves. In an Atlantic article about Texas women inducing their own abortion because of the lack of access to safe clinics, a women articulates the problem with at home abortions when she says, “There was also the fact that I’m doing it at home, we’re not—though we have all of the information as to how much bleeding is too much bleeding, there’s always that slight uncertainty of like I don’t really know what I’m doing.” And while she may know how much bleeding is too much, I certainly don’t. Each month when I have my period I think, “This sure is a lot of blood” and then ignore it until it stops.
Of course our relationship to abortions in America is very complex. It is a relationship that is different from all other countries; from the non-issue that it can be in Scandinavian countries, to forced late term abortions in China under the one child policy, to the staggeringly high abortion rate in Cuba, to UAE where abortions are only legal to save the life of the mother and if the child would be born with fatal deformities (this of course only being true for married mothers since premarital sex is illegal in the country.) I bring these differences up because in the midst of the controversy over the ethics, legality, and funding of abortions in the US, it can be easy to forget the US’s relationship on this matter within a larger global context.
Clearly I am in favor of having access to those services. I am in favor of access to all of the services that Planned Parenthood offers. I am also aware of my own liberal bias and upbringing, and that I am mostly likely preaching to the choir, but I support the belief of a woman’s right to her own body and the choice to make decisions based on the context of the pregnancy for whether bringing a new child into the world would be the wisest and kindest choice.
On the days when I see masses of people huddled around Planned Parenthood, praying for the souls of the mothers and their unborn and never to be born children, I offer a little prayer myself: Please God, let me find the patience and compassion to see these as people that truly want to help mothers and children. Let me remind myself we both want to create a better world. Bless them in their mission towards that goal, but let them see how they are making lives worse and harder instead of better. Let them understand that abortion in a sterile clinic is both better for the mother and for a child born into a family that neither is ready for nor wants it. Let the people working in these organization like Planned Parenthood find the strength to face this persecution and let the women who need these services have the courage to walk through those doors.
I wrote the first draft of this piece a few days before the planned parenthood shootings and since then, it has been sitting in the draft folder as I attempt to come up with a way to coherently tie it up, how to put my horror and sadness into words that we have yet another of mass shooting in the US. Like my liberal politics about women’s rights to their own body, I have equally liberal views on whether guns should be accessible.
Now instead of being angry, I find myself being thankful that these people are reaching towards God and not towards guns.