JoDee Collins, Charlotte, NC
Everyone has an opinion on the abortion issue. But not everyone has arrived at that opinion the same way I have.
I am a 50-year-old white Christian woman currently living in the south. That description alone would lead many to believe I am “pro-life”. They wouldn’t be wrong. That’s because everyone is pro-life. The opposite of pro-life is pro-death, and unless you are pro death penalty, you are pro-life, too.
As it relates to the abortion issue, I am most definitely pro-choice.
I was born in 1968, in San Rafael, CA. At that time, abortion was legal under the Therapeutic Abortion act of 1967. Instead of being aborted, I was given up for adoption. Am I thankful? Sure, but had I been aborted I wouldn’t have known the difference. I was not brought up Christian, but I was raised with American values, including the belief that this is a free country, and Individual liberty and freedom are sacred. I was taught to mind my own business and treat everyone equally and with respect.
By the time I became sexually active, Planned Parenthood was thriving, and I got my first prescription for the pill. By the time I was 22, I was engaged to my husband, but even though I was still using the pill, I got pregnant (article about how long term use lessens the effectiveness of the pill). I had a secure relationship with the father and we both had decent jobs, but I was not ready to be a mother. Of course, adoption entered my mind as an option. Unlike my birth mom, I was not willing to be a mother – not a biological mother to a child I would keep, or give up.
All these arguments place the autonomy of the woman as an afterthought, or not at all.
This is the crux of the abortion argument. Does a woman have the choice to be a mother, or not? Does she have autonomy over her own body?
This is not a debate about when life begins or the rights of the unborn. This is not a debate about the acceptable conditions in which a woman can, or should be allowed an abortion. All these arguments place the autonomy of the woman as an afterthought, or not at all. It allows someone else to make decisions about her reproduction, her body, and her mental health. Even her own life.
When a woman says she cannot afford a child (or another child), the typical response from an anti-choice person is adoption. That a woman feels she owes anyone an explanation at all is a whole other story that I have much to say (but I won’t here).
Although adoption is a valid option for many, those who flippantly offer it as though it’s as simple as re-homing the puppies or kittens your pets have given birth to, care nothing about the physical and emotional impact pregnancy and birth can have on a woman. No one thinks about the times she will be asked (by strangers, co-workers, friends, neighbors, and relatives) such questions as “Oh wow, how exciting. Do you know what you’re having?”, “Can I touch your tummy?”, and “Have you picked out a name?”, only to have to inform them that she’s giving it up. Perhaps some women can handle that (to them I say “Wonderful!”), but many women cannot.
Birth is a violent act – one that has the potential for both mental and physical scars that last a lifetime.
Then there is the pregnancy itself. There can be complications. Complications that can endanger her life and her ability to work. She could lose income and her livelihood. Then, let’s just say the birth went well and the baby is taken away to be with its new family. Wonderful. But does anyone still remember the mother three days later, when her milk comes in, or if she had to give birth by c-section, and now has a lifelong scar? Does anyone remember if she needed stitches because she tore from the cervix to anus? Does anyone care that a complicated birth can lead to lifelong physical pain during sex? Does anyone remember the pain and suffering she may endure every year on that birth date?
Don’t even get me started on the children, who once they learn of their adoption, may search for their birth mother, want answers, while harboring feelings of abandonment – only to reopen the wounds she has been trying to heal for years – even decades.
An adoption is most certainly an option, but it is no one’s place to offer it to a woman with an unplanned and/or unwanted pregnancy. The mere notion that someone believes this option hasn’t already crossed a woman’s mind is offensive. Again, showing their belief that a woman is incapable of making her own educated decision, and insisting she needs outside influences (strangers) to “help” her decide, the anti-choice folks would love to have their way and make that choice for her.
In conclusion, I will share that after having my abortion, my husband and I married. Two years after our marriage we suffered a miscarriage, but 14 months later, we welcomed our son into the world. I was so happy. Part of that happiness was being in control of when I would be pregnant and when I would be a mother. Because of this freedom, my mental health was not damaged by having to bring an unwanted pregnancy to term. I was so happy in fact, that I tried to donate my eggs to couples having fertility problems. But because I was adopted, my ‘pedigree’ was unknown, so my eggs were not accepted – despite being able to bring a beautiful healthy baby into the world. Three years later we had our daughter and two years after that I accepted Christ and became a Christian. This decision did not change my opinion on the right to choose. In fact, due to my extensive study, I concluded that God is pro-choice. God made the first choice and chose to create man and woman and for them to have free will. Then He/She/They chose to hide the mystery of pregnancy inside women.
Women are not a silent partner. They have a voice. They have a vote.
God chose for pregnancy to be a partnership with Him/Her/Their self and a woman. Sometimes the partnership doesn’t always succeed. Miscarriages happen more often than people realize. But when they do happen, people of faith are quick to say, “God knew it wasn’t the right time”, or “it wasn’t healthy to survive.” But if a woman should make the decision to end a pregnancy, it’s called abortion and the woman is demonized. As an equal partner with God, made in God’s image, women have the free will and moral authority to decide whether to bring a pregnancy to term – without judgment from man or requirement to give a reason.
As a Christian, I will always fight to protect a woman’s right and relationship to her God, and their partnership and joint moral authority. As an American, I will always fight to protect any woman’s right to her bodily autonomy, regardless of faith, lack thereof, or reason.
As we say in my church: “Let it be so.”