I don’t remember hearing much about homosexuality when I was growing up. I don’t think I ever heard it talked about in church. The first time I remember the subject coming on my radar, I believe I was 12 or 13 at CreationFest. I don’t even remember the context for the speaker’s point, but he talked about people choosing homosexuality, and that didn’t sit right with my own budding sexually that I had no control over. I totally believed that “acting on” same-sex attraction was a sin, which was easy for me because it was “other” and besides, any sexual activity outside of marriage was sinful, but the idea of choosing orientation felt like a lie.
I can follow the line of the evolution of my thought from non-affirming to affirming. The line spans more than a decade, moving through lots of small questions whose answers led to incremental changes over time. From questioning the idea of choosing attraction, to feeling like adult citizens should have access to rights afforded by civil unions, to an understanding of why it should just be called to marriage, to maybe it’s not a sin, to it’s definitely not a sin and we should be listening to way more queer ministers. It’s a big change, but it happened in small steps. The line stretches from a 13 year old girl sitting on a blue tarp in a field, questioning a pastor’s assertions about gay people to a 44 year old mom of 4 trans kids. I’m sure my evolution isn’t complete, as there are always more ways to root out my straight, cis privilege, but there’s a long path to where I am today.
The line on my evolution from anti-abortion to pro-choice is much shorter. It was as long as a second blue line on a pregnancy test.
Prior to 1997, I was rabidly anti-choice. I was the kid who took her mom’s pro-life literature with the pictures of aborted fetuses to my elementary school. I wore the pin with the tiny footprints. I marched in Washington D.C. at the March for Life with a sign that said Choose Abstinence. I believed that if a birth-control method even COULD prevent the implantation of a fertilized egg, you were killing a baby just as sure as if you walked into your local preschool and stabbed all of the kids in the heart. My views were extreme and unwavering.
And then one day in Cleveland, OH, I sat on a toilet, two weeks after a missed period, watching the urine creep up the test to confirm what I suspected. I was pregnant.
I was young. Newly married. Starting my first professional job. It was a Very Bad Time to be pregnant. And yet here I was, pregnant.
In that moment, I became pro-choice.
On a practical level, my views didn’t really change that quickly, and honestly, they haven’t changed a lot since then. I think that abortion is a tremendously difficult subject to talk about, in part because at some point, I do believe there’s a second person in the mix.
But in the same way that my experience as a young, hormone-filled teenager made me question what that speaker said about choosing who one is sexually attracted to, my experience as a woman who was not ready to have an infant made me question everything I believed about forcing women to give birth. Because that’s really what the distinction between pro-choice and pro-life really boils down to. Forcing a woman to surrender bodily autonomy.
Even if I believe that we’re talking about two people, only one person is tasked with keeping the other alive. And in no other situation do we demand that of someone else. You’re not compelled to donate blood. You’re not compelled to donate bone marrow. Or a kidney. Or part of your liver. All of these can be done while you’re alive and all will keep another person alive. We don’t even compel you to be an organ donor after you have died.
Beyond that, stories have extended the line. Stories from people like Shannon who was raped repeatedly as a young girl and who became pregnant as a result of that rape. Stories from people like Dina who was raped and was forced to give birth to her daughter who died a short time later. Stories from people like Kate who chose abortion for her very wanted daughter who was going to suffer tremendously if she was born. Stories from people like Savita who died from sepsis because abortion laws prevented her from safely miscarrying her pregnancy.
I’ve been struggling with how to end this, but there’s no satisfactory wrap-up to this. People who will never be put in the position of helping a rape victim are threatening doctors with criminal penalties that far outstrip those for the rapists. People who will never have to wonder if they will survive birth are threatening women with the death penalty for terminating a pregnancy. People who will never be forced, even as a corpse, to keep someone alive are forcing pre-teen girls to give birth to their brothers. There’s no pretty wrap-up for that story.
I’ll keep voting for candidates who are pro-choice. I’ll keep advocating for better sex education in schools and for easy access to birth control. I’ll keep donating to Planned Parenthood to help women directly manage their health and the ACLU to help women keep their ability to choose. I’ll keep supporting the rights of LGBTQ people to adopt. I’ll keep advocating for paid maternal leave and affordable child care.
I’ll keep sharing my story, because maybe this will factor into someone else’s line.