I have never had an abortion. Still, there was always the possibility.
I have been sexually assaulted. Many times. By strangers, neighbors, and family. I have had pregnancy scares – one fumbling curiosity with tepid consent when I was a teenager, and the other, as an adult with enthusiastic consent. Both ended in countless trembling eternal nights, afraid of what might be. In each case there was no thought to having an abortion, when I was young it would not have been my decision and as a 28-year-old adult, I don’t know what I might have chosen at that time.
I was in a small midwestern town when I stood with linked arms in sub zero weather to serve as safety escort for the local abortion clinic. I lived close by and had seen the awful proselytizing, sign waving, and shouting, lots of shouting, directed at passersby and at the people in need of abortion care. I felt an intense rage and staggering bewilderment each time I saw these people on the roadside, claiming their outrage in the name of their God. It didn’t make sense then, nor does it make sense now that their work was a crusade for life. All the while inflicting profound harm.
It was quite early and still dark out when I went with a friend to stand as escort. There was a short walkway, maybe 50 feet, from the roadside to the front door of the clinic. All the women (I believe we were all women, I don’t remember any men with us) stood alongside the walkway, arm in arm, in puffy coats, scarves and hats, solemnly and tenderly greeting the few people who came in that morning. I recall nervously smiling, a half grin really, making no eye contact but wanting my expression to say, “This will all be all right, you don’t need to worry…” hoping against hope that were true, having no information about their life experiences whatsoever.
The others were required to stand across the road, but we could still hear them, their droning prayers and hateful bombastic speechifying. I remember feeling frightened, but also powerful. I felt anticipation of potential conflict and I welcomed it. I, a pacifist. Wanted to. Hurt them.
Since that formative experience I can say I know many people who have had abortions for every reason. Not the right time. Couldn’t afford it. Wasn’t ready. Didn’t want to with this person. I never wanted children. All their decision – all their choice. I stood by them then, and I continue to stand by them now.