I have thought long and hard about why you might be willing to read this post. What gives me the right, I have wondered, to write as I do?
Perhaps it is the fact that I had an unwanted, unplanned pregnancy. That I considered, even briefly, abortion. That even as I decided I would not have an abortion, I still resented being pregnant. Maybe, just maybe, this will be enough for you.
But maybe it won’t.
I also have had an ectopic pregnancy, one of the life-threatening conditions where the baby’s life must often give way to the momma’s life. This is what you might call the gray area. I’ve lived there, I have friends from there, and I have the souvenir socks from the hospital to prove it.
I am a mom who has almost lost one of her children early in pregnancy. Everyone told me it was just tissue, just nature’s way. That little bean we named Maddy has grown up to a smart, sweet and precious first-grader. If I had lost her at 8 weeks, I never would have known the deep joy she brings me every day.
And I have also lost 5 more children in early pregnancy. I know the grief of losing a child you never got to meet.
But maybe still not enough …
My own life has been threatened twice now in pregnancy. We’ve had to make some hard decisions and have emergency procedures. Two times I could have lost the baby, and one time I did.
I have raised babies who are generally cast off from society, and are taken from their parents.
My reproductive and parenting resume might be extensive . . . But it is not exhaustive.
I cannot speak as a single mom, a woman who has been raped, a woman facing social pressures, or a woman facing the end of her education if she were to give birth. I cannot even speak as a fertile woman, as the ability to have healthy babies has inextricably been taken from me.
So who do I speak as?
Simply a woman.
Many of you reading this understand the long, hard fight for woman’s rights. Including reproductive rights.
Today, I’m taking advantage of a right so many women before me have fought for.
The right to speak their mind.
I have come to realize that my experiences will never be enough for many of you. Because I have not experienced the entire spectrum of experiences that might lead someone abortion.
So I simply ask, as a fellow woman, please hear me out.
Some of you may have read my recent post about the movie “Woman in Gold.” It is a haunting and chilling movie … But you have to let it in. Let the ideas and the history and the truth sink deep in. Let it remind you that the people back then were not stupid or foolish … But that they were just as learned, just as experienced, just as modern as we are today. Maybe it all looks a little different now … But we have not evolved so much in 70 years that those in WWII were Neanderthals who could not think for themselves.
Actually, they were much more like us than we would ever want to admit.
And the reason we won’t admit it? Because they were deceived. By simple words, repeated over and over and over again.
Here’s my definition of propaganda:
Something you hear over and over again, from sources you trust, to the extent that you believe it inherently, without questioning its validity.
The Nazis were masters of this.
Using basic words, they convinced millions of people that Jews were not humans, deserving of life, prosperity, and peace.
They were less-than-human, a plague, a bane on society, who should be maimed, stolen from, killed, imprisoned, or whatever society wanted… Just because they were Jews.
Recently, some propaganda came through my email. And as much as I have fought this internally, I need to call it for what it is.
I had recently written Senator Maria Cantwell about Planned Parenthood. Now this was way outside of my comfort zone.
For so long, I have been told not to say anything. And I was obedient. But not any longer.
Here was Maria’s response to me:
Let me explain why I wrote to my congress woman …
If a Fortune 500 company were breaking the law, even 2% of the time, I would expect there to be an investigation.
If the Department of Transportation was found to be laundering money, just 2% of their budget, I would expect there to be a serious investigation.
If Target was found to be kidnapping and enslaving children in the U.S. to produce 2% of it’s merchandise, I would expect there to be an investigation.
If Planned Parenthood is selling human tissue for profit, even just 2% of the time, I expect there to be an investigation, and for the government to withdraw its support until PP is found to be in compliance with the law.
In her response to my letter, Maria Cantwell has some legitimate concerns.
- She is concerned that women receive cancer screenings. I am too.
- She wanted women to be able to have access to health care. I absolutely want women to have health care.
- She wants women to have support in unplanned pregnancies. I do too.
But here’s where the propaganda comes in.
I wrote to her wanting an investigation and a cessation of funding based on evidence of illegal operations regarding human tissue.
She wrote back to me about women’s healthcare.
She’s not 100% wrong. Women’s healthcare absolutely is important. But when I’m speaking of selling fetuses, and she’s talking about cancer screenings — it shows me that we as a society are so used to equating any abortion matter to “women’s rights” that we aren’t even having intellectual conversations about this any more.
Furthermore, she waived away evidence as highly edited.
YES. Yes it was highly edited.
So, by the way, was your letter, Miss Maria. Actually, it wasn’t even written by you. It was written by a ghost writer who has more time and a better way with words. It was then processed by an editor, and it probably went through several revisions before even hitting your desk (or your assistant’s desk) for approval.
And still, you stand by your word. Because everything these days is highly edited. Even this blog. But that does not mean that your words don’t represent the truth of what you believe, or that my words don’t accurately represent my opinion.
And being edited does not make the video untrue either.
When the only defense you have is hot button words like “highly edited” and “women’s rights” —
how can we have an intelligent conversation about the importance of integrity, the value of children, and moral accountability?
I need you, dear reader, to know that pro-abortion advocates are not the only ones using hot-button words to dissuade discussion.
Many pro-life people make what I consider mistakes in their approach to defending the rights of the unborn.
First, they treat it only as a baby issue and NOT AT ALL as a woman’s issue.
I agree that just looking at the baby’s perspective makes it so much easier to have a black and white viewpoint. It’s a baby’s life. End of story.
Except it really isn’t only a baby’s life.
When I got HELLP Syndrome with Maddy, that was a pregnancy-related, life-threatening condition that definitely happened to ME. My liver was swelling. My blood platelets were getting destroyed. My blood pressure was rising, putting stress on my whole body. I was at risk of heart attack, stroke, multiple organ failure and bleeding out.
MY body was put through hell.
When I had my ectopic pregnancy, my Fallopian tube ruptured. My abdomen was filling with my blood, and my body underwent emergency surgery.
So when people talk about women’s bodies … They are actually right! Pregnancy IS something that happens to women.
It happened to me, and my body took the brunt of the trauma.
BUT — Women’s bodies are not the only bodies at stake here. A child’s life is equally, if not more so affected.
Which is why it is so damn complicated. (Sorry Mom. Darn just wasn’t a strong enough word here.)
On the one hand, you have women who are not ready to be pregnant, and on the other you have a child’s life whose very existence is in the hands of the person who doesn’t want to be pregnant. And both bodies are completely affected by the pregnancy.
Second, some pro-lifers become so hostile to the women wanting an abortion, that we are left to wonder whose life they stand for?
Do they stand for women, even those who have left the womb and have grown up?
Do they stand for vulnerable children?
Do they judge teen moms and make sly comments about “teenagers these days”?
Do they reach out and DO something in their community to love the unlovable and help the vulnerable?
And while I hope that all of us support vulnerable children, I also hope that we are supporting the women that make the choice to keep the babies.
And the women who make the choice not to? I hope there is a well of compassion and understanding so deep you would drown in it.
Now if you hadn’t already guessed, I consider myself to be pro-life. But I also consider myself to be pro-woman. You could just say I’m pro-human.
I believe babies are babies from conception. Not “a life,” not “products of conception,” not “pregnancy tissue.” But a real, live human being from the moment an egg is fertilized.
You might call my view old-fashioned.
And if by old-fashioned, you mean that people throughout the ages have considered a baby in your belly as a baby, than you are right.
But if you mean outdated, I’m sorry to say that science is actually on my side on this one.
When 1974 Roe V. Wade decision allowed abortions to be legal and safely accessible by all women, the routine use of ultrasound was not around. It was not until well into the 1970s that the ultrasound technology made its way from England to the U.S.
Even then, most women with normal pregnancies were not offered an ultrasound.
I was born in 1982. Between 1982 and 1987, my mom suffered 3 miscarriages. Her babies were older than any of mine, but she did not get offered an ultrasound in any of her pregnancies until my brother, in 1987. Her doctors did not give her the option to miscarry naturally, but did D&Cs. She was never allowed to see her babies.
When I went through my losses, I couldn’t understand why she couldn’t relate as much as I expected her to.
“Rachel,” she said. “We didn’t know what you know now. We didn’t know a heart started beating at 6 weeks, and that they already had fingers and toes. We couldn’t get on the Internet and read about our baby’s development. I never had an ultrasound. I had no idea that they were so developed already. I just was told over and over again something was just wrong with the egg or the sperm.”
One of her babies was into the second trimester. This is what a 16 week baby looks like:
Photo Credit: BabyCenter.com
Clearly this is not just tissue. And yet, unlike today, doctor’s back then didn’t encourage the bereaved parents to meet their baby, hold their baby, or bond before saying good-bye. Unless parents miscarried at home, they likely never got to see what a baby in the first or second trimester looked like.
My Facebook feed is full of ultrasound photos these days. Technology has given each of us a window into the womb, and the picture it displays for us is not “tissue” or a “blob of cells.” It’s a gummy-bear looking baby that has a heart beat, and jumps around, and sometimes sucks its finger.
Ultrasound only continues to confirm the belief that a child is not tissue, but is a human baby.
DNA testing did not start until after the late 1980s, when researchers came together to map out the human genome. Around that time, the first criminal conviction was made based on DNA evidence.
When Roe V. Wade was passed, no one knew that the “tissue” they wanted to abort actually had it’s own separate DNA from it’s parents, that mapped out its gender, hair color, eye color, skin color, personality traits, etc.
If you were to take a DNA sample of a blastocyst, a baby at its earliest stage of development, it would prove that that baby is not it’s mom’s tissue, or its dad’s tissue. It is its own separate entity.
In spite of the fact that science is beginning to back up that humans are humans from conception — the rhetoric, the propaganda, is still so heavily inundated that we can’t SEE IT. We can’t HEAR it.
We hold baby showers for expecting moms. We rejoice with positive pregnancy tests. When we ask how our pregnant friends are, we ask “how’s the baby treating you.” Deep, deep inside, we know it’s a baby. We would never say to them, “So, you blastocyst is turning into an embryo here soon. Exciting, right? I mean, that’s some major growth in your tissue.”
But on the other hand, when we hear that a mom is ready to abort her baby, we say things like, “It’s only tissue.” “It’s so early.” “It’s her right.” “It’s her decision to make.” “It’s legal.”
We hold such a ridiculous double standard that a baby is only a baby with rights if we WANT it to be.
If you have made it this far, you might be thinking, “OK, what about women who have been raped.”
And here’s where I’m going to say, there are some gray issues. Although I don’t think rape is one of them.
I hate rape. I hate it I hate it I hate it.
Rape is one of the worst things that could ever happen to a woman. I have friends and family who have been raped. It is the worst.
But I don’t think that rape + killing a child is a better option. Nor have I seen that research backs up that it really helps the woman recover from her rape. (I am readily admitting here that this little paragraph is NOT the space this topic deserves. I just better feel it needs more space in a new blog. And for any woman who has been raped and made the decision to abort, I have much compassion for you and the trauma you endured. I think most people just do the best they can, and I believe you also were just doing what you thought was best.)
Then there is the issue of when the woman’s life is in danger.
When the option is one life gone or two lives gone, that really isn’t an option. When my baby implanted in my fallopian tube, there was no way that baby was going to live. And while I didn’t have to make the hard choice to take the chemo to stop my baby’s growth — I have had friends who have. And that’s not to say I won’t ever have to make that decision in the future. It is one of the worst decisions ever, a horrid, life-changing, gut-wrenching decision.
But in the case of legitimately saving a woman’s life, I believe it is necessary to take a baby’s life if that woman chooses to do so. (And I know some who would not make that choice.)
My friend K and I talked this summer. Her son had Trisomy 13 and received a fatal diagnosis. Over many, many tears, she asked if I thought it was OK for her to induce early. She was concerned about the low amniotic fluid, and they wanted him to be alive if possible when she gave birth.
At this point, she just wanted to do what was most compassionate for her baby.
“You did not choose the Trisomy 13,” I said. “If you had a choice, he would be whole, he would be healthy, and he would be here on earth for the rest of your life. But you didn’t get a choice. You are not choosing death or life. You are choosing how you are going to love your baby, and let your baby go, with as much dignity and compassion as you can. If you feel that inducing a little early is the most compassionate thing you can do for him, then do that. If you want to wait and see when you go into labor, then do that. You won’t know all the answers, you can only do what you know now, with the information you have now. No matter what you choose, you may live with regret. Most baby loss moms live with some measure of regret. But please, do not feel that choosing to induce early is the same as choosing death for your child.”
When a baby has a fatal diagnosis, I understand that some moms want the babies “out” right away. My belief is that, like a child on life-support, it is up to the parent to decide when to let that baby go. However, the child’s comfort absolutely has to be the top priority.
D&Es should never be performed on a live baby. If you don’t know what that is, it is the abortion procedure, like a D&C, but in the second trimester. Basically, it rips a baby apart piece by piece, and sucks it out through the vagina. If there is a fatal diagnosis, and the parents feel it is in the child’s best interest to be born earlier than the due date, than I believe an early inducement is acceptable.
So here’s where I stand.
Propaganda. It’s real, it’s around, and most of us have listened to it for so long, we don’t question it. I highly encourage you to examine your beliefs. Examine WHY you believe it’s a woman’s rights issue, and NOT a child’s right’s issue. Examine if you have been so pro-baby, that you are anti-woman. Think about what you believe.
Second, for me, defunding Planned Parenthood is NOT because of the abortions they commit, but because they have broken the law. I believe if Planned Parenthood is defunded, that money STILL needs to go for pap smears, cancer screenings, and health care for vulnerable, underprivileged women. I do not believe the lie that if we defund Planned Parenthood, women will have nowhere to go. Didn’t we pass Obamacare so that EVERYONE can have affordable healthcare? If we as a nation are so completely dependant on ONE for-profit organization for our healthcare — God help us. AND if that really is the case, can the government healthcare not choose to accept more women, or allow women to be seen by regular OB/GYNs and pay for their care there?
Third, we pro-lifers need to change the way we talk. It is so easy to get defensive, to stand for babies’ rights, that we lose sight of the lives standing in front of us. The women calling out and asking for help. The women who have chosen to parent their babies. And for goodness sake, the women who have already had abortions. All of these women need a listening ear, and person who will not judge them, but will reach out in compassion and love.
As a community of pro-lifers, we need to up our game. We need to support teens (for instance, through Teen MOPS), we need to encourage women in the grocery store when they have multiple children and their all having meltdowns, and we need to give freely from our own abundance to the families who need support.
And perhaps, we need to find our voice again. Not a raging war cry, but a voice that speaks truth in love. Love for all. Love for babies. Love for post-abortive moms. Love for our congress members, even the ones we disagree with. Love for the gays and the lesbians.
Speak the truth, people. But love. Love a lot. And love well.