I had a nightmare last night.
I was back at my estranged ex-stepfather’s house on Bayou Tejar, which was flooding. A young woman (a student, maybe) asked me to read and comment on her script–it was a trick–it was actually a thinly veiled attempt to convince me to be pro-life. All the while, the bayou water rose–it was all the way up to the second floor, where we were, but the young woman didn’t notice.
Luckily, my PhD in lit trained me well for moments like this: the symbolism isn’t hard to decode. Most pro-life people don’t pay attention to the problems that threaten life–even unborn life. They’re too busy sticking to their script.
(The stepfather’s house thing is separate symbolism–most of my bad dreams are set there. However, I was living in that house when my town became a centerpiece in the abortion debate–when a pro-life terrorist shot an abortion provider in the back, when my friend’s father got death threats for publicly saying one can’t murder in the name of life, when my mother refused to let me wear a pro-choice shirt because she was afraid I would be attacked.)
Yesterday, the VP spoke at a pro-life rally. The pro-lifers will be marching against Planned Parenthood on 2/11. (I organized and will be performing at a benefit for Planned Parenthood that night.)
All this bullshit always reminds me of a conversation I had in 2000. I was in car full of medical students on the way to a water park (in Florida). One guy was new–an extern. Someone asked whom he was voting for.
Extern: I don’t know yet. My parents’ church gives us a list of people to vote for, based on who’s pro-life. I just use that list.
There was silence. Everyone else in the car was pro-choice.
I thought: they have to work with him. I don’t.
I asked him what he hoped to accomplish by voting that way.
Extern: We want to ban abortion, obviously.
Me: You’ve taken a medical history class by now. What happens, historically, when abortion is banned, to the abortion rate?
Extern [sheepishly]: It goes up.
Me: Everyone else here is pro-choice. Would it surprise you to know everyone here wants the abortion rate to go down?
Remaining calm, I explained that we all wished it never had to happen. But that we all knew it always would–at some rate–but that we wanted it to be very rare. And that we were doing a lot to make sure the rate went down–by advocating for comprehensive sex education, by advocating for access to birth control, by advocating for girls’ access to education.
All those things actually lower the abortion rate.
What that young extern wanted to do–what yesterday’s protesters want to do–drives the numbers up. And increases STD rates. And increases maternal mortality rates. Look at what’s happened in Texas recently, after they shut down so many women’s health providers.
The extern didn’t know about me, didn’t know I’d had my son at 17. So I told him.
And then I explained one way to look at my choice to him.
Since I chose to have my son, I altered my whole future.
The extern’s “side” of the debate had nothing to offer me. His side wouldn’t advocate for child care so I could work or go to school. His side wouldn’t advocate for me to have health care or enough to eat (although if one cares about children, one should realize that their parents being alive is kind of important). His side would, in fact, forever judge me for getting pregnant in the first place. For having a child that young.
And if I ever asked for anything, even basic dignity, I would be told that I shouldn’t have had sex (by a bunch of people who’ve also had sex at that age), and thus that I was undeserving.
“You know, I could have had an abortion. And I might have had to walk past some of you screaming at me, but when it was done, I could have avoided your scorn for the rest of my life. Have you given any thought to actually making the choice to carry an unplanned child the more desirable one?”
“We’re on the same side,” I said. “I just don’t think your strategy will work. It will just make things worse.”
The extern agreed.
(I didn’t realize then that I was using Rogerian argument strategy, but I now use this conversation as an example when I teach it.)
It’s many years later. I know more.
I know more about what happens when people push abstinence, when they try to block birth control, when they attack Planned Parenthood, when they push gag rules.
Pro-lifers, it’s not that we pro-choicers are pro-abortion.
But your script (“Ban abortion” “Defund Planned Parenthood”) WILL RESULT IN MORE.