"How could anyone do that?"
I was angry, and I was grieving. I was hurting for "the babies", that nebulous idea. After all, who can't be sad about babies dying? It was my first experience with the militant pro-life movement. I was at a Bible camp, and on the first evening, after much doom and prophesy about how America was the new Rome drowning in licentiousness and other fun stuff they showed a short film. It was about abortion, and it was graphic. The pro-life movement caught me, and they shoved my head under rhetorical water stained pink with innocent blood.
I didn't understand. I didn't understand how anyone could hate babies so much. I mean, I wasn't a huge fan of babies, they were kind of annoying. I wasn't one of the girls cooing over the newest addition to the congregation, I kept my distance, if I got any closer someone might hand the thing to me and I'd be stuck carrying it around until it barfed or started screaming.
But nobody wants death, do they?
For about three years after that, pro-life was my calling. It was a cause I could get behind, it was a place where I (a woman) could be a warrior. I could loose that righteous rage without shame or censure, because apparently women are allowed to fight for babies, probably because motherhood, you know? So, despite my very un-motherly desire to stay single forever to avoid having to marry a man, I fought for the babies. Because I'm a fighter, and here was a battlefield I was allowed to stand on.
In my junior year of highschool my mom and I decided to volunteer at the local crisis pregnancy center. For those not familiar, our pregnancy centers provided free pregnancy tests and STI screening (as long as you went through a counseling session) and advocated "showing women their options" which meant "shame them out of having abortions and bring them to Jesus". We went through a three month training, through which I doodled kanji in my notebook (I was taking Japanese) and only paid attention when people started talking about sex (I never had any sort of sex-ed. Literally everything I knew about sex came from breeding sheep. No. I am not kidding.).
I started as a receptionist at the pregnancy center, and something happened. I started to meet real live women who were real live pregnant. My worldview was on shaky ground already, I was in the advanced stages of denial about my sexuality and my religious beliefs, but you can't deny the woman who is standing right in front of you with her eyes puffy from crying. She's trying so hard to be brave, and you know it, so you smile and welcome her. You don't think about the nebulous baby at that moment, you think about the woman. I had never thought about the woman before. The pro-life movement is really good at showing the uterus rather than the person.
That is when I began to listen, and listening is the way to understanding. I listened to stories, stories of poverty, of rape, of fear and of shame so toxic it destroyed lives. I heard them through the literature, through the women who walked past my desk, and I began to understand. More than that, my anger left me, replaced by compassion.
Today, I am conflicted on the issue of abortion. I think that's a good thing. It's a tough decision, not one anyone should make lightly, but it's a decision people should be able to make. I don't understand what it feels like to be in that situation, and I hope I never have to, but I understand this--you are here, and you are worthy, and I love you. I don't understand is the beginning of the conversation, not the end.