When she got a prenatal Down syndrome diagnosis, her doctor wouldn’t stop suggesting abortion.

The author and her family.


Kaylen
Before Kaylen, my husband Darrin and I were happy to be average—to not stick out in a good or bad way. Darrin worked as a mental health clinician in a prison; I had quit teaching after our second child and was running an in-home daycare. Our two sons were school age, our daughter was still home with me, and we had just started considering a fourth child when I took a positive pregnancy test.

I was 35 and had two prior miscarriages, so my doctor considered mine a higher risk pregnancy. During the first ultrasound my daughter was amazingly active and I thought “Whoa—something is different with this kiddo.” I loved the chances to see her on ultrasound and hear her heartbeat, and she grew and measured as expected. Everything was proceeding in the average way we were comfortable with.

Since I was now of “advanced maternal age,” in the second trimester the doctor recommended a triple screen blood test. I felt that any additional information was helpful, so I agreed. Not long after, I received an almost tearful phone call from a nurse who said “I’m so sorry to have to tell you this, but your blood test shows elevated risk. We’re sending you to a perinatologist for more information.” She apologized repeatedly and sounded so upset that I ended up reassuring her that it would be okay. Some quick internet searches told me that false positive results for the triple screen were relatively high. In fact I had two friends who had received positive results only for their babies to be born without issues. They reassured me that it would all be fine and suggested I just enjoy a 4D ultrasound.

I went into the office of the perinatologist (I will call him Dr. X) fully prepared to receive good news and leave with some great pictures. I enjoyed the 4D ultrasound—I got to relax in a darkened room and see my baby in more detail. The technician measured body parts while answering all my questions about what she was doing. When she finished, she went to get Dr. X. He entered the room, and I knew something was wrong as soon as he started with “Unfortunately…”

They found that she had some “soft markers” for Down syndrome, such as shortened long bones and fluid in a certain part of her brain. I still wasn’t clear on the odds; I thought she had perhaps a 1 in 300 chance of having Ds, but Dr. X said it was more like 1 in 4. That was when I knew our life would be different. She might not even survive to birth, and if she did, my husband and I would join the alien group of “parents of children with disabilities.” The doctor gave me a long list of negative health conditions involved with Down syndrome and emphasized that carrying a baby with Ds increased my risk of miscarriage. He emphasized it shouldn’t be hard for me to get immediately pregnant after an abortion if I wanted to “try again for a normal baby.”

I hate uncertainty, so I asked about getting an amnio to find out for sure. Dr. X said there were three reasons people had amnios: if they (1) were considering terminating (I shook my head and said “We’re not going to do that”), (2) would be too stressed out by the uncertainty (“Yup, that’s me”), or (3) would change medical and birth plans based on the information, for example switching hospitals or doctors (“Yup, me again.”). He discussed the risks, including the risk of miscarriage, but also said he had never had a patient miscarry because of an amnio, and he had done thousands of them. I said “Well, this is still my first.” Still he said he could do it during that same visit, so I began filling out the paperwork. He emphasized that if I did decide to terminate, we’d need to find out quickly because I was nearing the cutoff date. I told him flatly that there was no way we were going to kill our child. He performed the amnio and said they had to mail the sample to the lab and we should have the results in about a week.

I rushed from the building to my car and burst into sobs. I felt as if everything comfortable and sure in my life was gone. My joy in carrying my baby was now replaced with stress and worry. I was angry at myself for needing the reassurance of the amnio, but I also had the grieving thought “Well maybe if she does have Ds and I miscarry, that would be sad but okay,” followed by the question “What if she doesn’t have Ds and I cause her to miscarry because I wanted to know for sure?” I was sickened and ashamed that I would even think that way, as if somehow her life was worth more if she had the typical number of chromosomes and less if she had one extra.

Eventually I was able to stop crying long enough to call Darrin, but when he answered I couldn’t even speak. I burst into tears again. He said “Oh wow. It didn’t go well.” I gulped “I think she has it. I did the amnio.” He said “She? It’s a girl?” I only then realized the doctor had referred to our baby as “her” when we hadn’t yet known the gender. I had been too preoccupied with thoughts of how our life was going to change in so many unknown ways. I asked Darrin “What are we going to do?” and he calmly answered, “Well, we’re going to love our daughter.” And suddenly I didn’t feel so alone in our new reality.

I collected myself and drove to a friend’s house. I told her about the testing and the amnio and she said “I trust a mom’s intuition about these things. Do you think she has it?” I admitted that I thought so. Somehow, admitting it to someone other than my husband gave me peace. She hugged me. We moved on to conversation about childhood memories and had a wonderful visit. Being able to mix conversations about my disabled child with “every day” topics was just what I needed—it was the beginning of adjusting to my new normal.

Over the next few days, Darrin and I researched Down syndrome as we prepared for how our lives might change. We picked out her name and kept our new secret from the world. Two days after the amnio, Dr. X called with the results. He again began the conversation with “unfortunately,” but actually finding out for sure that our daughter had Down syndrome made me smile. Now we had information and could move forward. Dr. X reiterated that if we wanted to terminate, we had to get scheduled quickly. I told him to stop mentioning abortion because we weren’t going to kill our child, and he responded that he just wanted to make sure that we knew all of our options.

My next perinatologist appointment was for a fetal echocardiogram to see if our daughter was in the 50% of children with Ds who need heart surgery. I was excited again, though with more caution. The technician did her work, but this time when the perinatologist entered, it was a different man (I will call him Dr. Y). As soon as Dr. Y walked in he congratulated me on my daughter. His response was a beautiful reminder that I was carrying a little person and not just a list of medical problems. He said that he had a sister with Ds and that raising a child with Ds would be more similar than different from raising our other children. He made sure we had a good support system and plenty of resources, and he invited us to an upcoming Walk for Ds fundraiser.

Dr. Y showed me the same list of medical issues that Dr. X had emphasized, but this time Dr. Y also pointed out that people with Ds don’t end up with all of these issues; some have just a few and some have more. He suggested we try not to focus on the negatives, pointing out that even ‘typical’ children have medical issues and parents just deal with them as they come up. He said those challenges do not define the child, and each person with Ds is an individual with his or her own talents, skills, and interests. Dr. Y’s support and encouragement made all the difference. He made us feel as if we had been accepted into an elite group: the group of people who know and love someone with Down syndrome.

We told our immediate family of Kaylen’s diagnosis but waited a bit to make a public announcement. Some family members prayed that Kaylen would be healed of her bonus chromosome before she was born. I believe that they were trying to be supportive and helpful, and that there response came from lack of experience with Ds and a desire to spare us from extra challenges that her diagnosis would bring. We told them we were okay with her having Ds, and asked them to change their prayers.

The rest of the pregnancy involved some poignant and pointed moments mixed in with everyday life. An online friend who had recently had a daughter with Ds signed me up for a statewide Ds group that sent a large box of information, resources, and books. I dug through it feeling thankful for all the resources, and then happy cried when I found an adorable little pink dress at the bottom. It was nice to have others acknowledge the ‘sweet little baby girl’ part of the pregnancy. At one point I sat in the doctor’s waiting room while another pregnant mama loudly spoke on the phone, telling someone how hugely relieved she was to have “passed” the test and learned her baby didn’t have Down syndrome. From time to time people would ask if we were going to find out the gender or didn’t have a preference “as long as it’s healthy.” How do I answer when I know most people wouldn’t consider my baby “healthy”?

It took us some time to decide how to announce Kaylen’s diagnosis—we didn’t want it to be her defining characteristic but also didn’t want to suggest we were hiding or ashamed of it. We announced on social media that our daughter would be born with an extra chromosome. There were a few “I’m so sorry” comments but overall the support and congratulations were encouraging.

I found a lot of support. I learned of old friends who also had children with disabilities, and our pediatrician connected me with two local moms of children with Ds. We also joined statewide and national Ds groups to hear perspectives from people with experience. And through online parent support groups, I connected with new friends from around the world who were in the same situation I was. To my surprise, the majority of comments in these groups were celebrating successes and offering support and encouragement. Most of these moms considered themselves part of “the lucky few,” and the most frequent challenge seemed to be trying to get society to value people with differences, especially those with visible cognitive disabilities.

My pregnancy continued with increased monitoring. We switched to a hospital that had an OB/GYN who specialized in high-risk pregnancies and a NICU so we wouldn’t be separated if Kaylen needed extra help after she was born. The OB/GYN was scheduled for vacation on Kaylen’s due date, so we scheduled an induction the day before. The drive to the hospital felt like a sweet farewell to our life’s familiarity and a journey into the unknown, but it wasn’t so scary as long as we were together.

I had read that babies with Ds sometimes have trouble nursing, so I chose not to have an epidural which might make her more sleepy and less likely to latch. I was induced and Kaylen was born 3 hours later. While they were cleaning her up and giving her oxygen, the nurses sang her “Happy Birthday” and my heart nearly burst with joy.

The next few years were more ‘typical’ than we originally expected. There were more medical appointments that first year, but we took each one as they came and learned as we went. One difference between raising Kaylen versus our other children was how we celebrated more of the little things. Milestones and accomplishments were HUGE because of all the step-by-step work it took to reach them. We also felt more relaxed and free to not keep up with anyone else. Of course, there were and still are some twinges of grief when we see a gap between where her peers’ development and her own. We try to embrace the idea that “comparison is the thief of joy,” but there are still moments of grief over the loss of the way that we thought life would be and over moments when people see her only for her disability, instead of getting to know her as a unique person.

Lilly
Still, overall the gap between Dr. X’s grim outlook and our joyful experiences inspired us to support other people in our situation. We decided to get our foster care license specifically to accept children with Ds. We were told it was highly unlikely a child with Ds would come into our foster care region, so we also got a private adoption home study and we registered with NDSAN (National Down Syndrome Adoption Network). NDSAN counsels families who receive a prenatal Ds diagnosis; it also matches families who want to adopt a child with Ds to such children available for adoption. NDSAN’s goal is to ensure every child born with Down syndrome has the opportunity to grow up in a loving family. We waded through paperwork and training and then waited… and waited. After about a year we began considering looking for another way to help, but then the phone rang and NSDAN appeared on our caller ID.

I felt like I had stopped breathing. I answered, and the voice on the other end said, “It’s a girl!” We had been matched with a baby girl to be born the following month in a neighboring state. We waited in nervous anticipation until we got the call asking if we could pick up our daughter.

When Lilly was placed in my arms, I wasn’t prepared for my reaction. I felt the same amazing love for her that I felt at the birth of our biological children, but I simultaneously felt heartbreak and overwhelming loss for Lilly’s birth mom. She chose a family she felt could better navigate caring for a child with Down syndrome; the magnitude of her love for her child still brings me to tears. We have since learned that adoption is not simply placing a child with parents, but actually melding two families. We feel as though we also adopted Lilly’s first parents. They love her fiercely, and we keep connected through email and social media.

I wholeheartedly believe our family is better and stronger for having children with disabilities. Most days are just a beautiful normal, and I feel as if I’ve stepped out of the ‘rat race’ onto a more peaceful, leisurely path that is filled with all kinds of beauty. It’s as if I never realized I was colorblind until I put on glasses that showed me color. Also my priorities have changed. Conflict was always uncomfortable for me, but having children with disabilities has brought my ‘Mama Bear’ much closer to the surface; I’m now quite comfortable standing up and advocating for my children. Growing up, I had never been around many people with disabilities, so I didn’t know how to act or what to say, but I am learning.

Parenting Kaylen and Lilly has mostly been like raising our other children. Lilly loves books, playing outside, dancing and singing, and playing with friends. Kaylen is now fully included in her 3rd grade classroom. She thinks Lilly is annoying when she makes loud noises and likes it when her older siblings play games with her. There is a stereotype that people with Ds are happy all the time, but the reality is that they experience a full range of emotions, like all of us. Kaylen and Lilly do seem a bit more honest and without pretense.

Parenting our ‘typical’ children alongside Kaylen and Lilly has had good effects too. I believe they are more likely to include people of all kinds because of their siblings. In fact researchers Richard Urbano and Robert Hodapp found that parents of children with Ds are more likely to stay together and medical geneticist Dr. Brian Skotko found that siblings find rich value in having a family member with Ds and nearly 99% of people with Down syndrome are happy with their lives. All of this data beg the question: why does society (and the medical community) encourage abortion in cases like Kaylen’s and Lilly’s?

Follow-up questions:
What are your thoughts on prenatal testing for Down syndrome?
There’s no one right answer. For me, prenatal testing was a tool to help me prepare and reduce the stress of the unknown. For a good friend of mine, the test results weren’t going to change anything for her, so she declined and got her daughter’s diagnosis at birth. I’m glad to note that prenatal testing is improving. Right after Kaylen was born, researchers developed a less-invasive blood test with very high accuracy and no risk of miscarriage. I don’t think prenatal testing is inherently a problem; the issue is how society uses the test results and doesn’t protect and value life.

What would you say to a parent who just received a Down syndrome diagnosis?
When I got our diagnosis, I immediately felt unqualified and feared I would be a bad parent. That’s not an unusual response. Find support teams—both online and in-person, if possible—to ask questions, vent to, and celebrate with. Know you don’t have to be a super-advocate. Your life can just continue on in the regular, everyday way it does now. There are days when we don’t even think about Down syndrome. You’ll learn to parent as you go, just like parents do with any other child. 

What would you say to someone who would be inclined to abort in the event of a prenatal Ds diagnosis?
I would want to invite them over for coffee and to meet our girls. I would encourage them to first learn about Ds and make sure they don’t have an ill-fitting stereotype in mind (as most people do). And then if they still believe that they’re not ready to parent a child with Ds, I would steer them towards NDSAN and encourage them to find a family for their baby.

Additionally, medical professionals need updated information on Ds and training on how to provide a diagnosis. It would be great if the person giving the diagnosis also had some awareness of what life as a person with Ds is actually like. I believe if expectant moms were given updated, encouraging information instead of doom and gloom, it would make a huge difference.

[Today’s guest article is by Kim C. If you would like to contribute a guest post, email your submission to info@secularprolife.org for consideration.]

Annie’s story: unintended pregnancy threatened her athletic scholarship — and her pro-choice views

[Today’s guest post is by Annie Gasway, who converted from being pro-choice to pro-life because of her experiences with unintended pregnancy.]

In January 2000, I was 21. I was on a half-ride athletic scholarship (track and cross country) at a Division I university. I was not only Team Captain but also the number one runner. I had everything going for me (and therefore everything to lose). I knew that, so I took precautions to avoid unwanted pregnancy.

But during indoor track season I could run a mile in just above 5 minutes, which was my time for mile repeats just a few months prior. It didn’t make sense. My coach sent me to get tested for anemia, which is how I learned I wasn’t anemic, but I was pregnant. 10 weeks pregnant.

At this point in my life, I was vocally pro-choice. I had friends and rivals who had procured abortions so their athletic careers weren’t hindered by surprise pregnancies. Now it was my turn to consider my options. Instead of returning to my (then) fiancé’s apartment, I drove to a park, sat in my car, and cried. Now that I had to face abortion head on, I couldn’t continue my comfortable lie that a fetus was just a “clump of cells.” I knew there was a tiny human growing within me. Abortion would mean ending my child’s life. I knew this as an objective, undeniable, scientific fact. Another scientific fact: I could not remain competitive at the Division I level much longer. I was in the middle of a moral dilemma, and it quickly dawned on me that I may not really have much of a choice at all.

My Division I coach had full power over my future. He could pull my scholarship at any time for any reason. [Editor’s note: Title IX specifically prohibits discrimination against pregnant athletes. When we asked Annie about this factor, she explained that their required student athlete course did not mention that information, and she wasn’t aware of that protection at the time she was pregnant.] I knew most coaches pulled scholarships for any “injury” that would take an athlete out of competition for an entire season. Even though the athlete could “redshirt” (sit out) and get the season back later, coaches usually had walk-ons who were talented enough to score points now. Coaches could free up money to give to a “healthy” athlete. As I weighed my options I realized that my rivals who had abortions may not have wanted them. I knew I couldn’t finish my degree without my scholarship. I figured without a degree I didn’t have much of a future. If my friends and rivals’ situations were like mine, and if their coaches threatened to take their scholarships if they chose to stay pregnant, they didn’t have the luxury of choice—the choice was made for them by men with power over their lives. This thought terrified me.

I went back to my fiancé’s apartment and told him. He was also on an athletic scholarship for track. I begged him to go with me to tell our coach; even he was terrified to reveal our pregnancy, but I had to find out if I could keep my baby and my scholarship. I wasn’t going to kill another human on an assumption that I might lose a scholarship.

Turns out I was lucky. My coach didn’t give me an ultimatum; I redshirted my outdoor season, came back the following year, and provisionally qualified for NCAA Nationals in steeplechase [3.000 meter race], my very first race back. I got to keep my scholarship, earn my degree, and have my baby.

Cooper and Annie

This experience made me pro-life. I realized that abortion is weaponized against women. Those in authority—those with the purse strings—can treat pregnancy as an illness and abortion as its cure. I realized women with wanted pregnancies may be manipulated into ending them, and as long as abortion is available “on demand” it will be used to control and manipulate women.

This problem trickles into accommodating difficult pregnancies as well. During my second pregnancy I required strict bedrest. I was teaching full-time, and when I asked my principal for paid leave, he said, “We consider what you are asking for to be ‘maternity leave,’ which we deem a personal choice, and so we do not compensate for it. Now, if you had cancer or something and required extended leave you could take it from the leave pool.” He knew I had just been released from the hospital with a prescription for strict bedrest, but since staying pregnant was my “personal choice” my employer saw no obligation to support me. At that point I was the primary breadwinner for our family because my husband was finishing his degree. We ended up going deeply into debt to pay our bills so we could have our second child. “My body my choice” isn’t true. Even if there is a choice, it is often not made by the woman.

There is a manufactured choice between poverty and motherhood, and abortion on demand makes it so, enabling society to treat pregnancy as a chosen “disease.” Women often aren’t making the choice they want to make. They are making a “Sophie’s choice” based on circumstance forced on them by those who have power over their destiny. It’s pretty easy to put a woman in that position when the people pushing it aren’t the ones who pay the price for it (and in fact will benefit from it). If women lack support for their pregnancies, the solution should be to create that support, not push them to end their pregnancies. I am pro-life because I am pro-woman.

Annie’s story: unintended pregnancy threatened her athletic scholarship — and her pro-choice views

[Today’s guest post is by Annie Gasway, who converted from being pro-choice to pro-life because of her experiences with unintended pregnancy.]

In January 2000, I was 21. I was on a half-ride athletic scholarship (track and cross country) at a Division I university. I was not only Team Captain but also the number one runner. I had everything going for me (and therefore everything to lose). I knew that, so I took precautions to avoid unwanted pregnancy.

But during indoor track season I could run a mile in just above 5 minutes, which was my time for mile repeats just a few months prior. It didn’t make sense. My coach sent me to get tested for anemia, which is how I learned I wasn’t anemic, but I was pregnant. 10 weeks pregnant.

At this point in my life, I was vocally pro-choice. I had friends and rivals who had procured abortions so their athletic careers weren’t hindered by surprise pregnancies. Now it was my turn to consider my options. Instead of returning to my (then) fiancé’s apartment, I drove to a park, sat in my car, and cried. Now that I had to face abortion head on, I couldn’t continue my comfortable lie that a fetus was just a “clump of cells.” I knew there was a tiny human growing within me. Abortion would mean ending my child’s life. I knew this as an objective, undeniable, scientific fact. Another scientific fact: I could not remain competitive at the Division I level much longer. I was in the middle of a moral dilemma, and it quickly dawned on me that I may not really have much of a choice at all.

My Division I coach had full power over my future. He could pull my scholarship at any time for any reason. [Editor’s note: Title IX specifically prohibits discrimination against pregnant athletes. When we asked Annie about this factor, she explained that their required student athlete course did not mention that information, and she wasn’t aware of that protection at the time she was pregnant.] I knew most coaches pulled scholarships for any “injury” that would take an athlete out of competition for an entire season. Even though the athlete could “redshirt” (sit out) and get the season back later, coaches usually had walk-ons who were talented enough to score points now. Coaches could free up money to give to a “healthy” athlete. As I weighed my options I realized that my rivals who had abortions may not have wanted them. I knew I couldn’t finish my degree without my scholarship. I figured without a degree I didn’t have much of a future. If my friends and rivals’ situations were like mine, and if their coaches threatened to take their scholarships if they chose to stay pregnant, they didn’t have the luxury of choice—the choice was made for them by men with power over their lives. This thought terrified me.

I went back to my fiancé’s apartment and told him. He was also on an athletic scholarship for track. I begged him to go with me to tell our coach; even he was terrified to reveal our pregnancy, but I had to find out if I could keep my baby and my scholarship. I wasn’t going to kill another human on an assumption that I might lose a scholarship.

Turns out I was lucky. My coach didn’t give me an ultimatum; I redshirted my outdoor season, came back the following year, and provisionally qualified for NCAA Nationals in steeplechase [3.000 meter race], my very first race back. I got to keep my scholarship, earn my degree, and have my baby.

Cooper and Annie

This experience made me pro-life. I realized that abortion is weaponized against women. Those in authority—those with the purse strings—can treat pregnancy as an illness and abortion as its cure. I realized women with wanted pregnancies may be manipulated into ending them, and as long as abortion is available “on demand” it will be used to control and manipulate women.

This problem trickles into accommodating difficult pregnancies as well. During my second pregnancy I required strict bedrest. I was teaching full-time, and when I asked my principal for paid leave, he said, “We consider what you are asking for to be ‘maternity leave,’ which we deem a personal choice, and so we do not compensate for it. Now, if you had cancer or something and required extended leave you could take it from the leave pool.” He knew I had just been released from the hospital with a prescription for strict bedrest, but since staying pregnant was my “personal choice” my employer saw no obligation to support me. At that point I was the primary breadwinner for our family because my husband was finishing his degree. We ended up going deeply into debt to pay our bills so we could have our second child. “My body my choice” isn’t true. Even if there is a choice, it is often not made by the woman.

There is a manufactured choice between poverty and motherhood, and abortion on demand makes it so, enabling society to treat pregnancy as a chosen “disease.” Women often aren’t making the choice they want to make. They are making a “Sophie’s choice” based on circumstance forced on them by those who have power over their destiny. It’s pretty easy to put a woman in that position when the people pushing it aren’t the ones who pay the price for it (and in fact will benefit from it). If women lack support for their pregnancies, the solution should be to create that support, not push them to end their pregnancies. I am pro-life because I am pro-woman.

Interview: How Gabriela became a sidewalk counselor outside the clinic where she had her abortion

I met Gabriela recently through Secular Pro-Life. I asked her if she had always been pro-life, and when she said no, I asked her what brought her to our side. Her story moved me, and she gave me permission to share it through an interview. – Monica


How long were you
pro-choice? What were the main reasons you were pro-choice? 
I was pro-choice for
as long as I can remember. It’s funny: I don’t remember the exact moment I
first heard the word “abortion” or learned what it was; I just
remember always supporting it. Even though I grew up Catholic and went to a
Catholic high school, I don’t remember it ever really being mentioned. But
honestly I was pro-choice mainly because I never wanted children. And it just
seemed logical to me that if you don’t want kids, you would support abortion.
It didn’t make sense to be pregnant for nine months only to give the kid to
someone else.
Tell me about your
abortion. What led you to that decision? 
The part that gets
me most about my abortion is that I had an IUD (intrauterine device), so none
of this was supposed to happen. I had a Paragard (copper) IUD, which is
supposedly 99.7% effective, and yet approximately six months after the IUD was
inserted, I got pregnant. My ultrasound appointment showed that the IUD was
exactly where it was supposed to be—it didn’t fall out or embed in the uterus;
it just didn’t work. I decided to have an abortion out of pure panic: I was terrified. I had intended to prevent pregnancy, and I wasn’t planning on
this, so an abortion just seemed like the logical choice.
How did you feel
about it after? 
The moment after my
abortion, I felt relief. The day after, I felt a despair and hopelessness and
horror at what I had done unlike anything I had ever experienced in my life.
It’s still hard to talk about.
What did you do to
try to get support and heal? 
In order to try and
heal, I named my child. I also participated in a retreat with Rachel’s Vineyard, a Catholic
post-abortion recovery group that I found through my church bulletin. I tried therapy for a couple sessions, and then I joined a local sidewalk advocate group, which I found out about through a nearby crisis pregnancy center. After that, I was able to get a copy of my ultrasound picture, which I framed.
All of these methods
helped in some way, and I basically did them one after the other. Naming my child
and framing his ultrasound picture were important because those gestures acknowledged his humanity.
Though it was too early to determine the gender of my unborn child, I just
knew he was a boy. The retreat helped because it made me realize I wasn’t
alone, and it provided the participants
 little mementos to honor our unborn children. Therapy kind of
helped,
 but I needed something more. 

Being a sidewalk advocate really helped because I could actually do something
useful, rather than just wallow in regret. 
Sidewalk advocacy has helped me process my abortion by providing me an opportunity to use my story for good. I wish, more than anything, that someone had been on the sidewalk when I went to get my abortion. I now want to be that person for others, and hopefully prevent other women and unborn babies from going through what I and my unborn child went through. A couple of months after I started, a young woman told me that years ago she was about about to get an abortion but someone was on the sidewalk so she changed her mind. Her baby is now 3 years old.

Did you know the
sidewalk counselors before you started working alongside them? 
Before I joined the group, I didn’t know anything about them, but I wanted to
join a group that I knew valued unborn children and shared my newfound pro-life
beliefs.
Did you tell them
your story? If so, what were their reactions? 
I have told them and they are very supportive of me. They
think it can really change people’s hearts to hear about my regret,
particularly because I am now an advocate outside the abortion facility where I
received my abortion.
Are you close to
people who are pro-choice (friends, family, etc.)? What are those relationships
like? 
I am close with
people who are pro-choice, and the relationships are fine because we just don’t
talk about my abortion. Only a few people know, and they responded without
judgment. But overall I just don’t really
talk about it much with those I know.

If you could say anything to yourself years ago, what advice would you give? If I could say something to my younger self, I’m telling you she would not have listened! In all seriousness, I think the best way to change a pro-choicer’s mindset is to ask some simple questions: If a pregnant woman is murdered, should the perpetrator be charged with one murder or two, and why? If you’re in a burning building and have to choose between saving a pregnant woman or saving a woman who isn’t pregnant,  who would you save and why? If it’s the woman’s choice, is it okay for a woman to use abortion as birth control? If not, what’s not okay about it? These pointed questions might have made me question my pro-choice stance a lot earlier, which in turn could have saved my child’s life.

Interview: How Gabriela became a sidewalk counselor outside the clinic where she had her abortion

I met Gabriela recently through Secular Pro-Life. I asked her if she had always been pro-life, and when she said no, I asked her what brought her to our side. Her story moved me, and she gave me permission to share it through an interview. – Monica


How long were you
pro-choice? What were the main reasons you were pro-choice? 
I was pro-choice for
as long as I can remember. It’s funny: I don’t remember the exact moment I
first heard the word “abortion” or learned what it was; I just
remember always supporting it. Even though I grew up Catholic and went to a
Catholic high school, I don’t remember it ever really being mentioned. But
honestly I was pro-choice mainly because I never wanted children. And it just
seemed logical to me that if you don’t want kids, you would support abortion.
It didn’t make sense to be pregnant for nine months only to give the kid to
someone else.
Tell me about your
abortion. What led you to that decision? 
The part that gets
me most about my abortion is that I had an IUD (intrauterine device), so none
of this was supposed to happen. I had a Paragard (copper) IUD, which is
supposedly 99.7% effective, and yet approximately six months after the IUD was
inserted, I got pregnant. My ultrasound appointment showed that the IUD was
exactly where it was supposed to be—it didn’t fall out or embed in the uterus;
it just didn’t work. I decided to have an abortion out of pure panic: I was terrified. I had intended to prevent pregnancy, and I wasn’t planning on
this, so an abortion just seemed like the logical choice.
How did you feel
about it after? 
The moment after my
abortion, I felt relief. The day after, I felt a despair and hopelessness and
horror at what I had done unlike anything I had ever experienced in my life.
It’s still hard to talk about.
What did you do to
try to get support and heal? 
In order to try and
heal, I named my child. I also participated in a retreat with Rachel’s Vineyard, a Catholic
post-abortion recovery group that I found through my church bulletin. I tried therapy for a couple sessions, and then I joined a local sidewalk advocate group, which I found out about through a nearby crisis pregnancy center. After that, I was able to get a copy of my ultrasound picture, which I framed.
All of these methods
helped in some way, and I basically did them one after the other. Naming my child
and framing his ultrasound picture were important because those gestures acknowledged his humanity.
Though it was too early to determine the gender of my unborn child, I just
knew he was a boy. The retreat helped because it made me realize I wasn’t
alone, and it provided the participants
 little mementos to honor our unborn children. Therapy kind of
helped,
 but I needed something more. 

Being a sidewalk advocate really helped because I could actually do something
useful, rather than just wallow in regret. 
Sidewalk advocacy has helped me process my abortion by providing me an opportunity to use my story for good. I wish, more than anything, that someone had been on the sidewalk when I went to get my abortion. I now want to be that person for others, and hopefully prevent other women and unborn babies from going through what I and my unborn child went through. A couple of months after I started, a young woman told me that years ago she was about about to get an abortion but someone was on the sidewalk so she changed her mind. Her baby is now 3 years old.

Did you know the
sidewalk counselors before you started working alongside them? 
Before I joined the group, I didn’t know anything about them, but I wanted to
join a group that I knew valued unborn children and shared my newfound pro-life
beliefs.
Did you tell them
your story? If so, what were their reactions? 
I have told them and they are very supportive of me. They
think it can really change people’s hearts to hear about my regret,
particularly because I am now an advocate outside the abortion facility where I
received my abortion.
Are you close to
people who are pro-choice (friends, family, etc.)? What are those relationships
like? 
I am close with
people who are pro-choice, and the relationships are fine because we just don’t
talk about my abortion. Only a few people know, and they responded without
judgment. But overall I just don’t really
talk about it much with those I know.

If you could say anything to yourself years ago, what advice would you give? If I could say something to my younger self, I’m telling you she would not have listened! In all seriousness, I think the best way to change a pro-choicer’s mindset is to ask some simple questions: If a pregnant woman is murdered, should the perpetrator be charged with one murder or two, and why? If you’re in a burning building and have to choose between saving a pregnant woman or saving a woman who isn’t pregnant,  who would you save and why? If it’s the woman’s choice, is it okay for a woman to use abortion as birth control? If not, what’s not okay about it? These pointed questions might have made me question my pro-choice stance a lot earlier, which in turn could have saved my child’s life.

Life: A Difficult Choice, but Still the Right Choice

I still remember the day I was sitting on the toilet in the bathroom watching the second blue line on my pregnancy test appear. My heart started racing and the room darkened as if I was about to pass out.

My daughter is the most beautiful person I have ever met. She was unplanned.

I have always had deeply held pro-life beliefs. Abortion never entered my mind as an option. But when I looked at my positive test—I knew the fear of unplanned pregnancy firsthand.

I was scared. Being pregnant was more than a little inconvenient. I was in the middle of law school. I was not married. I also came from a Christian upbringing that valued the notion of no sex before marriage. Worse yet I was a hypocrite who publicly embraced the ideology.

I knew people were going to judge me. I didn’t know if I would be able to finish law school. I didn’t know how my boyfriend (now husband) would react when I told him. How were we going to afford it? We were both living off of student loans and our living arrangement would not allow for a baby.

There were so many uncertainties and fears. I could see how a woman’s mind would wander to abortion. But even with that fear, I had no right nor desire to end my little girl’s life.

I’m sure many who read this will say, “Well that’s your choice. Not everyone has to do the same.”

“Choice.” That word we put up on a high pedestal and worship. We are America after all, land of the free. When it comes down to it though—some choices are inherently wrong. If I were to choose to end my child’s life in order to hide my hypocrisy, to ensure I could continue on my career path, so I wouldn’t suffer financial hardship; I would be committing a serious injustice and assault on another human’s life.

Yes, I know some of you will go on to say it’s not unjust or that she wasn’t alive yet. We as humans are capable of all sorts of mental gymnastics to justify our actions. I had no right to trade in my little girl’s life for the sake of convenience.

Sometimes life is hard. Sometimes there aren’t any easy options and the path ahead is too narrow for comfort. You just need to be strong and make the most of your situation and you may find out it’s better than the dream you envisioned for yourself.

Some may be thinking, “Well you didn’t have it as hard as many other women.” Indeed, I am fortunate to have a strong man by my side and we had loving people who helped us through a challenging start to our little girl’s life. But that’s not the point.

You don’t need to be in the worst situation possible (or even be a woman) to speak up and say abortion should not be a choice. You just need to know that the sacrifice of time and comfort a woman gives for her child is much less than the loss her child faces if she chooses abortion.

Women don’t need abortions. We need acceptance, love, encouragement…we need resources to allow our children to thrive while we still persevere at our personal goals. I was fortunate to find all these things on my journey. I am now a wife, a mom, and an attorney. Nothing brings me as much joy as being a mom.

[Today’s guest post by Kristin Harvieux is part of our paid blogging program.]

Life: A Difficult Choice, but Still the Right Choice

I still remember the day I was sitting on the toilet in the bathroom watching the second blue line on my pregnancy test appear. My heart started racing and the room darkened as if I was about to pass out.

My daughter is the most beautiful person I have ever met. She was unplanned.

I have always had deeply held pro-life beliefs. Abortion never entered my mind as an option. But when I looked at my positive test—I knew the fear of unplanned pregnancy firsthand.

I was scared. Being pregnant was more than a little inconvenient. I was in the middle of law school. I was not married. I also came from a Christian upbringing that valued the notion of no sex before marriage. Worse yet I was a hypocrite who publicly embraced the ideology.

I knew people were going to judge me. I didn’t know if I would be able to finish law school. I didn’t know how my boyfriend (now husband) would react when I told him. How were we going to afford it? We were both living off of student loans and our living arrangement would not allow for a baby.

There were so many uncertainties and fears. I could see how a woman’s mind would wander to abortion. But even with that fear, I had no right nor desire to end my little girl’s life.

I’m sure many who read this will say, “Well that’s your choice. Not everyone has to do the same.”

“Choice.” That word we put up on a high pedestal and worship. We are America after all, land of the free. When it comes down to it though—some choices are inherently wrong. If I were to choose to end my child’s life in order to hide my hypocrisy, to ensure I could continue on my career path, so I wouldn’t suffer financial hardship; I would be committing a serious injustice and assault on another human’s life.

Yes, I know some of you will go on to say it’s not unjust or that she wasn’t alive yet. We as humans are capable of all sorts of mental gymnastics to justify our actions. I had no right to trade in my little girl’s life for the sake of convenience.

Sometimes life is hard. Sometimes there aren’t any easy options and the path ahead is too narrow for comfort. You just need to be strong and make the most of your situation and you may find out it’s better than the dream you envisioned for yourself.

Some may be thinking, “Well you didn’t have it as hard as many other women.” Indeed, I am fortunate to have a strong man by my side and we had loving people who helped us through a challenging start to our little girl’s life. But that’s not the point.

You don’t need to be in the worst situation possible (or even be a woman) to speak up and say abortion should not be a choice. You just need to know that the sacrifice of time and comfort a woman gives for her child is much less than the loss her child faces if she chooses abortion.

Women don’t need abortions. We need acceptance, love, encouragement…we need resources to allow our children to thrive while we still persevere at our personal goals. I was fortunate to find all these things on my journey. I am now a wife, a mom, and an attorney. Nothing brings me as much joy as being a mom.

[Today’s guest post by Kristin Harvieux is part of our paid blogging program.]

How #ShoutYourAbortion Changed My Mind

I was raised pro-life. My parents were so passionate about the cause, in fact, that when my four brothers and I got old enough to drive, any new car had to be fitted with a pro-life bumper sticker or it wasn’t allowed on their property. All through childhood, I never questioned this idea. It seemed self-evident that everyone should have the right to not be killed—most especially helpless babies. The notion that the tiniest and most helpless among us should prove the single exception seemed absurd.

In my late teens, though, I started doubting the faith I was raised with and subsequently, the value structures it carried—including the supposed implicit value of the unborn life. The pro-life stance, like many other views I’d inherited, was not as simple as I’d thought. Through experiences of my friends and also articles written about the plights of women across the globe, I learned to stop condemning women in desperate circumstances. They already had plenty of that. What these women needed was compassion. No one wanted an abortion, I realized. Some situations simply have no good solution. I decided that the way forward was through helping people make the decisions they deem best for themselves, not by foisting my own moral code onto their backs. For over ten years, even after having two kids of my own, there was absolutely no doubt in my mind: the pro-choice movement was on the right side of history.

Then #ShoutYourAbortion happened.

The internet flooded over with stories, not of downtrodden women facing impossible circumstances, but of regular women, just like me, killing the growing embryos/fetuses inside them because they just didn’t feel like being pregnant. At first, I assumed these stories were made up—that they were actually pro-life radicals masquerading as post-abortive women, to make the pro-choice camp appear to be fueled by vacuous narcissism rather than high-minded ideals.

I pored over story after story told by women in my own demographic who got pregnant, sometimes through birth control failure, sometimes because birth control had seemed too big a bother at the time. There were a few stories I would have expected to see: people in dire straits with no easy “right” solution. Far more common, though, were stories with the same punchline: abortion—for anyone and for any reason—is simply a part of women’s healthcare. Specific reasons were incidental. The incidental nature of reasons actually seemed to be the point.

According to the new narrative being shaped, the very notion that people should have to justify their choice was problematic because it suggested that the fetus, itself, mattered in some way. In fact, terms like fetus or embryo weren’t even used (probably because they suggest a being, however primitive, existing beyond the mother). Almost exclusively, the human embryo or fetus was referred to as simply “the pregnancy.” A very clever linguistic turn, especially if you believe, as I do, that our ability to think is restricted by the words we use.

It seemed the pro-choice movement had officially moved on from mantras like “safe, legal, and rare.” If abortion is a humane service (so went the new argument), why on earth should it be rare? My side—the side which recognized that sometimes the best solution available is the least-bad of a host of terrible ones—had abandoned all pretense of engaging with the harsh ambiguities of life. Now, abortion was just good. Full stop.

I’d thought #ShoutYourAbortion would alienate other pro-choice people, but no one else seemed fazed. I started to wonder whether the pro-choice side had actually moved at all. Maybe they just finally felt free to express their views openly. Maybe I was just one of a handful of naive people on the pro-choice side who’d actually believed the earlier, feel-good narrative. Maybe, for all my belief that I was on the side of compassion and justice, all I’d really been was the pawn of an ideology which left no room for conviction that our lives have any inherent value.

For the first time, I felt utterly unqualified to make any definitive claims on the subject of abortion. Yet I needed to. In some way that I couldn’t understand, I knew this specific culture clash was rooted in something bigger.

I had to start somewhere, and I figured looking at my local culture (I live in the United States) was as good a place as any. From its inception, this country was united by a novel concept based around the ideas of John Locke: that all of mankind was created equal—that everyone had the right to their own life and destiny—because among equals, no one can rightfully render the life or will of another subservient to their own. We were never united by any specific belief system, but the dogged belief that the individual transcends even belief systems.

It sounds pretty great, but of course, it was never actually put into practice. From the genocide of Native American populations (obvious to any non-frontiersman), to the manifest injustice of slavery (obvious to any non-slaveholder), and countless other stains on our national conscience, we keep falling into the same trap over and over again.

I’d thought that people just couldn’t allow themselves to see human rights violations when their own livelihoods depended upon those violations. But the problem was so much more insidious than that. I don’t think it’s actually that hard for most of us, when directly faced with own hypocrisy, to admit that what we’re doing is wrong. What we can’t confront is the structural injustices our own tribe depends upon.

This is the difference between taking a good hard look in the mirror, versus walking up to your neighbor, brother, sister, your closest of friends, holding up this mirror to them, and saying: “Look! This is what you really are. You, who’ve brought me soup and bread every time my family fell on hard times, were only in a position to share your wealth because you’re propped up by the labor of your slaves!” Or “Son! You think you’re out there, on the edge of the frontier, risking your life to protect your family from savages, but let me tell you the truth! Those are innocent people—people just like you and me—and they were here first! They’re just defending themselves and what it rightfully theirs! You, son, are no hero. You are the savage.” How could any parent say this? Especially if they had already lost another son, as many had, in the service of that same cause?

Here is the dark, seedy underbelly of the beautiful, loyal, deeply social nature of the human psyche. Before anything, even our most sacred beliefs, come those people we love. Condemning them goes against our very deepest intuitions. This is how injustice to the Other is propagated again and again and again. Because, while our most cherished doctrines teach us that all humans are people with inalienable rights, our hearts only bind us to some of them. Our love for some effectively blinds us to existential reality of others. And there are very good reasons for this. But when this trait is exploited and deployed on a societal scale, the effects are disastrous.

This is at the heart of liberal Americans’ support of abortion rights for women. How could we acknowledge that many of our close friends killed their own children in the name of convenience? Only a monster could kill their own child. And our friends have proven themselves to be good, kind people. People who have been there for us when we needed them. How could we ever acknowledge a truth which would render them monsters—when we know, on as deep a level as we know anything, that our friends are not monsters?

And so they did not kill their child, we say. And they do not ever wish to do such a thing. What they want is simply control over their own body. We shove our cognitive dissonance down, telling ourselves stories of how a pregnancy involves only the woman—that even if there is some other human involved, that it doesn’t count. We say that it’s okay because in their early stages, humans almost certainly can’t experience much—not even pain. Yet we’re simultaneously outraged over the idea that killing a human in any other circumstance could be justified if only it was painless. We tell ourselves that the embryo or fetus has nowhere near the developmental capacity which renders human beings special, furiously stamping down the realization that this argument equally justifies infanticide.

I find myself more and more convinced that this is not a religious issue, and that it never really was. No mainstream religion has ever solved the myriad conflicts of interest that arise from people pursuing conflicting goals, or people who want to use other people as mere tools for their own end, or people who don’t want to be shackled to the tiny human who (for at least a little while) can’t survive without them. I know that people see this as a religious issue. But why? Why should it be necessary to believe each of us possesses a soul in order to oppose abortion?

If anything, belief in the soul acts as consolation in the case of abortion. If there is no immortal soul, whenever someone’s life is stripped away, this loss is permanent. All the potential of a unique, singular human being gets snuffed out—not merely relegated to place beyond this world—but finally, utterly, destroyed. I can’t imagine any moral weight heavier than that. 

I think no one else in the pro-choice camp was bothered by the #ShoutYourAbortion movement because, subconsciously, they’d long ago realized the only sustainable way to support abortion on demand is to assume there’s no person being obliterated. No person, no loss. Just a woman and her uterus. Once people have taken that idea firmly onboard, of course, of course, this new movement couldn’t be seen as horrific.

What is required here is imagination. The ability to honestly face conflicts of interest for what they are. The ability to say to our friend who finds herself tied to a human of her own (possibly unwitting) creation, “I am here with you. You are strong enough to do this.” We do not need to feel love toward the unborn, or anyone else who is being “othered” in order to defend their right to not be killed. All we need is to recognize that, intrinsic to their being, is the potential to love and be loved—that no one, not even those we love most, has a monopoly on that.

We must figure out a way, as a society, for all of us to finally count as people. It’s a hell of a thing to ask of ourselves; anyone who thinks otherwise hasn’t thought enough. But I believe we’re capable of creating such a reality. I don’t know the precise path that will get us there. But I do know this: seeing ourselves as a potential force for good—and recognizing this potential also lives inside the youngest of us—will get us a hell of a lot farther than, say, shouting our abortions.



[Today’s guest post by Laura Elkins is part of our paid blogging program.]

How #ShoutYourAbortion Changed My Mind

I was raised pro-life. My parents were so passionate about the cause, in fact, that when my four brothers and I got old enough to drive, any new car had to be fitted with a pro-life bumper sticker or it wasn’t allowed on their property. All through childhood, I never questioned this idea. It seemed self-evident that everyone should have the right to not be killed—most especially helpless babies. The notion that the tiniest and most helpless among us should prove the single exception seemed absurd.

In my late teens, though, I started doubting the faith I was raised with and subsequently, the value structures it carried—including the supposed implicit value of the unborn life. The pro-life stance, like many other views I’d inherited, was not as simple as I’d thought. Through experiences of my friends and also articles written about the plights of women across the globe, I learned to stop condemning women in desperate circumstances. They already had plenty of that. What these women needed was compassion. No one wanted an abortion, I realized. Some situations simply have no good solution. I decided that the way forward was through helping people make the decisions they deem best for themselves, not by foisting my own moral code onto their backs. For over ten years, even after having two kids of my own, there was absolutely no doubt in my mind: the pro-choice movement was on the right side of history.

Then #ShoutYourAbortion happened.

The internet flooded over with stories, not of downtrodden women facing impossible circumstances, but of regular women, just like me, killing the growing embryos/fetuses inside them because they just didn’t feel like being pregnant. At first, I assumed these stories were made up—that they were actually pro-life radicals masquerading as post-abortive women, to make the pro-choice camp appear to be fueled by vacuous narcissism rather than high-minded ideals.

I pored over story after story told by women in my own demographic who got pregnant, sometimes through birth control failure, sometimes because birth control had seemed too big a bother at the time. There were a few stories I would have expected to see: people in dire straits with no easy “right” solution. Far more common, though, were stories with the same punchline: abortion—for anyone and for any reason—is simply a part of women’s healthcare. Specific reasons were incidental. The incidental nature of reasons actually seemed to be the point.

According to the new narrative being shaped, the very notion that people should have to justify their choice was problematic because it suggested that the fetus, itself, mattered in some way. In fact, terms like fetus or embryo weren’t even used (probably because they suggest a being, however primitive, existing beyond the mother). Almost exclusively, the human embryo or fetus was referred to as simply “the pregnancy.” A very clever linguistic turn, especially if you believe, as I do, that our ability to think is restricted by the words we use.

It seemed the pro-choice movement had officially moved on from mantras like “safe, legal, and rare.” If abortion is a humane service (so went the new argument), why on earth should it be rare? My side—the side which recognized that sometimes the best solution available is the least-bad of a host of terrible ones—had abandoned all pretense of engaging with the harsh ambiguities of life. Now, abortion was just good. Full stop.

I’d thought #ShoutYourAbortion would alienate other pro-choice people, but no one else seemed fazed. I started to wonder whether the pro-choice side had actually moved at all. Maybe they just finally felt free to express their views openly. Maybe I was just one of a handful of naive people on the pro-choice side who’d actually believed the earlier, feel-good narrative. Maybe, for all my belief that I was on the side of compassion and justice, all I’d really been was the pawn of an ideology which left no room for conviction that our lives have any inherent value.

For the first time, I felt utterly unqualified to make any definitive claims on the subject of abortion. Yet I needed to. In some way that I couldn’t understand, I knew this specific culture clash was rooted in something bigger.

I had to start somewhere, and I figured looking at my local culture (I live in the United States) was as good a place as any. From its inception, this country was united by a novel concept based around the ideas of John Locke: that all of mankind was created equal—that everyone had the right to their own life and destiny—because among equals, no one can rightfully render the life or will of another subservient to their own. We were never united by any specific belief system, but the dogged belief that the individual transcends even belief systems.

It sounds pretty great, but of course, it was never actually put into practice. From the genocide of Native American populations (obvious to any non-frontiersman), to the manifest injustice of slavery (obvious to any non-slaveholder), and countless other stains on our national conscience, we keep falling into the same trap over and over again.

I’d thought that people just couldn’t allow themselves to see human rights violations when their own livelihoods depended upon those violations. But the problem was so much more insidious than that. I don’t think it’s actually that hard for most of us, when directly faced with own hypocrisy, to admit that what we’re doing is wrong. What we can’t confront is the structural injustices our own tribe depends upon.

This is the difference between taking a good hard look in the mirror, versus walking up to your neighbor, brother, sister, your closest of friends, holding up this mirror to them, and saying: “Look! This is what you really are. You, who’ve brought me soup and bread every time my family fell on hard times, were only in a position to share your wealth because you’re propped up by the labor of your slaves!” Or “Son! You think you’re out there, on the edge of the frontier, risking your life to protect your family from savages, but let me tell you the truth! Those are innocent people—people just like you and me—and they were here first! They’re just defending themselves and what it rightfully theirs! You, son, are no hero. You are the savage.” How could any parent say this? Especially if they had already lost another son, as many had, in the service of that same cause?

Here is the dark, seedy underbelly of the beautiful, loyal, deeply social nature of the human psyche. Before anything, even our most sacred beliefs, come those people we love. Condemning them goes against our very deepest intuitions. This is how injustice to the Other is propagated again and again and again. Because, while our most cherished doctrines teach us that all humans are people with inalienable rights, our hearts only bind us to some of them. Our love for some effectively blinds us to existential reality of others. And there are very good reasons for this. But when this trait is exploited and deployed on a societal scale, the effects are disastrous.

This is at the heart of liberal Americans’ support of abortion rights for women. How could we acknowledge that many of our close friends killed their own children in the name of convenience? Only a monster could kill their own child. And our friends have proven themselves to be good, kind people. People who have been there for us when we needed them. How could we ever acknowledge a truth which would render them monsters—when we know, on as deep a level as we know anything, that our friends are not monsters?

And so they did not kill their child, we say. And they do not ever wish to do such a thing. What they want is simply control over their own body. We shove our cognitive dissonance down, telling ourselves stories of how a pregnancy involves only the woman—that even if there is some other human involved, that it doesn’t count. We say that it’s okay because in their early stages, humans almost certainly can’t experience much—not even pain. Yet we’re simultaneously outraged over the idea that killing a human in any other circumstance could be justified if only it was painless. We tell ourselves that the embryo or fetus has nowhere near the developmental capacity which renders human beings special, furiously stamping down the realization that this argument equally justifies infanticide.

I find myself more and more convinced that this is not a religious issue, and that it never really was. No mainstream religion has ever solved the myriad conflicts of interest that arise from people pursuing conflicting goals, or people who want to use other people as mere tools for their own end, or people who don’t want to be shackled to the tiny human who (for at least a little while) can’t survive without them. I know that people see this as a religious issue. But why? Why should it be necessary to believe each of us possesses a soul in order to oppose abortion?

If anything, belief in the soul acts as consolation in the case of abortion. If there is no immortal soul, whenever someone’s life is stripped away, this loss is permanent. All the potential of a unique, singular human being gets snuffed out—not merely relegated to place beyond this world—but finally, utterly, destroyed. I can’t imagine any moral weight heavier than that. 

I think no one else in the pro-choice camp was bothered by the #ShoutYourAbortion movement because, subconsciously, they’d long ago realized the only sustainable way to support abortion on demand is to assume there’s no person being obliterated. No person, no loss. Just a woman and her uterus. Once people have taken that idea firmly onboard, of course, of course, this new movement couldn’t be seen as horrific.

What is required here is imagination. The ability to honestly face conflicts of interest for what they are. The ability to say to our friend who finds herself tied to a human of her own (possibly unwitting) creation, “I am here with you. You are strong enough to do this.” We do not need to feel love toward the unborn, or anyone else who is being “othered” in order to defend their right to not be killed. All we need is to recognize that, intrinsic to their being, is the potential to love and be loved—that no one, not even those we love most, has a monopoly on that.

We must figure out a way, as a society, for all of us to finally count as people. It’s a hell of a thing to ask of ourselves; anyone who thinks otherwise hasn’t thought enough. But I believe we’re capable of creating such a reality. I don’t know the precise path that will get us there. But I do know this: seeing ourselves as a potential force for good—and recognizing this potential also lives inside the youngest of us—will get us a hell of a lot farther than, say, shouting our abortions.



[Today’s guest post by Laura Elkins is part of our paid blogging program.]

My visit to Planned Parenthood

It is universally acknowledged among pro-lifers that Planned Parenthood is an abortion corporation that should not be supported nor funded through taxpayer dollars. But how many pro-lifers can say that they have actually been to a Planned Parenthood, with the intention of having an abortion? Sadly, I have experienced this first hand, and by sharing my story today I hope that I can prove once and for all that Planned Parenthood is not about “women’s rights” or “healthcare,” it’s about profiting from ending lives prematurely.

It all began in November of 2017. I was in my junior year of college and had just discovered that I was pregnant. I was a resident advisor, taking 15 credit hours, and working a part-time job. I was preparing for graduation and applying to graduate school. A baby was honestly the last thing on my mind. “Just get an abortion,” my friends told me. “You don’t want this one mistake to derail your entire life.” Living in a pro-choice society led me to believe that my baby really was just a clump of cells. With no one encouraging me to continue with my pregnancy, I called Planned Parenthood to schedule my appointment, figuring that it was the best solution for my current situation.

I went into the clinic the following day, and was told to sit down and fill out some paperwork. The clinic itself was clean and brightly lit; encouraging plaques were on the wall that said, “I make my own destiny,” and “ This does not define you.” The emotion in the room, however, was something entirely different. Though I was accompanied to the clinic with my boyfriend, many women sat in that waiting room alone. I saw one girl who could not have been more than 15 years old, silently crying as she filled out paperwork. Her mother sat next to her, stony faced and staring straight ahead. I saw another woman with marks on her arms and neck, foundation poorly covering over what the man sitting next to her had clearly given her. Finally I saw two women who were sitting next to each other laughing as they filled out the paperwork. They were talking about getting manicures after their appointments and “making a day of it.” Though we each came from different walks of life, I couldn’t help but feel connected to each of these women, in the worst way possible.

My name was called after about an hour, and both my boyfriend and I stood up to walk inside. “No,” the nurse said, “he has to wait here, and you have to leave your cell phone and any other recording devices with him.” I couldn’t believe it. Here I was, about to go through a very traumatic experience, and not only was I forced to go through it alone, I couldn’t even have my cell phone with me to use as a distraction or to text my boyfriend. Just wanting the entire nightmarish experience over with, I silently handed my cell phone over to my boyfriend and followed the nurse into the back.

Once I was in the back I was told to sign paperwork stating that I had come there of my own free will and that no one was forcing me to have an abortion. I couldn’t help but think of the young girl and the woman in the waiting room who had clearly been abused by her boyfriend. It hadn’t seemed as if they were there of their own free will, and yet these nurses were doing nothing to help them. I dumbly signed my name on the dotted line and followed the nurse into the examination room.

In the room I was forced to get undressed and was only given a small paper sheet gown to cover myself with before the doctor came in. As I sat there shivering, I kept asking myself, “Am I really doing this? Is this what I really want?” The nurse didn’t ask me if I was okay; she simply sat there, filling out paperwork as we both waited for the doctor. Finally, a middle aged man came in the room and shut the door. “Excuse me,” I whispered. “But isn’t there a female doctor who can examine me?” “Listen lady,” the doctor snapped, “We are short staffed as it is, so if you want this procedure then you’re going to have to deal with me.” “Ok,” I said, “I’m sorry.” The doctor then gave me a transvaginal ultrasound and stated matter-of-factly, “This pregnancy is ectopic.” “What does that mean?” I asked. “It means the pregnancy is developing outside of the uterus,” he stated. “It’s most likely developing in the fallopian tube. Based on the date of your last missed period, you should be 6 weeks pregnant. However, there is no pregnancy showing up on the ultrasound, which leads me to believe the pregnancy is ectopic. We can do a test and schedule an abortion for next week.” And maybe it was the fact that the staff here seemed to have no soul and no sympathy towards me or the other girls, or maybe it was the fact that I was all alone back there. “I want to leave, now,” I said. “Alright,” the doctor said, unfazed, “but schedule your abortion with the receptionist before you leave. I’m a very busy man and only have a few open appointments next week.”

I left Planned Parenthood in tears that day. My boyfriend consoled me, and told me that he would support whatever I decided to do. The following week I went to an actual hospital, and received proper prenatal care. My beautiful baby girl showed up on the ultrasound screen that day, no bigger than a pea. She was not an ectopic pregnancy at all; she had simply been hiding from the evil abortion doctor that day. Nine months later I gave birth to beautiful and healthy Noelle. She is perfect and I am so thankful for every moment that I get to spend with her. Sharing this story is not easy, as I still feel guilty for ever even thinking that I could get an abortion. However, I had decided to share my story today so that others can finally know the truth. Planned Parenthood is not about women’s rights, or about reproductive rights. It only has one bottom line, to make a profit. And they make that profit by attempting to exploit young girls like me and by trying to perform as many abortions as possible. Say yes to life and no to the abortion corporation. Say no to Planned Parenthood.

[Today’s guest post by Annaliese Corace is part of our paid blogging program.]