Pro-choice on Amtrak: The time I told a group of anti-choice teenagers about my abortion

Michelle Kinsey BrunsEd. note: This is a guest post by feminist activist Michelle Kinsey Bruns, who tweets as @ClinicEscort. Read her full bio after the jump.

The recording on my iPhone begins with ten seconds of ambient mechanical noise: the sound of an Amtrak train crossing the Potomac River, as heard from an empty, rattling vestibule between two of its cars. Then comes the click-whoosh of a door opening to one of those cars, and the rising voices of excited teenagers, arranging their luggage and settling into the seats they have just claimed. Twenty-one seconds in, very close to the microphone, there is an audible swallow. At forty-four seconds, one voice rises over the chatter: “Excuse me, please…?”

That is my voice (and my swallow). The other voices are those of fifty-five Catholic high-school students from Louisiana and their chaperones beginning their trip home from the 2013 “March for Life” in Washington. I am standing in the middle of their reserved car. I am about to tell them that I had an abortion, and I am about to tell them why.

I was one of them once. A Catholic-school kid, that is—never a marcher against abortion rights. I’d made up my mind that I was pro-choice by middle school, around the time they were forcing us all to watch the then-new, now-debunked anti-choice propaganda film The Silent Scream. I could never get past the terrible trap that an unwanted pregnancy must seem to be to the person enduring it. I spent a lot of time, back then, thinking about imprisonment and escape.

By fifth grade, Sister Miriam’s response to my attempts to contribute to Religion or Current Events classes was, “You can put your hand down, Michelle. We know what you think.” In seventh grade, I withdrew from a school speech contest because they wouldn’t let me talk about the one thing I wanted to say: the necessity of safe, legal abortion. 

Still, while I never had the chance to attend the annual March for Life in DC as a student, I might’ve said yes if I had, even in my capacity as Student Most Likely To Burn In Hell. What kid would say no to the chance for adventure hundreds of miles away from the classroom and the same faces that populated it year after year?

So I can’t really blame the littering, adolescent hordes who descend on Washington every year for being there. I do roll my eyes when their numbers are used by the Catholic hierarchies as evidence of a vast groundswell against the scourge of abortion, when it’s more a groundswell against the miseries of diagramming sentences on a dull gray January day.

When I remember how much effort my parochial school put into stifling dissenting opinions like mine, I know the Catholic kids who swarm my city each winter aren’t as well-informed as some of them think. So most years, I’m there at their March for Uterine Conscription too, in front of the Supreme Court with friends and like-minded strangers, holding pro-choice signs and arguing with dozens of adolescents—puffed up on privilege and inadequate adult supervision—who believe they are experts on sexuality and fetal development and parenting and medical tragedy and rape and regret.

This year, I had business in New York. I left town the day before the march. I swallowed my weird guilt for not being in DC—like those naïve kids and their exploitative handlers were getting away with it if I wasn’t there telling them they were wrong—by telling myself I’d attend in 2014. As long as there are field-trip-loving Catholic-school kids, there will always be a March for Life.

I got my chance to counterprotest much sooner than I thought.

When I boarded the #19 Crescent Amtrak train, New York to New Orleans, the day after the march in DC, I noticed an entire car, the one between my car and the café car, was being left empty. According to the conductor, it was reserved for fifty-five students who would come on in DC. Other passengers speculated that the group was headed for the Super Bowl in New Orleans the next week, but I felt sure these were marchers. I would share the train with them for only a few minutes—between their boarding in Washington and my stop in Alexandria, right across the river. It would be just enough time to tell them that I, like 1 in 3 American women, had had an abortion, and to let them hear, for perhaps the first time in their lives, a positive, no-regrets, post-abortion narrative.

I put a call out on Facebook, asking if any friends could board in Washington with a Flip cam, for posterity and maybe for safety too. What if nuns came at me with rulers? Or maybe the kids would fall upon me and rend my flesh once they had heard my confession—Catholicism is pretty bloody. No one stepped forward to volunteer, but I decided that if the students were indeed marchers, I would do my speech anyway, alone.

At Washington Union Station, the lights went off while the station crew swapped out the train’s engine from electric to diesel. I waited in the dark, thinking of all I would want to say. When a crowd of white teenagers finally appeared on the platform outside my window, their sweatshirts bore the name of a Catholic school in New Orleans. Some were still carrying their “I Am the Pro-Life Generation” signs, helpfully provided by Americans United for Life. I was right. I was on.

Minutes later, as the train began to cross the Potomac, I waited in the vestibule between my car and the marchers’. Outside, Pentagon City rolled by. Crystal City. Potomac Yard. I had at most 5 minutes before my stop. I turned on my iPhone’s voice recorder, waited ten seconds to make sure I was really going to do this, and then I opened the door to the marchers’ car.

The kids hadn’t settled yet. Most were anywhere but in their seats, stashing coats or pawing through backpacks that smelled of unwashed teenager laundry. I kept moving forward, not sure what my plan was. On my recording, their voices say “watch out, watch out!” to warn each other that someone is trying to pass. You can hear me saying “thank you very much” in a smaller voice than I even knew I had.

My audible swallow is louder, even. Finally, in the middle of the car, there was nothing to do but raise my voice and speak.

“Excuse me, please…?

“I wanted to say thank you for coming to Washington. We love it in my city when you come to visit us. It’s a gorgeous place and we’re very friendly to visitors.

“But what we’re not so crazy about is when people come and try to tell us how to live our lives. I know, as a person from the South myself—Georgia—that you all understand that.

“1 in 3 women in this country has an abortion. Sixty-one percent of them are already mothers. They all do it citing the difficult circumstances of their lives, and the priority of the families they already have.

“I had an abortion when I was eighteen. I had been an abused child; I had just gotten out of a place where I often went to school with two black eyes. And that abortion saved my life—”

My voice started to shake with adrenaline and nerves.

“—in the sense that I was able to take it back and become successful the way I am today. The rest of my family’s lives are still very poor, and very tough, and I love them dearly but I wish that they had had more options for themselves.”

Around now, an adult man with gray hair and black clothes strode up to me, asking “Who are you. Who are you?” The kids, for their part, were mostly silent, mostly listening—quite a bit more polite than they are when swarming the annual counterprotest at the Supreme Court, but here they only had me outnumbered fifty to one, so maybe that was the difference. I ignored the man, and kept speaking to the kids.

“I want you to think as you grow up and into adulthood about putting this passion that you have for this cause into making healthcare available for everybody; into making, for example, executions illegal if you are pro-life. Think about the inequities that force women to say say, ‘I want this pregnancy but I cannot raise a child.’”

The man in black stepped closer. “Who are you, ma’am?” I held up a finger—stay right there—and spoke directly to him: “I am a private citizen, who exercises my rights.”

I raised my voice again and finished. “Thanks for coming to Washington. Again: 1 in 3 women. I’m one of them. I will never be sorry. I will always be proud. Think of that, as you grow into adulthood. Thank you. Have a safe trip.”

Seconds later, the conductor announced the Alexandria stop. I walked back to the vestibule, picked up the bag I’d left there, and stepped off the train.

There was so much more I wanted to say—and there were places where I misspoke or oversimplified, in my rush, in my anxiety. I wanted to tell them that of all the cities in America, New Orleans is one where the reality of lives lived with one foot poised at the edge of the abyss should be plainly apparent to even the most privileged eyes. I wanted to say that New Orleans is two-thirds black, and black women have a fourfold maternal mortality rate over white women in this country. I wanted to talk about the recent Turnaway Study from ANSIRH, showing a rate of domestic violence among women who were turned away for abortions much higher than among those who got the abortions they sought, the implication being that pregnant women often stay in abusive relationships—a thing that I had intuited to be true when I was very, very young.

I wanted to say that even if a person who wants an abortion is not healing from a health emergency or a broken life, she has every right to exercise control over the use of her body and the direction of her future and it is a sin to suggest otherwise. Lastly, I wanted to return to the idea of not having the resources to continue a pregnancy, by saying that on the other hand, there are some women, including me, who actually never wanted children at all, and that is just fine.

But mostly I just wanted my voice not to shake. I can only imagine the patronizing emergency spin (“clearly a very troubled woman”) that occurred the moment I exited that car. It’s true I was troubled when I was eighteen. When I found I was pregnant, I told my boyfriend that I would kill myself, but if he wanted to raise a child, I would wait to give birth, and then kill myself. I had attempted suicide before, ending up hospitalized, at thirteen, for weeks. By eighteen it had begun to seem I might survive my childhood, but I didn’t believe I could survive being responsible for someone else’s.

Since then, though, I have survived and thrived in a way that would have quite simply not been possible without the abortion that cleared a path for me to eventually get here. I could explain, try to describe my husband and my activism and my career and my education and my friends and my dogs and my travel and my thyme plant and all the ways in which my life is so much more free and full than I dreamed as a child or a teen, but I’ve done enough justifying of my life to strangers this week.

You’re going to have to take my word for it. You’re going to have to trust me.

Michelle Kinsey Bruns is a longtime feminist activist and organizer who’s taken part in abortion clinic defense actions at clinic protests in seven states, using social media and online campaigning to organize, fundraise, and recruit volunteers to fight clinic harassment and other barriers to access for people seeking abortion care and other reproductive health services. She is on Twitter at @ClinicEscort.

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24 Comments

  1. Posted January 29, 2013 at 11:29 am | Permalink

    THANK YOU for your thoughtfulness and bravery. You put an adult face on the issue and definitely reached more than a few of the students. BRAVO!

  2. Posted January 29, 2013 at 11:47 am | Permalink

    I’m afraid this post is going to be a little OT. I was thinking about how you told your story to anti-choicers. And I was thinking about the stories that I read every day on reproductive rights. And so I wrote a story that I would like to tell people who support a woman’s right to abortion.
    I have never told my abortion story before. It’s not because I am traumatized or I fear that people will find out. There is no guilt or shame. No regrets. It’s because my abortion story is dull.
    I had an abortion when I was 19. The moment I found out I was pregnant I decided to terminate. I was still living at home with no idea what I was doing with my life and a minimum wage job. I called my gynecologist and set up and appointment immediately. “Just got off the phone with the nurse who did my pregnancy test” immediately. I saw her within the week and I had to wait a couple of weeks to get the procedure. I had really good insurance so the cost to me was my specialist co-pay. Maybe $20. My boyfriend drove me to the clinic. There were no protestors. I had to talk to someone to tell her I wasn’t coerced, I had an ultra sound but was not asked if I wanted to see it or made to, I was put under because I had “twilight” anesthesia once and really didn’t like it. I recovered, took my pack of birth control pills from the nurse. I went home. I didn’t regret it then. I don’t regret it now 20 years later. I have never had any guilt about my decision.
    I never tell my story because it is boring. I had no inner conflict. I had no conflict with my pro-life Catholic boyfriend. No one blocked the clinic door or called me a whore. And I think the narrative needs more stories of the banality of choice. . For me the choice was simple and obvious. The process was as professional and straight forward as any other medical procedure.
    Most abortion stories I read are war stories. Besieged clinics, judgmental legal systems, barriers, guilt, violent partners, poverty. I think my story is the story of the way abortion services can be and that’s why I think it is important. Stories where the decision isn’t always so gut wrenching and fraught. I think that if every story is framed as a struggle then we actually feed the anti-choice animal. Women need to know that not all abortions are filled with fear and judgment and stalking. I want women to know that it’s ok to have a guilt-free regret-free abortion too.
    I do not say this to belittle people who have had struggles but to say look there are women who do have abortions and are totally ok with it. It’s ok for you to be ok with it too.

    • Posted January 29, 2013 at 4:15 pm | Permalink

      I think actually more women like you need to share your story. Mine was kind of boring too. I was in an unhealthy relationship, but that wasn’t really the reason I terminated it (long story, but it really wasn’t that big of a factor). I struggled a bit with the decision, but mostly because I felt like I should, if that makes sense…I knew I didn’t want a child, and I was okay with abortion, but I grew up with a Catholic extended family in a predominately Catholic community (my parents had left the religion young and I was raised in a feminist, pro-choice household, but that stuff still seeps in) and so I felt immoral for not really having a problem with it. It was pretty minor, though.

      When I told my parents I was pregnant, their first question was, “What do you want to do?” When I told them I wasn’t sure (not true), they were like, “Well, you know we’ll support you whatever you decide. If you want an abortion, we’ll pay for it. If you want to keep it, we’ll do what we can to help you.” And yes, it was that order. Later, my mother told me that they were relieved I wanted an abortion, because they knew I had so much I wanted to do with my life and while they would love a grandchild, they just didn’t feel it was right for me then. But they didn’t push me in either direction, because they wanted me to make the choice that I felt was right for me. Did I mention they’re awesome?

      Then when I had it, my mom drove me to the clinic. There were protesters, but they were sad old men holding stupid signs. The way the clinic was set up I couldn’t even see them well, they were standing on crates in an alley behind a 7-foot cinder block wall around the clinic and parking lot. I mostly just felt sorry for them, that they had nothing better to do with their lives. They made me angry because they upset another woman who arrived at the same time for her procedure, but I myself didn’t care.

      And then I had a complication-free abortion. The staff was wonderful and supportive, since my mom drove me I got to have drugs so there wasn’t even any pain. I felt like crap for a day afterwards from cramping, then I went on with my life.

      I was actually at Planned Parenthood this morning getting my old Implanon removed and a new one inserted, and on the forms I was filling out it was asking about pregnancy and abortion history, and I realized I couldn’t even remember exactly how long ago it was or how old I was. I had to count back from other milestones…”OK, so, I moved to [state] in 2004, which means I met [ex-boyfriend] in 2003, which means I had my abortion in 2002 maybe? I was joking with the nurse practitioner who did the procedure that I bet it was the first time she’d ever seen a question mark after that particular answer…and she laughed and said most women weren’t so blunt about it, but I’m far from alone in not having it be that big of a deal.

      Really, the only reason I think about it at all is because of those anti-choice folks. It makes me mad to be classified as sorrowful or sinful or damaged goods by them, just because I had a medical procedure that was no big deal. It makes me even angrier that I literally felt guilty for not feeling guilty because of them. When I talked about it, I played up the abusive relationship, me recently clean from an addiction, all that stuff (which is all true…but weren’t deciding factors) for years because I felt like I had to justify it. In my earlier post (below, because I wasn’t replying) I mentioned that I’d been in a car accident…it’s actually that experience that made me realize how little my abortion affected me. I had more conflict and emotion about whether or not to get a certain knee surgery done than I did about my abortion, no exaggeration.

      So, I think maybe I understand where you’re coming from a little. I think we need more voices out there saying, “Yeah, I’m a pretty privileged person in good circumstances, and just didn’t want a kid/wasn’t ready for one/whatever, so had an abortion and it was NBD.”

      • Posted January 29, 2013 at 4:19 pm | Permalink

        Also it might have been the drugs, but I remember thinking that the cookies they gave me after the procedure in the recovery room were seriously the tastiest chocolate chip cookies I had ever had in my life. Apparently they were homemade by a staff member (I don’t remember asking, but my mom says I kept bugging staff about where they came from) but seriously those cookies were most of what I remember of the procedure and immediate aftermath (basically, after I was given the tranquilizer). Soooo good.

        I have never admitted that particular fact in my life before. LOL

      • Posted January 30, 2013 at 11:59 am | Permalink

        I accidentally “Reported” your comment when i went to hit the reply button. Just in case there is some kind of issue I apologize.

        I also would play up the way my relationship with my boyfriend went south when i would tell people. Kind of to “justify” my actions. Every story I had ever heard told was so dramatic, so it was such a DIFFICULT decision. It made me feel like I must be a cold heartless bitch.

  3. Posted January 29, 2013 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

    That took a lot of courage! I’m very impressed!

    What was your take on the kids’ reception of your views? Did they ask any questions?

  4. Posted January 29, 2013 at 12:47 pm | Permalink

    You are amazing, and this was so brave and wonderful of you. I hope you got through to at least a few of those kids, even if it takes them a while to realize it.

  5. Posted January 29, 2013 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

    Wow, I admire your courage. I had an abortion at around the same age you did, and also have no regret or shame over it, and also share my story as part of my pro-choice activism…but I am not sure I would have been brave enough to walk into a private car, tell my story so clearly and also deal with someone trying to interrupt me in such an authoritative way. I’m sure you came across as more courageous than you think. I imagine you awed a few students when you silenced their teacher or whoever it was by holding up a finger!

    They can spin it how they want but I would bet money you reached some of those teens. And even if not, you’ve inspired me to renew my pro-choice activism (which I had to put aside for a year or so while recovering from a bad car accident about 3 years ago, and never really got back into…) so that’s something, right? ;)

  6. Posted January 29, 2013 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

    I also attended Catholic school, though since I went to a public middle school I was never forced to attend the March for Life. I remember, however, one of my classmates being kicked out of our school because she exercised her legitimate right to control her body by deciding that being in high school and headed to college, she didn’t want to deal with the burden of a child, and got an abortion. Somehow it got out that she did and the Church hierarchy ordered the principal to have her removed, as good a student as she was.

    It’s for her and others like her that I stood out there on the Supreme Court steps last Friday to protest the March. I think even though the [redacted] are outnumbered by wide-eyed Catholic middle schoolers, it’s important to be there to show the other side doesn’t dominate the debate, or go without getting some kind of response.

    We only had about 50 this year, so I could understand people getting discouraged. I certainly was, in no small part because people from the other side kept approaching me to defend my position. Obviously when I tried to do this seriously, it was no better than talking past them, and made me a great deal more angry than I had promised myself to be. I know that as a man, I find it hard to be able to speak straightly about a woman’s right to choose, when I will never have to exercise that right. More often than I wanted to I got dragged into philosophical debates over when life begins. Which I honestly don’t care about – a fetus is not a human being, whether alive or not, as far as I’m concerned – but I wished I had more of a spiel to give the other side when confronted with that

    The only really effective talkers on our side were the women, some of my friends in fact, who had had abortions and could speak plainly and from experience. There is no way for the other side to respond to this. I thank you for being courageous enough to do the same.

  7. Posted January 29, 2013 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

    Michelle, interesting story. As someone still learning and forming my own opinion about the issue of abortion, I’d be interested to hear from you, as someone far more expert (respectfully, and in all seriousness):

    1) At what point in development exactly would you place “personhood” and why?

    2) When you were pregnant, were adoption services available, and did you consider delivering and adopting your child? If so, what ultimately led you to abort him/her instead?

    • Posted February 1, 2013 at 10:01 pm | Permalink

      you abort a pregnancy. not him/her.

    • Posted February 7, 2013 at 9:02 pm | Permalink

      I’m curious as to why you feel that Michelle should justify to you her definition of “personhood.” Abortion is a personal decision, and it doesn’t need to be justified based on any notion of “personhood” or relative morality. It is a legal choice in this country. Michelle recounted an incredibly brave and honest story about her choice to have an abortion, and your response is to question her moral definition of personhood? This is a country governed by laws (some better than others), and the law stipulates that you are not a citizen and thus, do not have “personhood,” until you are born. Legally, if you are not born, you are not yet a person.

  8. Posted January 29, 2013 at 4:43 pm | Permalink

    You go! So brave! You are awesome! And I think the emotion in your voice is part of what made them shut up and listen. They won’t forget that anytime soon. You rock!

  9. Posted January 29, 2013 at 6:15 pm | Permalink

    This is awesome! More women need to tell their stories, just like this woman did, educating people, especially young people, about the necessity of letting women choose. This is how we gradually change hearts and minds. BRAVO!

  10. Posted January 29, 2013 at 10:28 pm | Permalink

    This is a great piece. My story is so the opposite, so I never tell it in feminist circles, but it might be interesting for pro-life teens. I got pregnant, or so I thought, at 19. And to my utter surprise, since I was staunchly pro-choice, I decided that I simply could not have an abortion. I’m not sure what it was all about, since I had at that point taken women’s studies classes, was an out lesbian (slept with a man to confirm that), and identified as a feminist. I thought the decision to abort would have been easy for me, but it was pretty agonizing to realize that it was not. I decided to give the baby up for adoption. And through it all, I was profoundly grateful that reproductive rights allowed me to come to that decision on my own, without pressure — it was a huge surprise, but it was my own. PS: there was no baby after all, just a gross STD. But that’s another story.

  11. Posted January 30, 2013 at 4:10 am | Permalink

    Way to go

  12. Posted January 30, 2013 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

    Speak your mind, even when your voice shakes. Thank you for your courage. Someone heard you on that train car — and they will remember — and it will save her life. Trust that.

  13. Posted January 30, 2013 at 3:36 pm | Permalink

    As a person with a phobia of public speaking and an aversion to confrontation, I could feel your trepidation at the visceral level. I admire what you did so much.

    I agree with Rebecca and AK that more of us need to share our almost mundane stories. Mine certainly was — a medical procedure. I’ve let the anti-choice movement make me feel guilty for years, until recently.

    Once I was having lunch with two coworkers and somehow we realized that all three of us had had abortions in our 20s. It was an amazing moment.

  14. Posted January 30, 2013 at 8:35 pm | Permalink

    Kudos for you for posting this, and for doing what you did that day on that train.
    More women need to be this vocal, and more people need to hear us be as such.
    I am absolutely, without question, proud of my decisions, and so should every woman that has gone through this. Proud that we live in a place we can take control of our bodies and being proud that we have the ability and access to make the best decisions for ourselves. Proud that we will never let blind followers of a human created religion sway us from doing what is our right. There is no shame is being proud of having an abortion. Those that say women should not be proud don’t understand what abortion is. It is not a form of birth control, it is a means to a life continuing with only minor interruption. It is not our fault we were born the sex that holds the uterus. It is, however, our fault if we do not make responsible decisions that have a lasting impact on us, the children we choose or do not choose to have, and everyone in our paths.

  15. Posted February 1, 2013 at 1:04 am | Permalink

    so inspiring! thank you for doing this!

  16. Posted February 2, 2013 at 11:07 pm | Permalink

    I know that I’m not welcome here (primarily as a result of) being male and (secondly) having the opinions that I do. (If this comment is even approved I’ll be very surprised.)

    But I just want to say Bravo to the OP for having a spine made out of titanium apparently.

    Setting aside if one agrees or not (which incidentally I do) the courage that took is inspiring. Also it was educational. I was wholly unaware of this numbers padding trick the parochial school systems played. (I guess I just don’t think insidiously enough.)

    Thank you. I’m sure you improved lives and enriched minds.

    That is all.

  17. Posted February 5, 2013 at 9:47 am | Permalink

    Dear Ms. Bruns:

    I am writing in response to your article: Pro-choice on Amtrak: The time I told a group of anti-choice teenagers about my abortion. There are parts of your article that are worthy of thoughtful discussion.

    It was interesting to read about your experience as a young adolescent in Catholic school. You faced opposition about your views on abortion, and this opposition was only compounded by what sounds like a very unfavorable academic experience overall. Although I think your types of experiences in Catholic school are rare, I do find it admirable that you still formed your own opinion within an environment that did not prescribe to your same beliefs. Not only that, you voiced your opinions. This was very brave of you, especially for an adolescent.

    I find it somewhat ironic, therefore, that you are so quick to judge and label (things that I am sure you hate when done by others toward you) those adolescents who are pro-life. Whether in Catholic school or not, you cannot argue that society in general leans heavily toward your vision of “women’s health.” As a 25 year old woman who grew up going to public grade schools (and, I should add, not really following any religion at the time), all I ever heard about was birth control and abortion rights. Not once, in public school, or in my general daily life for that matter, did I hear arguments for being pro-life, or abstaining from sex until marriage, or about potential dangers of contraception; In fact, the impression I, and anyone else who lived and breathed, got from the culture at large– teachers, media, etc.–was that taking contraception and losing your virginity by the age of 15 were as expected of you as going through puberty. Even those terrible and naive Catholic school kids that you speak of still have to go into doctor’s offices plastered with “Contraception – Especially For Teens” brochures. They are still exposed to TV shows and movies that portray abortion as the admirable only option, and belittle the preciousness of a woman’s sexuality and purity. When is the last time you saw a pro-life TV show or movie? No matter what kind of school you go to, no one can escape the pro-choice influences from media Hollywood, social media, and the modern world.

    Just as you, Ms. Bruns, formed your opinion, so too have these adolescents of whom you contemptuously speak. I suggest that, before you label young people at the March for Life as adolescents who are “puffed up on privilege and inadequate adult supervision—who believe they are experts on sexuality and fetal development and parenting and medical tragedy and rape and regret,” you take a look around you at the March for Life. These young people have formed their opinion, just as you did, and are taking action. What makes their opinion at age 14 any less valuable, or less ‘informed,’ than yours? Do they not have the same right as you to have their voice heard without being harshly labeled by you and other pro-abortioners? Do you think they are all just brain-washed Catholics? I attended the March this year, and here’s a smattering of what I saw: people of all ages– from strollers to wheel chairs, of all races, of all genders, of all sexualities (have you not seen the “pro-gay and pro-life” stickers?), of all religions (I’ll mention here the “secularists for life” group), of all backgrounds – women who have had abortions, women who have considered abortions, women who have suffered rape, fathers and would-have-been-fathers.

    I will be the first to say that it is unfortunate that your Catholic-school experience was not a favorable one; but you should not use that as a reason to label those at the March as sheltered, uneducated Catholics just trying to skip school.

    As for your experience on Amtrak– for that, too, I applaud your bravery. The experience you described– the nervousness and the whole ‘I thought of all the good things to say after the conversation’ feeling is exactly what I experience every time I get stopped on the streets of Boston by Planned Parenthood reps. And, if you want to point fingers at people who “think they are experts” in women’s health, sexuality, and “medical tragedy,” you should look to those at Planned Parenthood who claim to speak for women when it comes to abortion. 9 times out of 10, those I have met on the street are unable to answer simple questions about the reasons behind their views (such as whether it is permissible for a woman to have an abortion simply because the unborn baby is female; or whether children born from botched partial birth abortions should be killed once outside the womb; or when exactly they find it permissible to stop the beating heart of an unborn “fetus”). The answers I have gotten from Planned Parenthood street reps range from blank stares, to “I don’t know,” to “I guess I’ll have to look into that more.” I do like your idea about recording the conversation, though… I just might do that next time and write my own article about it.

    Anyway, thank you for sharing your story. I am genuinely sorry for the hardships you have faced in your life. You may find this difficult to hear, but I pray, and the Catholic Church (among many other religions) prays, for people with similar stories as you every day. Please know this: your idea that the words you spoke on the train would have caused some sort of ‘blood bath’ could not be further from the truth. The resources offered to women who have had abortions are plentiful, and they will always be there, with compassion and support, for anyone in need…much like those 500,000+ silly Catholic kids at the March for Life.

    Sincerely,
    Betsy

  18. Posted February 7, 2013 at 6:38 am | Permalink

    I second Betsy above. Thank you for sharing your story. That said as a veteran of Catholic school myself, we aren’t sheltered or brainwashed, we just went to school in a place that promotes the values of our faith. This includes service to the needy, love for everybody, and yes, the value of human life at every stage. I realize not everyone agrees with those ideas, but they are all part of the Catholic faith. I think it’s encouraging to see young people of any gender involved in demonstration and the political process, whether I agree with the message or not.

  19. Posted February 10, 2013 at 4:15 pm | Permalink

    I have never had an abortion. I think my story is telling as well.

    My parents were religious, and sent me to Catholic school from pre-K through college. My mother told me she wanted me to wait for marriage, but if I did decide to have sex, she would bring me to the doctor to get the pill. The priest that taught us sex ed in 6th grade spent an hour explaining why god wanted us to wait, then showed us how to use a condom while scaring us with its failure rates. I grabbed condoms by the handful from the local planned parenthood and stashed them in a drawer for when I was ready for sex. I decided to go on the pill as a teen; my gynecologist had recommended it to ease my menstrual symptoms. I still wasn’t sexually active. My parents’ insurance covered the monthly cost.

    By the time I was having regular sex in college, I had been on the pill for several years, and my boyfriend used condoms, too, just in case. We bought them at the drugstore next to our Catholic college, that had just converted from being the college bookstore. The cashier never blinked.

    Four years later, that boyfriend and I were still together, and had decided not to have children. At 22 he asked two urologists if they would give him a vasectomy. They asked him a few questions, then agreed. He had it done at 23. We finally ditched the condoms. Twelve years later, we’re married, and I have never been pregnant. I’m still on the pill, as my acne-free skin can attest. Hubby is still as sterile as ever.

    I can’t help but think that if more people were as lucky as I was, there would be far fewer abortions. Teach kids how to use condoms, make them available. Put teen girls on the pill, and make insurance cover it. Teach them about its benefits, such as clear skin, lighter (or no) periods, lessened PMS. Remind us that it actually puts us closer to the natural state of only having a few periods in one’s lifetime, and that ovulating less prevents ovarian cancer. Put money into researching alternatives, since not everyone is as fortunate as I am to tolerate hormonal contraception. Make sterilization available for those who figure out they never want to be parents, at whatever age each individual becomes mature enough to make that decision. Normalize IUDs and other temporary sterilization methods, and develop more.

    I realize not everyone will be mature enough, especially as a teen, to double up and be extra careful like we were. And there will still be those unfortunate enough to get pregnant despite these measures. But if you really want to prevent abortion, here’s a tale from a 35 year old woman who, through the good luck of having education and availability of alternatives, has never been pregnant. Guilting women into having kids they don’t want is not the answer, nor is the built-to-fail method of abstinence-only education. I’d glad the abortions worked out well for those of you who had them, but for those who think they’re immoral, they need to start being realistic about how to reduce them.

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