I often hesitate to share with other progressives that I am pro-life. As you know, the debate over abortion is extremely divided and the diversity within both sides is often overshadowed by the prevailing political agendas. I would like to think that I can be an ally to progressives in this area in some way and, as such, I am sharing this story. I am risking scorn for my views on abortion with the hope that I can help to expand the far right’s understanding of this complex and deeply emotional topic.
Many years ago, when I was inexperienced and vulnerable to deception, I simultaneously contracted two venereal diseases. I held strong views on abortion, but feeling desperate, I went to Planned Parenthood for assistance. At the time, I did not know if I might also be pregnant or HIV+. Like many of the other ladies in the waiting room, I was young, unemployed, uninsured, and alone. It never occurred to me to judge or condemn the others; that is for G-d and I think that G-d prefers to be loving, forgiving, and compassionate. Instead, I wondered what had happened in their lives to bring them there. I wondered what I could do, what we all could do, to reduce the need for such terrifying emergency services.
I strongly believe in protecting the human rights of all people – including unborn children. I believe that women should have the choice to abstain from sex, use birth control, or use the morning after pill in emergencies. But by the time a woman arrives at Planned Parenthood or a clinic for an abortion, it is simply too late for activism. Aggravating a woman at a time when her life is in upheaval is terribly unkind and inhumane. Doing so creates more anger, shame, and fear in the world. We need more love.
We also need public policies and programs that both prevent unplanned pregnancies and make saving children a realistic choice. This includes: complete sex education; unfettered access to birth control; comprehensive healthcare; access to nutrition, child care, and other community services; living wages, paid maternity leave, and flexible work schedules for parents; etc.
Planned Parenthood actually helps to prevent unplanned pregnancies. A very small percentage of their services (3%) are abortions. When I went there, I was given a brown paper bag of condoms. I was so grateful for their support, which also included a medical exam and medication, that I wrote the staff a thank you note – even though I was and am deeply troubled by the fact that they also provide abortions.
Although I don’t support everything that they do, I have personally benefitted from Planned Parenthood and am grateful that they are available to help women (and men, too). They are not generating demand for their services; our public policies and corporate practices can and should be changed to protect families so that all women have better choices.