I went to my first march when I was 10 or 11, a big NOW wave through the streets of Boston, flanked on either side by my mother and grandmother. It ended in a grand church where some important speaker got up and spoke about the power of choice, but, distractible as I was, I spent the whole time reading the posters spread throughout the hall. They were foam core propped up on easels, each one dedicated to a woman who had died because of an unsafe or illegal abortion. Right next to us, shining and blond from her high school photo, was the most recent story: Becky Bell, dead less than a year at that point as a result of a botched procedure she chose in place of getting the parental consent her state required.
There were plenty of angry people shouting outside as they held very different posters above there heads. They were loud enough that the microphone inside had to be turned up, loud enough so that even as a fifth grader I knew that it would be nearly impossible for one side to see the other’s perspective and vice versa. It’s a wide gap that still makes my stomach tighten. Then (and still) I was confused by the other side claiming of pro-life. That making it life vs. choice seemed a highly irrational way to frame the conflict. I wanted to be pro-life too, because I felt very much for life.
I’ve never known anyone who wanted an abortion, or who didn’t mourn and grieve and struggle over the process. I’ve yet to meet anyone who is pro-abortion, and that is why we settle on pro-choice. But the language might be imperfect still.
Twice Planned Parenthood has prevented abortions in my own life. Probably more if I consider the deep and positive effect the eduction they provide had on me through my late teens and early twenties. But twice that I can name.
The first time I was 18, panicked after a poorly timed broken condom that had, at the time, been worn by a man I am very fortunate not to have had children with. There was a nurse there who calmed me down, talked through my options, and kindly supported my request for the morning after pill.
The second time I was in Santa Fe, 23, boobs sore, period late, boyfriend sitting in the waiting room. I remember the nurse was tall and blonde with red cheeks, and came back into the room and sat across from me and said- not you’re going to to be a mother– but you are in fact pregnant- deep breath and I imagine she could see my pulse beating almost exploding right out of the vein in my neck- I’m for whatever you need–we are here to support you.
Joey and I walked around the block over and over and readjusted our life and thought through each possible reality. And I was lucky that I wanted to be a mother, and that I wanted to be with him, that even if it all happened a little earlier than we thought and I had to scrap grad school and whatever grand dreams for now, that we would find a way forward because, well, because we had the choice and we chose yes. But if any of those things hadn’t been true, Planned Parenthood would have been there to support me too. To support my life.
So here I am. There are plenty of things for me to be scared about and worry about and it’s easy to wander aimlessly over here on the lost side of this election. But this week I thought about that march of the first time in ages, and I realized that it was time I offered the opportunity to my own girls. (See you there?) And in all these conversations this week, this is the clearest thought I have to offer: I have needed to find, to remember, to unearth that one thing that feels most important to fight for in the context of our lives right now, and we need to claim it. So this is mine. I want my children to be trusted with these decisions the way I have been. I’m going to give what I can, tap in in ways that might help. And if that one isn’t yours, but you too are on the lost side of the election, it seems there will be plenty other causes in need of our help right now. ACLU, Southern Poverty Law Center, Council on American-Islamic Relations, Trevor Project, and so many more.
How are you? Where are you right now? Do you have an organization you want to add to this list? Or just hi is good, too. Always, hi. I’m here. xo
Thank you for sharing. I couldn’t agree with you more.
I love this post. However, I am someone who wanted an abortion. I didn’t grieve or struggle or mourn. I had two small children and a “partner” who was completely checked out. I was barely hanging on to my sanity, and my life. I knew that it was the right choice, the only choice, to save myself and to raise my children. My decision was immediate, and I have never regretted it, or mourned it in any way. Even in a world where every woman has access to contraception and family planning, there are going to be pregnancies that are not wanted. I am not “pro-abortion”. I am “pro-choice” because every single woman should have the choice that I did.
Michelle B says
Thank you for speaking up, Sophie.
Thank you so much for this, Sophie.
I’m right there with you. And ready to fight. Here is the list of organizations the brilliant John Oliver suggested we support:
Yes! Great list.
p.s. This quote from Sister Joan Chittister sums up a lot of my frustrations with the “pro-life” label:
I do not believe that just because you’re opposed to abortion, that that makes you pro-life. In fact, I think in many cases, your morality is deeply lacking if all you want is a child born but not a child fed, not a child educated, not a child housed. And why would I think that you don’t? Because you don’t want any tax money to go there.
That’s not pro-life. That’s pro-birth. We need a much broader conversation on what the morality of pro-life is.
Thank you, Kristin. This quote is new to me and I’m really happy to see it.
Yes, fabulous quote! Thanks for sharing. And a fabulous post, Alana! I love the stories you share.
Thank you, Alana. For your words and for the bread and the animal crackers in my kitchen–your book has been giving me comfort all week.
You are also taking the reins back and shaping your girls’ memories of this awful time. When they look back at the time this great country came so close to authoritarian rule and the threatened destruction of its rights and ideals, they will Look back at what they did, what their parents did. They will be able to say that they fought from the beginning and kept fighting.
Oh, that is right at the heart of it! Whatever happens now, I want them to see that we wanted to fight, that we FOUGHT, and hopefully that the fighting accomplished something. It feels so important to model that.
Thank you for sharing such a personal story!
Michelle B says
Thanks, Alana. I set up a monthly contribution to PP, and I’ll see you at the march.
Yes, and YES!
One of the things that I most appreciated about your first book (besides the gorgeous photographs and more gorgeous recipes) was reading about your life and your girls. I too was a young mom, younger than you. I too had a nurse look at me and say ‘your pregnancy test is positive.’ And I too took a long walk with my then boyfriend that reshaped the structure of our lives.
The result of that ‘positive pregnancy test’ is now a beautiful (really, she is just gorgeous) young woman, inside and out. And it has been the greatest privilege of my life raising her and her brother and sister. She is now the age I was when I became pregnant with her. And she tells me ‘Mom, I couldn’t do it. If it happened
To me now, I couldn’t do what you did.’ And I tell her, ‘that’s ok my love. You can make whatever choice is right for you, and I will love you and support
You.’ And I mean it. And I’m glad that she has the choice, should she need to make it. And I fear what will happen now, for all of us, in regards to so many choices we have, how many we’ll get to keep making and how many will be made for us.
I am one of the lost after this election. At odds with one of my best friends. Bewildered, hurt, feeling like maybe I don’t know people at all. But I thank you for your gentle voice and your strong spirit and I am reminded that I am not alone. We get up and keep modeling love and kindness and teaching our children the same.
Thank you. Wishing you all love and light.
Thank you so much for bravely sharing this, Alana. I am a longtime reader of your lovely blog (and books!) but I don’t think I’ve commented before (or at least not recently). I also just wanted to add that Moms Rising (momsrising.org) is another great organization to consider joining and/or donating to. They do a lot of good work in gathering signatures for petitions and contacting local, state, & U.S. lawmakers to help initiate change. Some of the issues you’ve mentioned here are of great concern to this organization and they are mobilizing. At the very least, I’d recommend signing up for their email mailing list. 🙂
So glad to hear from you, Amanda! I’ve signed up, and I’m excited to see what’s brewing there. Thanks for this.
You’re very welcome, Alana! I think you’ll find it’s right in your lane! 🙂
Great post. See you at the march!
It gives me comfort to read your post and the comments. I’d add two organizations to this excellent list: The Center for Biological Diversity, http://www.biologicaldiversity.org, and Earthjustice, http://www.earthjustice.org. These are strong, effective organizations defending the planet. They have science staff AND they have lawyers. In fact, Earthjustices’s tag line is “Because the Earth needs a good lawyer”. We’re going to need them. Our planet is going to need us all to step up. And, if I don’t see you in Washington, I’ll see others of my sisters at local marches in Arizona.
I just want to say that I am 100 percent pro life. My heart goes out to anyone who has lost a baby through an abortion, miscarriage, or a pill. I don’t agree with Alana about babies, but her cookbooks are wonderful! I bought one for my daughter. Alana is a gifted writer!
Thank you so much for this, Kay. SO important and good to know that for everything that for each thing that might separate us, there are as many that might bring us together. I so appreciate you piping up, and thank you for your kind words. xo
I agree with you 100% Kay. I am proudly pro-life – from conception to the end. I believe every baby has the right to life. EVERY baby. I also agree with you that Alana has made lovely, lovely cookbooks. I just gifted “The Homemade Kitchen” to a friend of mine who was going through a hard time. She was thrilled.
thank you so much for this post. <3
Thank you so much for this post. You reminded me of why it’s so important now to keep supporting the things we believe in. Planned Parenthood has had my support for many years, and after feeling so discouraged with the election I was forgetting how important it is that we stand together. You did a beautiful job of reminding me.