Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Why I Love Wendy Davis (or, the Blog My Grandmother Warned Me About)

I was raised by my grandmother, who taught me to never talk about religion or politics. So, grandma, don't read this.

Today, we're talking about an issue that grandma would tell me to avoid like the plague:  Abortion.  Specifically, why I think another woman’s decision is none of my business. 

First, I think the terms “pro choice” and “pro life” are a bunch of hooey.  No one is anti-life and no one is anti-choice.  We all just see the issue differently.  I support every woman’s right to make a decision that is best for her.  Why?  Because I would want that same right.  And because I know that I can’t possibly understand anyone else’s life or decisions. 

I have met many mothers who had a child as a teenager and now insist that, because they could do it, everyone should be able to do it. But, here’s the problem with that logic: everyone’s life is different. 

Being pregnant at 16 with parents who support you and will help you finish school is very different than being pregnant at 16 (or 25) and having absolutely no one to help.  And whether at 16 or 36, why should anyone force another person to make a decision that will change her life forever?  Her life only, no one else’s. 

I was sexually abused by my grandfather from the age of 5-15. When I disclosed the abuse, I was thrown out of the house.  I lived with friends, on couches, in cars, anywhere I could find a roof to curl up under—even if it was the roof of a Chevy Malibu.  By the grace of God (and jacked up ovaries), I did not get pregnant.  But, if I had, how on earth would I have cared for a child? 

And, for those who would have encouraged me to bless another couple with my child, which is an incredibly noble act, how would I have cared for myself through a pregnancy?  How would I have finished school while living in a car and nourishing a baby?  (I was eating a healthy diet of discarded fast food scraps. Not really a breakfast of champions for a growing child).  I don’t know what decision I would have made at that point in my life. But, it would have been mine to make.  Because the consequence of either decision would be mine to live with. 

Five years later, as I was working 60 hours a week to pay my way through college, I found out I was pregnant (apparently my ovaries aren't that jacked up after all).  I decided to keep my baby.  And she is now an incredible, brilliant, feminist young woman.  She’s the best thing that ever happened to me, and I’m so grateful that God chose me to be her Mom.  (Or, as she says—she chose me to be her Mom).  I was able to keep her, and had the resources (albeit minimal) to care for her.  I was ready to be a Mom—a scared to death, completely clueless Mom, but still a Mom.  I'm grateful I was able to keep her. But again, I know that everyone’s life is different.      

I work with survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence. I have seen women who can only feed either themselves or their child—and always choose their child.  I have seen women whose husbands force them to get pregnant repeatedly as a way to further control and abuse them.  (It’s hard to run to a battered women’s shelter with six children).  I have seen young girls who were raped by family members, and who are then spit on as they walked into a medical clinic—just to get advice about their options. And it disgusts me. 

As women, we have to stop degrading and start uplifting.  If you want women not to have abortions, ensure they live in safe homes and have access to quality education and a living wage.  Make sure they have access to healthcare and contraception.  Most of all, make sure every woman and girl has love and support—if not from her biological family, then from each of us...from you. 

I believe this is the same reason my new hero, Senator Wendy Davis from Texas, threw on those tennis shoes last night and stood on the Senate floor for ten hours to defeat an abortion regulation bill.  She too was a young single mother.  Actually, a divorced teenage mother who later went on to graduate with honors from Harvard Law School.  She made it. And she made a decision to have her child. But, (I imagine) she recognizes that every woman has a different path and a different reality, and everyone has a right to make her own decisions.  She took a stand for every woman and girl who has had her rights ripped away.  And she proclaimed, as we all should:  NO MORE. 
Not all women are safe. Not all women have food or shelter. Not all women have a family to care for them.  And we must protect every right we have.  We must support one another, even when we don’t agree.  And we must teach our daughters that they, and only they, have power over their own bodies and lives. 

My wish is that every woman and girl who is faced with a difficult decision has someone by her side who loves and supports her.  My wish is that she’s able to make a decision that is right for her, not for a group of picketers at a clinic or overpaid men sitting in Congress.  They don’t know her life and, therefore, have no right to control her decision.  And, honestly, neither do we. 

 Oh, and P.S.

If life begins at conception, so should child support.  Does that change the discussion, men?