Monday, March 20, 2017

Can I be both pro-life and a feminist?

I sat down to write this post back in January, but it’s taken me some time to work through my thoughts and emotions. As I share my role as a feminist, there seems to be an immediate misconception that I am pro-abortion. I’m not pro-abortion in fact I'm personally pro-life, which doesn’t seem totally incompatible with the notion of feminism. For me feminism is the idea that men, women, humanity - deserve equality, empathy, and love. So can I be both pro-life and a feminist?

I first identified as pro-life when I was a sophomore at Texas A&M. Once the concept was explained to me, being pro-life fit right in with my other beliefs about animal cruelty (nope.), the death penalty (nope.), and gun-control (need it.). As I dug into the pro-life movement at my school I felt lost. They had inspired a feeling in me of wanting to be pro-life, but that’s where it ended. My beliefs on the things above as well as my support for more diverse sex education and access to free birth control were not a fit for this pro-life group. I abstained from politics, voting, and deep discussions, because I was 19 and that made it easier. I put my feelings on a shelf and left them there to collect dust. Until Trump... 

Things I’ve held as sacred started to feel like they were on borrowed time. There’s a fear I can’t suppress, one of losing my rights and for the rights of everyone not a rich white male. So I found myself in January walking in the women’s march. The election coaxed me out of my shell and there I was, vulnerable with thousands of other people, marching to the State Capitol. It drudged up those old feelings of can I both be an advocate for women’s rights and pro-life? In going through my feelings, I finally came to terms with the idea of being a pro-life feminist and what that actually means for me.

I am pro-life, but I believe our nation should be pro-choice. I was proud to cast my vote for Hillary Clinton with my daughter on my lap last October. I was proud to cast my vote for someone that is a champion for the rights of all people. Additionally, I believe in the separation between church and state. There are many forms of religion and spirituality as well as belief systems developed through life experiences. Taking away a woman’s (and man’s) right to sex education, birth control, and safe abortions is adopting one perspective. I don’t know what it would feel like to become pregnant unplanned especially if the situation is less than ideal including through rape. Lastly, I believe that abortions will happen legal or not, so I’d rather provide a safe option than hope a woman and her fertility survive an illegal abortion. So while I’m pro-life, I believe and vote for choice. Choosing life is just one choice. 

Confused, yet? I get it. This is a messy topic. As a mom it only continues to get messier. It made my heart ache to see a sign at the march reading, “Abortion on demand”. At six weeks pregnant with Henley (only 5 days after I found out I was pregnant) we heard her heartbeat. At twenty weeks we saw her four heart chambers and listened to the technician say, “beautiful heart”, again and again. The day she was born, I felt that same heart beating against my chest. The notion of ending that life at six weeks pregnant makes me physically ill. But that’s my perspective and my choice. My experience pregnant was with a so wanted, healthy child. My experience is not an apples to apples comparison of a woman facing an unplanned pregnancy.

It’s hard for me to understand the thoughts one goes through when deciding to get an abortion and even harder to understand an attitude that feels blase. I know individuals that regret their abortion and I know individuals that feel it saved their life. When I think about the former - I think, what could we do such that by doing it would prevent regretful abortions? Four things come to mind: realistic sex education (aka ditch abstinence-only talks), easy access to free birth control, a system that makes adoption accessible to all, and a culture that helps emotionally and financially support moms in need. Wow, that’s a tall order.

A friend of mine advised me to not be so overwhelmed by my beliefs that I don’t take any steps forward. So here are the small steps I’ve come up with and #1 is already checked off!
  • Today, I’ll donate to Austin Diaper Bank.
  • Tomorrow, I’ll donate to Planned Parenthood. This organization gives women access to planned parenthood. Here women have access to birth control, reproductive health care, prenatal care, resources for raising a child, adoption referrals, and abortions.
  • This year, work with my community to donate Henley’s gently used items as well as purchased baby products. We were able to give her carseat directly to an expecting mother in need that would typically not be accepted by a non-profit.
  • In about a decade, I’ll make sure my daughter understands what sex is and that she can talk to me.
  • When she’s in high school, I’m going to help her understand empathy and encourage her to love and not judge others, to be giving and that a different perspective doesn’t mean someone’s wrong.
  • If and when she’s ready, I’ll take her to get birth control.
  • If one day she tells me she’s unexpectedly pregnant, I will love her. I will make sure every choice is available to her. I will make sure she understands every choice in front of her. And I will support the choice she makes.

In the end, my hope is for our nation to be pro-choice, while also taking supportive steps to lower the abortion rate, because my heart is pro-life. Does anyone else out there that feels this way?

1 comment :

  1. Courtney this was amazing! Took the words right out of my head that I didn't know were there.
    Thanks so much for this.


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