I’ve wanted to write this for a while, but am also loathe to, for several reasons. No one likes discussing their embarrassing teenage years. Even with the caveat of “I was a teenager, and teenagers are dumb,” it’s still awful to relive such awkwardness. But with most people, the awkwardness is bad hair or dumb reasons for detention.
I was a pro-lifer.
Which… I can’t even explain why. I sort of just fell into it. Which is a weird thing to fall into, I know, but lots of people fall into weird things, like Jonestown or the Republican Party.
I fell into it in high school. Ah, Catholic school. What a weird and wonderful (but mostly weird) institution. Some joined newspaper, some joined the Irish Club. I joined the Chasitity and Pro-Life Club.
That’s the thing with depression–not to put the blame on it, of course. That would be easy: “I did it because I was sad.” Every choice I made was an active one. But those choices all had a common goal in mind: to create a reasonable fascimilie of a person, because I hated the person I was. I chose to listen to music I didn’t partcularly enjoy (despite owning their t-shirt, I, in fact, hate the Sex Pistols. I want this on record) or to go places I didn’t particularly want to go, to traipsing around Washington, D.C. in the middle of January to protest something I kind of didn’t care about.
But people should care about SOMETHING, right? That’s what people DO. So… I picked something. It happened to be the first something.
It was a cause, a purpose, a fight. Which meant I could be reasonably snotty about it, because I was MAKING A DIFFERENCE (Teenage Me spoke in empatic capitals a lot, for reasons that are lost to Present Day Me). I went to Washington, D.C.. I marched for LIFE. I was PAYING ATTENTION to the REAL WORLD, not wasting my time on TRIVIAL things, like PARTYING or BOYS.
This was, of course, ignoring the fact that I was uncomfortable in most social situations, thus making it impossible for me to participate in parties or dating. But again, digressing.
It snowballed. I got involved in an organization specifically for young pro-lifers. There is probably evidence of this somewhere on the internet. I went to a retreat. A whole three days of nothing but anti-abortion rhetoric and prayer groups. I had found a community of people my age, people who I wanted to be more like, with their beliefs and their drive and their hope. And maybe the tiniest sliver of me thought it was nice to be surrounded by people telling me every life is sacred when the one thing I wanted more than anything was to not be alive.
On the last day, one of the activities planned, was to protest in front of a Planned Parenthood. There were a lot of us, enough to fill the street. People spoke over bullhorns, choirs sang hymns, and women were accosted with pamphlets and people begging them not to kill their babies.
I was mortified. This wasn’t like the March for Life at all, where two sides met on neutral ground to protest each other. This was different. This was an invasion. And even though I didn’t know a lot about myself, I knew I wasn’t this person.
Ironic, really, that my come-to-Jesus moment happened surrounded by a bunch of Christians.
I quietly withdrew from everything after that. I wanted nothing to do with it anymore. I was embarrassed, and shoved it to the back of my head, refusing to deal or acknowledge it. It wasn’t until my late twenties that I sat down and actually looked at where my values lie, because it wasn’t until my late twenties that I felt I had a decent grasp on who I am as a person: my beliefs, my sexuality, my feminism.
I spend a lot of time thinking about whether I genuinely believed in what I was saying. Because I don’t now, and I really can’t imagine ever believing in such a thing so fully. And this may be the passage of time. People change. They become better educated. They learn that their own moral compass, wherever it points, should not dictate the law. They are prescribed medication to fix the chemical imbalance in their brains.
On my way home from work, I pass a women’s center. Most Saturdays, a small group of pro-life protestors set up camp, with horrific signs. I spent a good deal of time having to look at them. I hated them then, and I hate them now. But now, when I look at them, I feel remorse. I am sorry for whatever hurt my teenaged self caused anyone. No one should be harrassed for seeking medical advice or attention. I was wrong, and I know that now. I can’t change the past, but I can do better in future.
This is my first attempt.
I’m writing all of this because right now, this country is a hellscape. Families are being ripped apart. Students go to school afraid of what the day may bring. The value of a life is predicated on whether or not they adhere to the ideals of a small group of narrow-minded people. It’s unconscionable.
In my experience, the people who claim to be pro-life seem to stop being so vocal about things as soon as that life leaves their mother’s womb. They are a one-issue group, hyper-focused on abortion. As I’ve gotten older and seen more of how the world works, the term”pro-life” seems like it should encompass so much more than just a single issue. To be pro-life should be to strive for better quality of living: easily accessible and affordable healthcare, better education, reforming the justice system and abolishing for-profit prisons, getting rid of the death penalty. These things are crucial to one’s quality of life, and yet were never once discussed.
I can’t tell you how to think or how to feel. I’m not here to convince you, nor am I here to be convinced. I have my own opinions, and I’ve learned better than to force everyone to adhere to personal beliefs. Which I suppose is another reason I’m apprehensive about writing this. I don’t want an argument. What I want is to be accountable for who I was, and who I want to be. And the person I want to be is more than just a guilt-inducing presence in someone else’s life. I spent years being negative. I want to try and be positive. And I think that all starts with an apology.
To the women who have been harassed while trying to seek medical attention, I’m so sorry. I judged you without any thought or knowledge of your circumstances. I accepted the information I was given without doing any independent research. I did not take the time to educate myself and form my own thoughts and opinions. I simply absorbed the convictions of others and followed their lead. It was lazy and selfish. You deserved better.
Life is enriched by lessons learned. That’s why I can never truly say that my time within the pro-life movement was wasted. It helped teach me who I was by showing me who I wasn’t. I’ll always be grateful for that.