We shout at her. Belittle her with our public free speech and self-appointed right to bully others with what we deem is the correct way of living. And we could be right… for our own lives. But for her, a young lady whom those of us standing protest had never seen before, it may be her only option. It certainly is her right. Yet here we are, lying in wait like Westboro Church members, stalking the area our prey will eventually pull into. As soon as we get a bite, we start yelling, chanting and shoving gruesome pictures towards the car windshield as if we somehow have the power to change a concrete decision. She steps out of the car and none of us take notice of any expression on her slightly hidden face. She looks down and watches her feet move. We chant.
“You don’t have to do this !!”
“Jesus loves you!” Some of us even call her a ‘murderer.’ Needless to say the tension is high and the passion is pulsating. It probably takes her less than two minutes to walk from the car to the entryway into the building. No second goes unturned without our boisterous suggestions of what she should do in this split moment. As her feet pick up pace, our signs raise higher, our voices louder and our eyebrows fold inwards, crossing from worry to anger because how dare she not take heed to what we are saying?! It was a hot summer day in June of 2000 and we were Pro-Lifers. She on the other hand, was Pro-Choice. All of us were exercising our human rights. But in a quick flash, as I caught one of her tears dashing past her cheek, I wondered if any of us had thought at all about how she was feeling? This is not a blog about the right to have an abortion. This is a light shed on some of the women who have them.
So a woman gets pregnant and makes the not-so-easy decision that abortion is the path best suited for her life at that time. The day of her appointment, she wakes up and gets dressed with a flurry of conflicting thoughts and confusing feelings. She knows there is still time to change her mind but whatever happens after this day, her life will never be the same. It’s time for her to leave and she quickly throws on clothing she never plans to wear again. Does she drive herself to the clinic or does the father of unborn go with her? Has she told any of her girlfriends? Is she by herself, even if by choice? She arrives at the clinic just in time for the first shift of activists.
Protestors, like us that day back in June, stand outside of abortion clinics across the country slinging insulting statements and accusations to women we do not know. Blogs and facebook status’ preach the pro-life gospel via ‘like’ counts and meme shares. Some people assume if a woman is having an abortion, she is using it as her form of birth control. Or that she has no spirituality. No respect for Mother Nature, her body or her womanhood. Folks accuse her of being heartless or even worse, soul-less. After all, any woman who could commit such an act would have to be the devil’s closest kin, right? The heartbeat begins at conception. Abortion is an irresponsible quick-fix to an open leg problem, therefore, she who CHOOSES to have one, deserves to be treated as if she were less than human or inhumane.
The woman enters the clinic despite the chaos outside its doors. She fills out her paperwork and begins her excruciating long wait to be summoned to the back. Eventually her name is called and she enters behind the locked door towards her choice of fate. The brightness of the sterile room burns her retinas. The smell layers itself in the secret pockets of her nostrils. Cold stirrups and an unforgettable sound create an environment that lacks relaxation and creates tension in her legs. “Ma’am, please relax”, says the man in the blue gloves. In her head she hears her subconscious talk her through the process. Involuntary tears begin a live stream down her facial newsfeed. In less than 15 minutes, she is in the physical recovery room recounting the voices outside that she will once again have to face in order to leave. As she pulls away from the parking lot, she never looks in her rearview mirror. She doesn’t make a sound. The radio is off, the windows are down and her new affirmation repeats itself in her head: ‘I will never be the same again.’
Women don’t just have abortions. An abortion is not some tiny cut on your pinky finger that you can’t remember was ever hurt. Abortion patients live with that decision forever. Some are able to move to a higher place and even go on to have families later in life, while others wind up stuck in regret or placing the memory of said situation into their repressed memory file. Yes, there are some women who in fact do use abortion as birth control. It’s an unfortunate truth that is low in numbers. I’d believe it to be more women who are scared, not ready, not wanting to do adoption or who are making a decision FOR the father or simply someone caught in the moment but who has no desire to bring a child into this particular world. The reasons why a woman finds herself in an abortion clinic rather than filling a prenatal vitamin prescription are endless. Sometimes, this CHOICE is just a part of the journey that we so often swear was pre-written. It’s a safe bet to say while most who have done it understand the importance of moving on; many have an internal space forever voided after the procedure. The young woman walking past our line that hot summer day went in and gave permission to have her body violated. She left her signature on papers, giving consent to the doctors and nurses to see her intimately, judge her silently and send her home less the blessing she once carried. What if something goes wrong and sterilizes her? What if she walks in confident in what she’s about to do and leaves out permanently broken? How many years will it take her to recover? How long and how often will she think of the child that never was? Will the ultrasound be what she sees in her sleep at night? When all around her has moved on, what if she finds herself stuck?
These are all questions protestors seem to never wonder or ask. Not a single antagonist has stopped a woman on her way into an abortion clinic with real world solutions AND answers. No one promises to stick around and help with the new bundle of joy, or the expenses, or the stress. There are no volunteers to assist with this potential mother’s impending fears and much like in war; this is not a winnable situation. The brutality of such a final decision is hardly shown on our faces as we hold our heads up (or down) and walk past the chanting. We move fast and wear rose colored glasses of bravery past the judgment zone. Inside, and by inside I do mean internally, some of us loosen with each move that brings us closer to that blinding, bright sterile room. We walk in one way and come out changed; no matter what our reasoning.
I was never on the picket line that day. I never yelled at the temporarily pregnant woman scurrying past our voices. I never saw that tear drop; but rather I felt it as it fell out of my eye like a fallen angel. I was never Pro-Life. I was actually, Ms. Pro Choice. I was that girl in the car being blocked by signs of aborted fetuses. I still remember some of the things they said and how close they were to my personal space. If I think long enough about it, I can feel the weight they put on my already broken shoulders. It was 95 degrees that summer June day in 2000. It’s a 13 year old broken love story that can never be changed. I was dropped off, went in alone and sat in my anxiety ridden sweaty clothing for more than hour: alone. When my ‘ride’ picked me back up, my silence yelled obscenities out of the passenger truck window and I only made eye contact with my most recent memories. In my heart, in retrospect, I feel what was supposed to happen, happened as it did. But so often, I find myself writing to and thinking about the child who I would only see that one time on the ultrasound monitor. I will also never forget that tugging sensation as a part of my soul was permitted to be sucked into oblivion. To some (including the protestors), I would be considered a baby killer. In reality I am a woman who made a sound decision, which at the time, was the best I had to offer.
So I can’t help but to make this suggestion to the future anti-abortion activists: Instead of screaming and attempting to scare a young lady or adult woman into YOUR choice of submission, put down your sign for a second and stick out your hand.
Especially if she looks as though she is doing this walk alone. Trust me when I say regardless of what you think is in her head, abortion is not an easy decision or experience and for some, not an easy recovery.
The truth is disagreements exist all over the country and always will. But caring enough to excuse your personal agenda and comfort a woman who might actually NEED it, rather than exacerbating the circumstances, is the rare gem on not just our picket lines, but our world in general.
If you are going to be there, in their faces, BE there.
Maybe even hand her a tissue.
Much like the right to have an abortion or protest one, the choice is yours.
About Januarie York:
Januarie York is from Indianapolis, In and has been writing since she was a young girl. She started performing her poetry in 2003 and hasn’t looked back. Her colorful and descriptive poetry have allowed her to share the stage with some of her mentors and favorites, as well as create her own shows. She has released two spoken word CDs, one chapbook, produced two spoken word shows and is currently writing her first full length book. In addition to poetry, she has done freelance work for several local magazines and websites and is now the City Editor of Insight2Incite Magazine Indy. She also is a contributing writer for several blogs. januarie is well on her way to becoming a premiere and sought out writer of her time and has her performance eyes set on debuting a theatrical poetry show on Broadway, in the footsteps for For Colored Girls. Now is the time to tune in to this self-proclaimed “WomanOfTheArts” is.