When I was in sixth grade, my middle school held a mock election. I was eleven years old and what I knew about politics could fit on the surface of the well-worn eraser of my mechanical pencil.
But my parents were voting for Bill Clinton so I did too. I didn’t understand that the point of the mock election was a half-assed attempt for our school to show us how voting worked. For me, waiting in line to check the box next to Bill Clinton’s name just meant ten less minutes sitting in a class.
Later that afternoon, the results were announced. I don’t remember who a bunch of middle schoolers elected fake president that day, but I do remember the conversation I had with a friend as we waited for our buses to pick us up that afternoon.
“Who did you vote for?” “Ashley” asked as we stood under one of the giant oak trees on the school’s property.
“Bill Clinton,” I replied easily.
“You shouldn’t have done that,” she told me disparagingly.
“He believes in abortion.”
Something like excitement flashed in her hazel eyes as she opened her mouth to explain. “It’s when a woman has a baby and she decides she doesn’t want it so the doctor rips out its spine and its brain.”
I don’t remember my immediate response, but I do remember being horrified, borderline sick to my stomach. Why would a woman decide she didn’t want a baby? Why would a doctor, someone who was educated and revered, kill an innocent child in such a heinous way? Was this even legal?
“Ashley” and our other friends abandoned the conversation shortly thereafter. They played in the fallen leaves that littered the ground, talked about the upcoming band concert, and crooned to the Backstreet Boys and *NSync on their portable CD players.
As I sat on the bus on the way home, I couldn’t get “Ashley’s” description of abortion out of my mind. I kept picturing evil doctors from horror movies brutally murdering babies. I felt stupid because I hadn’t known what the word meant. I felt guilty and dirty for pretending to vote for someone who believed it was okay to do such a thing. Then I began to wonder if my parents knew about this abortion thing. If they didn’t, should I tell them? And if they did know, did that mean that they were horrible people?
My eleven-year-old brain, which I didn’t yet know was afflicted with anxiety, practically paralyzed me in the following days. My mind kept conjuring up gory images and my already low self-esteem plummeted even lower as I battled with myself over my ignorance towards this new word I had learned. Abortion. Why hadn’t anyone ever told me?
Eventually, this anxiety and self-loathing was replaced by some other middle-school, tween drama, and the horrifying conversation I’d had with “Ashley” that day faded into the recesses of my brain.
It never even occurred to me to question the authenticity of her explanation until years later.
As I grew older, I eventually came to understand what the correct definition of an abortion was. And when I realized that I had spent years believing the foolish and completely inaccurate description “Ashley” had given me, I began to ask some questions of my own.
Who had given her that information? Why did she spew it so confidently, so excitedly, especially when she blushed talking about periods and pads and admitted she wasn’t sure where babies even came from?
I realize now of course that “Ashley’s” supposed knowledge of abortion at the tender age of twelve in the mid-nineties was based on fear and misinformation. Whether she gathered it from her parents, friends, church, or protesting strangers, she was so grossly incorrect that she caused me to question whether I was a good person. Her accusations and pure fictional horror made me question whether my parents were good people. In some ways it made me question my entire existence, and not in a good way.
Even though I have been unwaveringly pro-choice since at least high school, I never stopped asking questions about the subject – not just abortion itself but everything that goes along with it. Why do women get abortions? Why don’t all women have access to birth control? Why are some people staunch anti-choice? Why do people believe and spread misinformation? What else does Planned Parenthood do? Do taxes fund abortions? (NO!) Why do people feel as though they have the right to make decisions about women’s bodies?
Thanks to my own curious mind and the time I spent volunteering with Planned Parenthood, I know the answers to most of these questions. I acknowledge that some people truly believe that abortion is morally wrong. I acknowledge it and understand that it is their right to decide against it – when the choice is theirs. But no one – no one – should ever be allowed to tell a woman what to do or not do with her body. Ever.
It has been several weeks since the overturning of Roe V. Wade. My rage has diminished a bit but my frustration and worry has not. We cannot afford to be shy when talking about human rights. We cannot afford to tolerate the fear and misguided information that is so readily available at every turn.
Other than donating to Planned Parenthood and voting, I wasn’t sure exactly how to help fight this latest injustice. But I recently listened to a podcast where an OB/GYN provided some really great resources for anyone looking to gather more information about this subject in these trying times.
I feel obligated to share these resources, regardless of however small my online audience may be. Hopefully there is someone out there who learns something, someone who makes up their own mind, someone who gets the help they need.
THREE FOR FREEDOM – three for freedom (Fun Fact: if abortion is illegal in your state, this organization can have abortion pills shipped to you).
AidAccess (options counseling)
Home (prrowess.org) (this is literally a floating health clinic that caters to individuals living primarily in Texas, Louisiana, and other states located on the Gulf Coast).
Most of these organizations are new to me and I was extremely encouraged to hear that there are so many people out there fighting for reproductive freedom. I really, truly hope that someone out there benefits from this information.