When Pro-Life vs Pro-Choice Becomes Personal

For the first time in our six-year friendship, Faith is at a loss for words. She doesn’t want to know how long it’s been since I started the timer, but I can hear her humming “The Negative” from the Waitress soundtrack. I fight the urge to hum along and check my timer again: one more minute.

Faith has already explained her plan in the event that the test comes out positive. She and her best friend at school have a pool of money saved up from the monthly allowances that they would use for an abortion if it came to that. She tells me this when we’re in the checkout line at the Publix I used to work at; I had to steer her away from the lines of the cashiers that knew me. This was some gossip that I didn’t need to get back to my mother.

My best friend has a similar plan to Faith’s if she gets pregnant. She can barely afford college as it is and has no permanent address to call home. She wouldn’t be able to raise a child, but she also knows that she wouldn’t be able to go through an entire pregnancy just to give her child up for adoption. She would choose an abortion, as would most of my other friends. 

I’m the odd one out in my friend group. I’ll later tell Faith that I don’t know if I would be able to go through with an abortion if I were to get pregnant. I’ve always wanted kids and I know that my family would help me support it, but that’s my choice. My own hypothetical choice to have a child doesn’t define what the status quo should be for all other women.

I stop the timer before it reaches zero and call out to Faith. I reassure her that she doesn’t need to let me in if she doesn’t want to, but it’s time. A flush rings out from another stall as Faith unlatches her door and pulls me inside. 

Faith’s test was negative. Our relieved laughter probably made what was happening pretty obvious to anybody else in the bathroom, but we didn’t care. It was the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, and Faith wasn’t pregnant.

My pro-choice stance was never really challenged outside of my home until my senior year of high school. I had recently accepted a job singing for a local choir at St. Luke’s Catholic Church. I made it clear to the choir director, Mr. Faulkner, that though I personally had no attachment to Catholic beliefs, it would not interfere with my employment. He laughed and said it was okay, that I didn’t need to buy into their beliefs to be a singer. 

My employment at St. Luke’s only lasted two weeks. During my first Sunday as a performer, a woman stepped to the front of the church and said, “I am here to represent my organization, 40 Days for Life. Every year thousands of unborn children are murdered through abortions.” She then proceeded to ask the members of the church to donate to the organization and join her in peaceful protests outside of abortion clinics for 40 days.

This is what I found the most issue with. I’m okay with the fact that anti-abortion organizations exist. People are entitled to their own opinions, and who am I to tell them that they’re not allowed to express their beliefs? What I wasn’t okay with was the fact that they were planning to protest outside of abortion clinics. What’s the point of going out of your way to make a woman’s traumatic experience even more-so?

The choice to get an abortion is more complicated than having a child or killing it. It’s based on whether or not the child would grow up in a nurturing environment if it were born to a mother who doesn’t have the financial means to care for it. It’s based on whether or not they would become just another number to the government if they were born and put into the flawed adoption system. The choice to get an abortion becomes less about if the child will have a life, but rather what their quality of life will be.

After a few days of thinking, I finally drafted a text to Mr. Faulkner. 

The day after I graduated high school, my dad joined my brother and me at the beach. He split a vodka soda with me and we started talking about politics, as we are often prone to do. My dad and I butt heads on pretty much any political topic, him being a Republican and reluctant Trump supporter and me being what he likes to call a “bleeding liberal.”

I forget how we ended up talking about abortion, but I quickly found that my dad was much easier to have a conversation about this than my mom was. Maybe it was because we had been drinking, but we found ourselves in the middle of a very educated debate. I pulled up statistics from a school presentation that I did on women’s reproductive health and showed him the proof that limiting abortions directly correlates to an increase in death rates among pregnant women. He listened to me and agreed with the things that I said, then told me that he isn’t completely against abortion. He just thinks that they should be more regulated and that the father should be required to be involved in the abortion process. 

I asked him why he took this stance; was it not more about the woman’s choice? My dad shook his head and said, “My college girlfriend got an abortion without telling me. It still kills me that I didn’t get a say in the decision.”

I was silent for a moment before my dad continued. “I went to church with your mother when we first started dating,” he said. “The speaker asked us to write down our biggest regret and tape it to the cross. I watched your mother write ‘my abortion’ and wipe away tears before she stood up and put it on the cross.”

This confession floored me. In all of my arguments with my mom, she had never told me about her own abortion. She had never told me that she was pro-life because she had been given a choice as a teenager and grew to regret it.

There were so many things that I could have asked my dad at that moment. I could have asked him if he or my mom truly regretted not having a child when they were younger. After all, they had three grown kids now and great lives. Would they really have been better off if that choice wasn’t made?

“Don’t you think that it’s important to have that choice though?” I finally asked my dad. “We all make decisions that we regret, but at least we had the free will to make those decisions.”

My dad nodded his head. “I do think that having a choice is necessary,” he agreed, “but do you understand why your mom will never be able to be pro-choice? No matter how many women don’t grow to regret their abortions and live a better life because of them, some people will spend the rest of their lives wishing that they hadn’t been able to make that choice.”

And for the first time in my life, I did understand. In all of the time I spent criticizing pro-life advocates, I never thought to think that some of them might have stories of their own. Though I am and always will be pro-choice, it’s important to recognize that the two sides aren’t black and white. The decision to be pro-life is just as complex as the decision to be pro-choice, and it’s worth learning about other people’s experiences with abortion before completely rejecting their views.