Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The Conversion

Look back far enough on this blog and you'll see that I have my pro-life bona fides.  Borne of what, I don't know.  Both my parents were pro-choice and I was raised fairly agnostic.  I just always thought abortion was wrong and had never met anyone who could tell me different.

Fervor of the converted kicked in when I became a Christian at 19 and went all-in with a Southern Baptist church.  When I found out in 2000 that federal money went to pay for abortion, I cried, bless my misinformed heart.  I moved to Los Angeles from New Orleans late that year and being surrounded by "pro-aborts" only strengthened my convictions.

I decided at some point to go full-bore and be against abortion in ALL circumstances.  I thought rape and incest were God's will.  I thought I would NEVER kill my own baby to save my own life so nobody else should either.  The morning-after pill was evil and, you know, in that case, so were hormonal birth control and IUDs.  I became something of a cheese that stood alone in the pro-life world for my extremist views, but was widely welcomed at the rally at the California State Capitol in 2003 to mourn the 30th anniversary of Roe vs. Wade.  Life was cushy then, black and white, and I wallowed in my bed of upper-middle-class privilege.

I moved to Mississippi from Los Angeles in 2004 and was happy to be in a state with so many abortion restrictions.  October that year came along and I found out I was pregnant for the first time and was happier than I had ever been only to find out two weeks later that it was an ectopic pregnancy.  I sat for a long time thinking about living in the woods until I died with my baby, but ultimately thought of my husband and agreed to the termination by methotrexate.

I found out I was pregnant again in December of 2005.  What a truly awesome pregnancy that was - no morning sickness, no nausea at all in fact, no bad cravings, no complications at all until whoops!  My water broke at 28 weeks 2 days gestation.  When I was admitted to the hospital I was told I could be there up to 6 weeks with broken membranes because I still had a teeny bit of amniotic fluid left for Ace to survive on.  I spent the next 5 days on my back, pooping in a bed pan, taking sponge baths, and suppressing the nagging thought that this would be really, really hard for a woman with a lower income or even just a job to go through.  My son was born 5 days later at 29 weeks gestation and spent 8 weeks in the NICU.  Thankfully our insurance paid most of the combined $250,000 hospital bill, but the nagging thought that when a woman gets pregnant she has to accept that anything is possible stayed with me.

I miscarried in 2008 and decided anything would be better than another pregnancy because each one had torn a big piece of my heart out.  I could not do it anymore.  Amazing how your views on things like birth control change when you're faced with real life.  I started birth control almost immediately.

Early in 2011, I saw a commercial talking about a petition to put an amendment on the ballot in November to outlaw all abortions.  I was still pretty against "elective" abortions so initially I thought it was a great idea.  I got on their website and read the wording of the initiative and saw that there was absolutely no room for birth control, life-saving pregnancy treatments, IVF, nothing.  Just that a fertilized egg would be given the full rights of a person.  It was called Personhood.  I called their number and asked "what about treatment for ectopic pregnancies?"  The man responded "we're just trying to get it on the ballot."  I was not quite as outspoken then and accepted that.

In September of 2011, I saw that a woman named Cristen Hemmins had filed a lawsuit to prevent that amendment from going on the ballot and checked the wording of the initiative again.  Still, no provisions for anything.  It went on the ballot and I joined the fight, still maintaining that I was against elective abortions.  I helped form a PAC specifically aiming to protect life-saving pregnancy treatments, birth control, and IVF.  Our PAC held absolutely no position on elective abortions and was solely focused on those things.

I threw myself in the spotlight.  I came out with my story about my ectopic pregnancy and my fight up to that point against Personhood in the Jackson Free Press.  I made sure that my social media was lit up daily about the effects no one was talking about.  I stayed firmly implanted on local news outlets' Facebook pages begging people to read the entire short initiative for themselves and tell me how birth control, life-saving pregnancy treatment, and IVF would be protected.  I became one of the faces of the cause.

As an effect of that, I got message after message after message from women telling me their heartbreaking abortion stories.  The one that hit me in the face the most was a woman who had gotten raped while in high school in a rural Mississippi town.  The cold reality of facing pregnancy in high school shocked me.  This poor girl would either have to be the whore who got pregnant in high school, tell people she was raped, or just drop out altogether.  And then she'd have a baby to take care of.  She had an abortion.  I couldn't say I blamed her.

I also had a lot of frank discussions with women who had pregnancy stories like mine.  The complications are ENDLESS.  One friend, who is thankfully a software programmer and can work from home, spent 16 weeks on bedrest because she kept going into labor and must have been in the hospital every week.  I couldn't imagine a woman of lower means or a woman who had to report to a brick-and-mortar building to bring in an income being able to face that.  Or God forbid, a woman without insurance.  Pregnancy can really be a life ruiner.

I can't say exactly when I changed my mind on elective abortions.  The initiative was defeated but there were many stories written about me and the other main leaders of the movement and the stories kept pouring in.  Eventually I just realized that abortion was a necessary and shitty part of life.  Nobody is happy that they get an abortion but sometimes there really is no other option.

Sometime in 2012, I just stated plainly on Facebook that I was pro-choice.  I lost a few friends and got quizzed by quite a few more, but I suspect most of the friends I had made during my pro-life days had seen it coming by how fully I threw myself into fighting a pro-life ballot initiative.  The number of pro-choice friends on my friends list had gone up by about a billion percent over the past year so mostly I was just welcomed to the dark side.

Then, this year, after hearing the call from Laurie Roberts 100 times, I decided to volunteer as a patient escort at Jackson Women's Health Organization, Mississippi's only abortion clinic.  My son was 6, in 1st grade, gone 7 hours a day, and anything had to be better than cleaning my house and goofing off on Facebook all day.

I had absolutely no idea how rewarding and equally heartbreaking it would be.  Women cling to me as we're walking in past the protesters yelling terrible things at her.  "Don't kill your baby!  You'll have to answer to God one day!  Would you kill your other children too?  Hell is real?"  I ignore them, tell the women that God loves them no matter what, and get them to the door safely.  Many women will ask me to come inside and sit with them and tell me their stories while they're filling out their paperwork.  One woman wanted to keep her baby and had applied for Medicaid but was denied.  She tore me apart.  Not a one of those protesters standing outside yelling at her would accept a $250,000 hospital bill like I had if she had a pregnancy complication similar to mine unless she was willing to give her baby up for adoption.  I just held her hand until she was called back.  I had to leave before she came out but I think about her every single day.

I know this won't change your mind if you're pro-life, but I hope at least you'll understand why I made this conversion.  Life experiences, both personal and heard, can absolutely change a person.  I feel like a much more compassionate person now that I've made this change and understand where people from all different walks of life are coming from.  Sometimes, the worst option is the only option, the women who are faced with that decision are worthy of compassion and help, not judgment and restriction.

If you want more information on becoming an escort at the clinic, please contact me on Facebook.

(Cross-posted to The Last Abortion Clinic.)


Victoria said...

One woman wanted to keep her baby and had applied for Medicaid but was denied. She tore me apart.

Why not refer her to a crisis pregnancy clinic? Where people could actually help her keep the baby she wanted, and so she wouldn't feel like she had no choice but to get an abortion? That is not "pro-choice." Bills are terrifying, yes, but there is always help for those who ask

Stacey said...

Victoria - Mississippi is an informed consent state. She was given all of her options and for whatever reason chose abortion. Pregnancy is a big wildcard, and even if she had a perfect pregnancy (unlike mine) she would have had to take time off work to deliver the baby and recover from birth and not everyone can do that. Let alone have a pregnancy like mine and be forced to have hospital bedrest for an extended period of time plus time off after delivery. It's not just about money. Plus, I don't know any crisis pregnancy center that would have covered my combined $250,000 hospital bill plus all the time I would have had to take off of work and my bills if I had been a single mother with a job. Do you?

Emmanonymous said...

I'm the person Stacey mentioned who spent 16 weeks on bedrest. What she didn't say is that I was primarily a SAHM with two very small children at the time. I had to pay for full-time childcare, because I was physically incapable of caring for them myself -- I was allowed out of bed to go to the bathroom and that was it, plus I kept bouncing in and out of the hospital. The childcare costs ran well into the thousands of dollars.

CPCs won't pay your mortgage or your childcare or your grocery bill. Ask yourself how well your household economics would function if you decided to shut down your entire life and stay in your bedroom for the next four months. For some of us, that's what pregnancy means, and many people don't have the privileges and resources I had.