My Autonomy

I remember being pro-life. I grew up in a Catholic home, went to private school for the entirety of my education, attended youth group all through high school, and participated in several mission trips. I was what should be the poster child for what I refer to as the anti-choice movement, but my very left-leaning mother saw fit to teach me what my religious-oriented education wouldn’t—which meant that, yes, we talked a lot about sex and sexuality.

I remember being in the car with her as a child and asking a poignant question about sex. Her response? She had assumed I learned it all from watching tv. But that was our standard; she did not censor what I watched, and I was free and open to ask the questions I needed. 

I often think about a time I was at my godmother’s house with my mother and the Red Hot Chili Peppers were performing in all their nude glory, donning only tube socks to hide their genitals. I blushed away and my mother turned to me—a child—and said, “Oh relax Chloe, it’s just a penis.”

I laugh at that moment now. She helped me overcome body insecurities and questions and instilled in me a sense of safety in discussing sex and its aftermath. My mother taught me independence, in letting the sun revolve around me, and in knowing my rights and power as a woman. She raised me lovingly with my grandparents who built me to understand certain values I deserved. 

This was the opposite of what I was taught at school, at church, and by the parents of many of my peers. “All life is sacred.” I heard that a lot. I believed it myself. I believed in fetal rights over others’ and supported an ideology built on idealization instead of reality. It really should have been “fetal life is sacred,” because women seem to be thrown aside a lot in this conversation.

And while I can’t tell you the exact moment I started being pro-choice, I can tell you the moment that made me question being pro-life. 

During an intense conversation with some peers, someone made the oft-touted comment of the pro-life movement that if you got pregnant, you should carry the baby to term and give it up for adoption. At the time, I had agreed wholly with that belief, “Yeah, I would carry the baby to term and give it to a loving family who wanted it.” As soon as I said it out loud though, it felt wrong; realistically, there is no way I would have done that. 

I would not have allowed my body to be used, to carry a baby for almost ten months, and then hand it off without a single goodbye to some strangers to raise while I dealt with the healing and grieving that is associated with giving away a newborn. I stood in the shower and looked at my small frame—pale flesh fit from years of competitive running—and realized there was no way I would allow myself to wave away my freedoms and fitness in favor of doing what I believed was “the right thing.” I reflected on my mother’s wisdom and words and conferred with her that if I had gotten pregnant, she would do whatever I wanted to support me or the decision I made.

And frankly, for as much as other girls around me echoed the sentiments of the aforementioned “just carry it” belief, I don’t think they would have allowed themselves to go through with it either.

This was normal in the religious community though—live with the consequences of your actions. We were told judgment would be cast unto us by God, but really, it felt like judgment was being cast by elders in the church and the adults around me who had absolutely no hand in writing the Bible. It was one of the first moments that made me question my belonging to the Christian community—and it definitely wasn’t my last.

Today, I still refer to myself as a Christian. I have a very private relationship with God not built on posting Bible verses and acting in performative actions like praying on my Instagram story. I have been heavily scorned by people within that community and have watched them act in a way I’m not too sure God would approve of, while simultaneously preaching love and acceptance. It’s eye-opening to say the least. I’m not sure many of the people I went to school with would share my beliefs, and that’s ok. All I can do is be loud about why this is important, and if they choose not to listen, well, that’s between them and God I guess.

“And while normally I wait for the conversation to introduce itself, I don’t think that’s the case for today. Today is a day to be loud.”

Abortion has been a highly discussed topic in my upbringing, and yet here we are as history repeats itself. Something I believed to be a safe standard is now rearing its ugly head as elderly right-wing conservatives dismiss science and health safety in favor of the “all life is sacred” argument that benefits the narrative of them and their constituents.

in all true honesty? I think being “pro-life” is a copout, a way to graft onto religious values without actual accountability—a privileged viewpoint that works for the select few people lucky enough to never have to consider “a choice.” Maybe that sounds a little harsh, but frankly, I’m tired of mincing my words on topics that massively affect others around me. 

The day I stopped thinking abortion was only for rape or incest cases was the day I realized I had been active on the wrong side of what was best for society. It was one of the first times I reflected on my upbringing and saw beyond the Bible and books into what really mattered—being a voice for the voiceless.

Good phrase, huh? I know it’s normally part of the pro-life mantra because fetuses don’t have voices. But they also don’t have mouths or lungs or anything one would need to survive out in the world. 

So, who really are the voiceless? How about the hundreds of thousands of women who seek abortion services every year? How about the hundreds of thousands of children in foster care who have higher rates of PTSD than veterans? How about the thousands of abused mothers who are bound to their abusers through paternity? The women facing dangerous pregnancies? The women with severe mental health issues not ready or fit to rear children? The children of poverty and abuse? The rape victims? The teenagers with bright futures? How about all of them?

The irony is that to be pro-life, you really must stop caring about the baby once it’s born; advocacy stops there.  The same people picketing outside clinics that offer abortion services are the same people to go completely hush on topics like improving the foster system.

But that tracks with the religious right, at least in my experience.

I know, I know, anecdotal evidence is not real evidence. But point me in the direction of any politician who is actively against the pro-choice movement while simultaneously supporting legislation that benefits immigrant children, single mothers, and children of poverty, and I’ll rescind some of my comments. Go on—I’ll wait.

Because it is so often forgotten that being pro-choice means access to sex education, sexual health, preventative care, birth control, etc. We’re not trying to abort full babies, but we are trying to fight for the rights of women who have the choice to remove some underdeveloped fetal tissue in favor of more chances in her life. This isn’t a discussion on abortion, it’s a discussion on women’s reproductive health and the rights to their bodies—their autonomy. 

I know people are sick of that word— “autonomy”—but the day corpses started having more rights than living women was really the day that word became tattooed on the foreheads of millions of people around the world. 

Corpses? Yes. You can’t take organs from the body of the dead without their advanced permission. In fact, it’s a felony to desecrate the deceased. Some rape perpetrators don’t even suffer those kinds of charges. And the victims? Apparently, they must “live with the consequences of their actions” according to some people I won’t name.

I’m devastated for my sisters around this “land of the free” who now must live in fear that they could get accidentally impregnated or face massive legal consequences. I know hardly any women in my life that have not been sexually harassed, sexually assaulted, or raped. That means that their choice stops when a man’s choice starts, it means the system will continue to perpetuate, it means thousands of bodies will change and suffer in the name of a life that matters enough to be born but not enough to ever be given an actual chance.

I implore my readers to reflect on their upbringing, their sisters, their mothers, their girlfriends and platonic friends, their religion, and the entire societal system. I ask that we see past what we think is right and consider that it doesn’t necessarily “make” it the right thing. I just want people to stop and think about life outside of the small perfect circle they live in that others don’t.

And lastly, I just want to say that if you don’t like abortions—then don’t get one.

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My Autonomy

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