This is part three in a four (plus)-part story about Baby Girl. This post will be the most politically charged, so please proceed with caution. Feel free to skip it if you prefer.
A couple of weeks after we got out of the hospital, we happened to pass the Planned Parenthood on Commonwealth Avenue in Boston. As it was a Saturday, a group of protesters stood right behind the line with their usual accoutrements – including the name and address of one of the doctors. I will be honest in saying that even before our situation had occurred, these protesters tend to make me angry, but in this case, the topic was just too raw, too upsetting. And to publicize the address of one of the doctors is a coward’s way of asking for violence.
I don’t remember exactly how it started. Maybe I gave them a dirty look. Maybe they started to preach at me. I’m nearly certain that I didn’t directly engage them first. My memory tells me that they engaged us first – simply because we were walking past Planned Parenthood on a Saturday morning. I couldn’t help myself. I started yelling back. I didn’t tell them anything about our situation, but they immediately began accusing me of a baby-killer. The entire exchange lasted maybe a minute: We weren’t going to change their minds, and engaging with them was just going to increase my blood pressure. So we eventually just walked away from them.
I’d like to take a step back and emphasize: I strongly believe in the right to expression, and I will vigorously defend their right to protest (cue the great speech from The American President here). But just because you *can* do something doesn’t mean you should. When I think of the many, many ways in which these people could reduce abortions, the fact that they choose intimidation over all of the other, much more effective, options, just makes me mad.
But, as Jack McFarland would say: “Eyes back to me.” My point here isn’t to rail against abortion protesters (oops…too late). My point is to point out that it’s easy to characterize the abortion debate in black and white terms. But as with all complicated issues, it’s really filled with shades of gray. Women seeking abortions aren’t all stupid teenagers or promiscuous women seeking to correct a “mistake.” When pressed, pro-life legislators and proponents *might* allow for rape, incest, or the health of the mother as acceptable conditions. A lot of new legislation discussed is around “late-term” abortions. But here’s the thing. While I don’t have the statistics on it, I have to believe that most late-term abortions are like my own: People who absolutely want children, but are faced with an impossible situation with no good choices. We weren’t looking for a perfect child. But we weren’t going to struggle to bring a child into this world so that it could suffer for a while before dying. Most women don’t carry a child in their bodies for five months and then suddenly change their minds. Yes, I recognize that it can and does happen, but I think it’s the exception rather than the rule.
I don’t agree with the reasons a lot of people have abortions, just as I don’t agree with how these protesters exercise their right to free speech. But, and here’s the critical point: It’s not my decision to make. It’s theirs. And I certainly don’t think either one of them should be legislated.
As I mentioned in Part 1, the timing of these posts was precipitated primarily by this blog series in The Daddy Files, particularly the “Abort Protesters” post. I admired the courage it took for Aaron to write those blogs, and it occurred to me that we owed it to share our story as well. Yes, it’s a private matter, but I think it’s also a very poorly understood but highly emotional topic: on both sides.
I don’t consider myself a very confrontational person (stop snickering). Opinionated, yes. But not confrontational. As a result, while we never hid what happened (and many of our friends knew the details), in many other cases, particularly for those friends or acquaintances who we feared had a different point of view, we simply said we had a stillbirth. While true, it didn’t tell the whole story. No, I don’t think we needed to shout out the details to everyone that walked by, but neither do I think we should be ashamed of it. After reading Aaron’s blog, I realized that this isn’t about confrontation – it’s about asking for a little understanding.
And maybe, just maybe, sharing our story would help gain a little more understanding. I don’t expect to change minds – this topic is too sensitive, too emotional, too reactive to do that. But I think the world can always benefit from a pause, a deep breath and a little extra consideration.
Next up: A silver lining.