In the late 1980s, I did clinic defense, escorting frightened people ––some couples, some on their own–– past screaming, self-righteous bands who called themselves Christians. Groups of us also traveled to clinics that were greater flash points, with larger mobs, and stood up to people holding fetus signs and Bibles, faces screwed up, practically spitting out their anger.
In the early 2000s, I organized sitting meditation in front of the Planned Parenthood in San Francisco while yet another round of abortion opponents were doing a prayer action of “40 Days for Life” across the street.
I’ve done these things because women’s lives are sacred. Non-binary lives are sacred. Trans-men who are pregnant? Their lives are sacred, too.
My life? It is also sacred. As sacred as yours.
I’m a non-binary person, assigned female at birth. Forever queer ––in both gender and sexuality–– I’m happy with pretty much any pronouns, though I mostly go by she or they.
And I am not (just) pro-choice.
I had one abortion in my 20s. A condom broke. It happens. The abortion wasn’t easy. It was necessary. I vowed to never have to go through one again.
That abortion also saved my life. Not my immediate physical life, but it saved my life nonetheless, enabling me to work toward the life I have now, one which (I hope) contributes and gives back. That abortion also saved the life of whatever child that fetus would have turned into. It saved that being from a life of poverty and difficulty. It saved that child from a parent who didn’t want it and who still needed years to work through the abuse from her own childhood.
Sometimes, in order to truly support life, we must make room for something new to grow. Sometimes, in order to truly support life, we must find ways to nurture the well-being of the children and adults already living, who struggle with self-acceptance, or poverty, or live in the throes of war, or under the effects of the slow-rolling disaster that is climate change.
Sometimes, in order to support life, we must figure out exactly what choices we will make to better work toward justice. To create. To serve. To live.
I am not (just) pro-choice.
I am pro-abortion.
The right to safe abortion is consistently at risk in the United States and in many other countries around the world. It is put at risk most often by those who want to control women’s bodies.* It is put at risk by those who expect parents to work three jobs to feed their children, and who cut off medical care and access to education. Safe abortion is consistently put at risk by those who support police gunning people down in the streets or locking them in cages. It is put at risk by those who pollute our air and water and endanger worker’s lives in the name of profit. Safe abortion is consistently put at risk by those who deny asylum seekers safe harbor, and by those who send people off to endless wars.
And yet they have the temerity to call themselves “pro-life.”
I am not (just) pro-choice.
I am pro-abortion.
I am pro-abortion early term. I am pro-abortion in the middle of a pregnancy. I am pro-abortion late term. Those people who think someone in late term pregnancy wants to terminate for any but the most serious reasons? They have to be deluded. Abortion is not a walk in the park, even early term. Like everything, it costs. For many of us, it just costs much less than carrying a pregnancy to term.
I am pro-abortion because a parent’s life is worth more to me than the life of a zygote or a fetus. I am pro-abortion because, in my religion, death and life walk hand in hand, as part of one great cycle. Death and life are inextricably intertwined. To deny a person’s power over the workings of their own body is to deny the right to foster life itself. Fostering life comes in many forms.
We are not chattel. We are not property. We are women, men, and humans who are willing to face the hard choices of adulthood. Rites of passage. Sometimes the patch of carrots must be thinned for other things to grow strong and healthy. Sometimes the fire moves through the forest, so the pines can release seeds.
I have grown so many things with my life, yet anti-abortionists would tell me, “not enough.” As one sister wrote to me at the time, “You’ve killed one of my nieces or nephews.” As though my family doesn’t have enough children and grandchildren. As though tipping the scales at 7 billion people and counting is not enough.**
I honor the cycles of life. I honor the cycles of death. I honor my power, as a witch, to hold out a hand to both. I clasp those hands, bringing life and death together.
One cannot work for the liberation of all beings if one isn’t willing to sacrifice.
To sacrifice is to claim power. It is an offering. The blood pours upon the altar from the calf. The incense rises. The fruits of the land are given. I offered the temporary joining of my body with another’s, that brief coming together of cells…I offered up my pain. I offered these for the promise of a life of creativity and service.
I’m still living up to that promise.
In closing one door to whatever that zygote may have one day become, I myself became something. And I’ve done the best I can to support others in becoming, too. That’s all that we can do with our lives, isn’t it? To help one another?
Thank you Roe, even though by now you’ve changed your mind. I honor your sacrifice, too. I know it wasn’t easy. Life isn’t easy.
But life, if we make room for it, can be filled with strength and joy.
* I recognize that genderqueer, non-binary people, and trans men can also become pregnant. I’m one of those people and I’ve tried to include that in as much of this essay as possible. The control of both cis and trans women’s bodies is most often up for legislation, which is why I use the phrase “women’s bodies” here.
**Do not think I lay the blame on climate disaster on people having children, particularly poor people. Climate disaster is something I lay firmly at the feet of the mega-polluters and resource eaters, most of whom are multi-national corporations run by billionaires.
NOTE: an earlier version of this essay was first published in 2014. This version is from 2018.
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