Inside the left drawer of my desk was an empty binder, paper clips, a pack of unopened tissues and a pregnancy test.
Earlier that day, I walked across the street from my job, to the Rite-Aid, to buy a pregnancy test. Whatever gave the quickest results, no matter the price. I walked past the section of condoms to get there. Too late for those, I thought.
I was 24, he was 22. I lived at home, he lived far away from his children, both under the age of five. My father never met him because he never claimed me. In a space to prove my worth, I caved. Unprotected sex became the norm. I thought him to be worth the risk.
I sat in that bathroom stall for what felt like eternity. Every fiber of my being felt pregnant. My periods ran like clockwork, I knew to be alarmed when things felt off. As I waited, I thought about my life, my family, his family. I dreaded telling my father that I got pregnant by someone that wasn’t my boyfriend and that he never met. More scared to tell my father than the potential father of my child.
The test came back. Too early for results. That still felt set to change. On the first page of the Washington Post was an article about the RU-486, the abortion pill. I thought that to be a sign, a sign of the nearness of dread. I went to my room, sat in silence and cried. Every night. Two days late turned into ten. I would find out later that my grandmother called both my Aunts because she could feel the anxiety from outside of my bedroom. She knew how all of this all felt. She gave that child up for adoption.
When my period came at work, relief covered me. Eleven days, finally. I called all of my friends who knew to tell them the good news. Joy covered their voices. They didn’t like him either. In the midst of it all, I thought about my options. I thought about what I could or should do. When I read about the RU-486, I knew then my choice. I can say now that if I was pregnant, I would have had an abortion. I felt that way then and still do now.
Even if in this walk with Christ and with God’s people, that hasn’t wavered.
Being pro-choice before Christ was easy. I never felt a need to explain myself or to expect others to not understand. I never felt called to keep my mouth shut. Never to a point where I walked into spaces wondering if it’s best to not say anything from the so-called politically liberal perspective. I just existed.
Now inside this body, I grapple with a lot. Not whether abortion is wrong but rather if I’m wrong to say that I’m pro-reproductive choice, therefore an advocate for abortion.
Especially after 2016. Especially after what we heard at the State of the Union.
The raucous applause we heard on the floor of Congress prompted me into hardest eye-roll I could muster up from within me. No cheers of that magnitude came at the declaration of ending HIV/AIDS or childhood cancer or equal pay for women. The loudest, most emphatic response came at the insistence of our duty to protect the unborn. That’s not passion. That’s politics.
I truly believe that passion may be at the root of it all but politics trumped it all. The day after news broke in Virginia with respect to possible changes in the state’s abortion law, my Facebook feed became full of posts describing abortions and videos of babies inside of the womb. I watched all of it. The anguish I felt never came from my stance on abortion. It came from the idea that I failed to agree with everyone.
I do not believe abortion to be wrong.
I believe in a women’s right to reproductive autonomy. I believe that the fate of one’s uterus is up to them and them alone. I believe in the right to reproductive choice — to have or not have children and the when, where and how. Therefore, I believe that abortion should be one of those choices. I believe abortion to be a medical procedure. I believe one of the biggest sins of the church — as an institution — has been its influence into making abortion a top political issue. I do believe that the church — again, as a institution — bamboozled millions of people into becoming single-issue voters. I also feel that the church — once again, as an institution — is due for a reckoning with respect to matters related to sexuality.
But there still remains a fear of ostracization. As I write out my declarations, a part of me fears the results. I’ve always been to the left of most things at the intersection of religion and politics. As time goes on, I learned to reconcile a lot of who I am with what I now believe to be true. But I stepped back and thought about how to handle this tactifully because it remains to be the one issue that divides us the most.
Or, in my case, caused many of us to hide.
I’m not an unicorn. There are organization such as Catholics for Choice and Religious Coalition of Reproductive Justice. Finding those organizations helped to weaken a lot of my fears and concerns. The one remaining issue of struggle: the church.
I’m in this process of working through my issues with the church. To be very clear, when I speak about the church, I speak not of the body and its inhabitants. I speak about the church as a institution with rules, regulations, policies, procedures and bylaws. In short, I’m close to saying that I hate it. The church advocated for slavery, segregation, eugenics and genocide and fails to reconcile with its involvement. I especially take issue with the church’s desire to police others through the shadow of politics. That feels antithetical to what I know.
Jesus didn’t look through other’s windows looking for sinners. That was the Pharisees.
I do know that I can understand why someone would be anti-abortion. We all read the same 66 books. I know and read Jeremiah 1:5. I know Isaiah. I know the story of Jesus.
I also interpret that to be a call to Jeremiah alone. I also know the story of Jesus with respect to redemption, mercy and grace. I also know the story of us to be good stewards of what God gave us, including our bodies.
I also know that we can make choices with or without respect to consequences. I also know a history where women — particularly women of color — continue to be refused access to quality reproductive care. I also know a history where women — particularly women of color — suffered from rape, forced sterilization, shame and guilt. And most, if not all, of that energy came from those who claimed to carry the banner for Christ.
Christians sent their teenage daughters away when they got pregnant. Christians advocated with electroshock therapy and conversion camps. Christians made women stand in front of the congregation to be shamed for their pregnancies. We did that. Yes, I said we. If I claim to call myself a Christian and stand firm in that, I must reckon and reconcile with the acts done under that name. Now is not the time to start chopping off body parts. When a part of the body is infected, it affects us as a whole.
As a whole, we can do better. That starts with us pulling back these ideas that abortion is the scourge of the Earth, the only war worth fighting. It’s no longer my war. To change the conversation, we must be in it. Let me be the first that you know so we can start.