The following is a guest post by Patti Digh that was first published as her May 6, 2022 From My Orange Desk Friday email. You can read past messages from Patti by clicking here.
We are now in a WHOLE NEW MONTH! WHOLE NEW MONTH! And unfortunately, at the same time, we have regressed by decades, poised to strip people with a uterus of their right to bodily autonomy, the rights of everyone to marry whomever they love, regardless of gender or race, to receive appropriate healthcare and support, and so much more.
What follows is a story from my life, a large part of which I have told exactly one other human because I consider it a personal decision. When I was 18 years old, I got pregnant. I was in love with a man my parents would refuse to meet simply because he was Black. My mother would tell me in anger that she didn’t want half-breed grandchildren. Never mind that he was a star student at my college, a cool young man who was a popular DJ for the school radio station. He was an amazing human. They disowned me, forcing me to leave college for a time. My father died in the midst of this relationship and my mother informed me that I had killed him. My boyfriend and I were spat on—and worse—on the streets of Greensboro, North Carolina, where we lived.
I knew I was too young and immature and poor to have a child. I knew the world would be an extremely difficult place for that biracial human to grow up in, given the hate and violence we had felt and faced already. I was too grief-stricken at my father’s death and the misplaced guilt I felt for that. I decided to have an abortion. The word “decided” is even too large a word. I didn’t decide as much as know I must. It was the late 1970s. That child, had I carried them to term, would be 44 years old now. My life and what I offer to the world would have been vastly, unimaginably different. Do I wonder about that sometimes? Of course I do. Was it a selfish decision? Is self-care selfish?
I didn’t even have the money needed for the abortion. A professor of mine gave me the money I needed. I drove there alone, and walked through a phalanx of anti-abortion protestors carrying signs with fetuses on them. I looked straight ahead until I reached the door. I turned at the door and shouted “YOU DON’T KNOW ME. HOW DARE YOU” before going inside. I went alone because I knew the judgment would have been far worse had my boyfriend gone with me. I couldn’t bear that for him.
It is easy for others to say that my decision was the right or wrong decision only because they are not me. And only I should have that right. That decision changed my life forever. FOREVER. And until legislators are willing to be pro-life after babies are born and make it possible for people to work and contribute to the world in addition to being ovens for babies—by enacting child-friendly and parent-friendly legislation—they cannot and must not legislate our uteruses. And not even then.
Did I make the right decision? It’s not for anyone to say but me. We must protect the rights of women everywhere to make that decision for themselves. And this movement is about far more than stripping child-bearing people of their rights.
This is scary. It is happening. And it has far-reaching implications. Yes, be pro-life if you want to. For yourself. Your belief system is not everyone’s belief system. Stop being a missionary to those you perceive as heathens. It smacks of white supremacy and saviorism. You may worship a vengeful god who requires you to prove yourself in order to get to heaven. That path is paved with ego. It is paved with a kind of gold only you can access, not the poor mothers who cannot support the children you are forcing them to have. The rich children and grandchildren of these legislators will still have access to abortion, no matter what. Don’t fool yourself into thinking this provides a level playing field for all fetuses. And don’t fool yourself into thinking this will end abortions. It will simply end SAFE abortions for most people. Child-bearing humans will die as a result.
Many women have been sharing the following on social media as a way of providing safe haven in the face of these maniacal intrusions on our bodies. Be a support. Men, we need you to step the hell up. Your genitals play a key role in this, and so far, you have gotten a pass. It’s time to change that. Use that penis privilege to create change.
Patti is an author, speaker, and educator who builds inclusive learning communities and gets to the heart of difficult topics like diversity, inclusion, and meaning. You can visit her website here: https://www.pattidigh.com/