Saturday, January 21, 2017

Human Rights: What I Mean When I Say I'm Pro-Life

Today, I attended a Women's March.

For the first time.

Surrounded by over 4,000 people in the city where I choose to live, I got chills.

Growing up, the word "pro-choice" was a bad word in my house.

In my adult life, with the friends I have chosen, it's "pro-life" that has become the dirty word.

So, how do I reconcile the two seemingly divergent roads of thinking?

During my homeschooling days, we prayed the rosary in front of Planned Parenthood.  We packed up supplies every Christmas to donate to the local pro-life center.

We would go back to school, and several of the boys, one in particular, would harass and tease me.  "Boys will be boys," I was told.  And I was left powerless. These same women who are shocked and appalled that I march for women's rights did not care at all for my rights.

I refuse to frame being pro-life as only about the unborn.

When I say I'm pro-life, I mean from conception to death.  I mean that we protect the unborn by supporting their mothers. I mean that we protect children from abuse and bullying. I mean that I am against the death penalty.

Beyond that, I believe in action, in changing the way we view choosing life.

A family friend commented on this photo of my son. She expressed her dismay, her disappointment, her heartbreak.  She said I should know better.

I do know better. I know that women's rights means so much more than abortion, and I am proud that my son stood with me during our first women's march.  We stood for HUMAN RIGHTS.

A few months ago, on Facebook, of  course, I got into a long debate with someone about Planned Parenthood vs. Pro-Life Centers.  While we could not ultimately agree on larger issues (which I never expected us to), we could agree that Planned Parenthood did not, in our shared knowledge, offer support for pre-natal care and other resources that actually support the choice of life.

We need to do more.

I come from a place of privilege

I am privileged. I married a man I love, and we decided when and how to have children.

Another privilege? My mom told me early and often that she would support me, no matter what.

While it's laughable, looking back at my high school photos, to even imagine that I would have had sex and gotten pregnant. I always know that my parents would support me, would help me raise a child.  I felt safe in that knowledge.

When women face an unplanned pregnancy, whatever the circumstances, they are afraid. Pure and simple. What will it mean for their lives? Their dreams?

For me, having children was the dream. That is not true for everyone.

Without naming names and pointing fingers, I can say that the pro-life organizations I worked with for over a decade, while well-intentioned, did not have the funding or the mindset to provide resources beyond clothing and food. That is something, and it is more than what abortion clinics provide when a woman chooses life. But it is not enough.

I would not vote to repeal abortion rights laws.

That's not what I mean when I say I'm pro-life.

Instead, I want to work to make life a real choice.

To truly empower women to choose life, we must offer childcare so that they can work or continue their education. We must provide assistance so that teen moms can complete their high school education and find a way to move on to careers and college.

In grad school, I worked on a project to build the college and career library at one of these centers. Though they had never considered this idea before, they welcomed the change. Collaborating with the public library where I worked at the time, we found free and low-cost ways to populate these libraries.  Ten years out from the project, I have no idea if it continued, or if the volunteer counselors even used those books when meeting with their clients.

As a librarian, I created an outreach program with a program for teen mothers at our local continuation high school. We designed a story time program to help the moms work with their children on literacy skills, because helping women facing unplanned pregnancies means more than handing them diapers and formula.

Choosing life in an unplanned pregnancy should not effectively cut women off from their dreams. What comes after they choose life?

What do I believe?

I believe in supporting women to achieve their dreams, regardless of their reproductive plans.

I believe in keeping children safe for all of their lives.

I believe in bully prevention programs and in talking about bullying at schools and at home, rather than dusting it away and giving bullies permission to ruin lives.

I believe in sex ed.

I believe in state funded daycare and preschool.

I believe in public school.

I believe in grants and scholarships that go beyond athletics.

I believe in funding social programming to at least attempt to get everyone on an equal playing field.

I believe in supporting life at all levels.

That's what I mean when I say I'm pro-life.

And that's why I marched.

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