I Thought About It: An Open Letter To An Anti-Choice Protestor
Let me paint a picture.
It was a Saturday morning around 8:20 AM, and I had just gotten to the clinic. The scenery was grey with clouds, steel buildings, and pollution. I’m still relatively new here and your team hasn’t learned my face just yet. For the second time in a row, I am so graciously given the first-hand experience of being a patient trying to access healthcare from a place that provides abortions. I walked past the large posters of gory aborted fetuses, some of them almost as tall as I am. I felt your breath on my neck as you followed me down the sidewalk, tried to hand me a pamphlet about Jesus Christ and begged me not to kill my unborn child.
I rubbed my eyes in fatigue as I shuffled inside the clinic, put on a large “Clinic Escort” button, and shuffled back outside.
I stood by the front entrance with a few other volunteers, making small talk as much as we can without giving out any personal information. Members of your team take turns shouting pro-life clichés and Bible verses. The “legal boundary” between you and the clinic doesn’t seem to exist; pro-life protestors stand and shout only a few feet away from the door while stray police officers walk by without saying a word. While looking down the block for any possible patients, I accidentally made eye contact with you.
“You know this place provides abortions?”
I nodded, silently regretting directing my field of vision your way, and preparing myself for the onslaught of verbal condemnation.
“You know what I heard? I heard that people like you go to Hell. And in Hell, you burn in a fire so hot that your skin falls off.” Your eyes widened, and you leaned in, “Then, your skin grows back on, and you get burned again, and it falls off again. And then you stay there for all of eternity. That’s what I heard.”
At this point, I’m trying my hardest to pretend you don’t exist.
“You know, I used to think like you,” you continued, “I used to think it was a woman’s choice, too. But I’ve seen the light, and God has saved me. I’m trying to save you.”
“Okay, thanks,” I said, trying to end the conversation. I wasn’t there to talk to you. I was there to get women and their families to the front door.
The rest of my shift came and went. Each patient is different; some walk fiercely with two middle fingers up to the pro-lifers like you. Others are scared, and some are crying. Some women retort to your holy threats with variations of “I’m not even here to get an abortion!” I’m not sure if you know this, but this clinic that we are both committed to offers pre-natal care for women who are keeping their baby, and social services for women who are choosing adoption. They also offer regular gynecological checkups, birth control, and cancer screenings, among many other comprehensive healthcare services. They take walk-in appointments and Medicaid.
At around 10:15, things start to settle down. You walked past me, carrying your bulky sign picturing a nickel surrounded by small, severed limbs.
“Think about what I said.”
A fellow escort chuckled and said under her breath, “So, are you pro-life now?” I chuckled back, but I won’t lie. I did think about what you said on the way home.
Why am I pro-choice? Is this the right thing to do?
Initially, I thought about a lot of the claims you and your team make every Saturday. Then, I did some research.
The first claim I tackled is the one that “most babies that are aborted are African-American.” In your opinion, the fact that a lot of the escorts are white, and that most of the patients are people of color, is evidence that abortion is an anti-black issue. In 2011, the CDC published research, which states that non-Hispanic white women and non-Hispanic black women were almost tied in number of abortions received. Non-Hispanic white women received 37.2% of abortions, while non-Hispanic black women received 36.2% of abortions.1
Another one of your claims is that “abortion is the worst thing a woman can do to her body.” All of the scientific evidence actually states the opposite. Between 1998 and 2010, there were found to be less than one maternal death for every 100,000 abortions performed in the United States.2 On the other hand, between 1998 and 2005, there were 14.5 maternal deaths per every 100,000 live births3; between 2006 and 2010, there were 16 maternal deaths per every 100,000 live births.4 In addition, anal and urinary incontinence, pelvic floor prolapse, and sexual dysfunctions are strongly correlated with pregnancy and childbirth. 5, 6 No such consequences are associated with abortion. There is also overwhelming evidence to support that the risk for long-term mental health problems for women who undergo first-trimester abortions is no greater than women who carry unplanned pregnancies to term.7
I also want to explore other options for pregnant women. Pro-lifers seem to portray carrying to term quite ideally. Although you and your team oftentimes cite “selfish” reasons for getting an abortion, the statistics do not work in the favor of the unborn child either.
Women might not feel comfortable keeping a child if there is no father present. Children living in fatherless homes are almost four times more likely to live in poverty than children living in a two-parent household, 8 and they are also at a drastically higher risk for drug and alcohol abuse.9 Others may already be having trouble keeping themselves financially stable, without bringing a child into the picture. And if a woman chooses adoption? There are already almost 400,000 children in foster care, and just over 100,000 are eligible for adoption. On top of that, 32% of those children up for adoption will wait over three years to be adopted.10 Now, I am not saying that the women who give birth and the children who are born under these circumstances are doomed and should be stigmatized. I am simply questioning the morality of forcing a woman and a child into these situations when other options are available.
I cannot imagine religious morality endorsing the acts of following scared young women down the sidewalk and screaming at them to the point of tears. Every Saturday you commit outright intimidation and harassment against women just trying to go to the doctor. You claim to be compassionate towards the unborn, but where is your compassion towards fully developed human beings? Your kindness and understanding for people seems to end with the cutting of the umbilical cord.
You asked me to think about what you said. Well, I thought about it. I’m pro-empathy. I’m pro-scientific evidence.
And I’m still pro-choice.
Mariel Didato is a recent college graduate who is passionate about women’s rights and issues. She plans to go back to graduate school in the near future to conduct research on the policies that affect women in the United States.
April 22, 2016
1Abortion Surveillance – United States, 2011. Table 13. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, Vol. 63, No. SS-11. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, November 28, 2014.
2 Zane, Suzanne, DVM, MPH, Andreea A. Creanga, MD, PhD, Cynthia J. Berg, MD, MPH, Karen Pazol, MD, MPH, Danielle B. Suchdev, MPH, Denise J. Jamieson, MD, MPH, and William M. Callaghan, MD, MPH. “Bortion-Related Mortality in the United States: 1998–2010.” Obstetrics & Gynecology 126.2 (2015): 258-65.
3 Johnson, Tamisha F., and Candace Mulready-Ward. “Pregnancy-Related Mortality in the United States, 1998 to 2005.” Obstetrics & Gynecology 117.5 (2011): 1229-230.
4 Creanga, Andreea A., Cynthia J. Berg, Carla Syverson, Kristi Seed, F. Carol Bruce, and William M. Callaghan. “Pregnancy-Related Mortality in the United States, 2006–2010.” Obstetrics & Gynecology 125.1 (2015): 5-12.
5 Fonti, Ylenia, Rosalba Giordano, Alessandra Cacciatore, Mattea Romano, and Beatrice La Rosa. “Post Partum Pelvic Floor Changes.” Journal of Prenatal Medicine 3.4 (2009): 57-59.
6 Memon, Hafsa U., and Victoria L. Handa. “Vaginal Childbirth and Pelvic Floor Disorders.” Women’s Health 9.3 (2013): 265-77.
7 Major B et al., Report of the Task Force on Mental Health and Abortion, Washington, DC: American Psychological Association Task Force on Mental Health and Abortion, 2008.
8 U.S. Census Bureau, Children’s Living Arrangements and Characteristics: March 2011, Table C8. Washington D.C.: 2011.
9 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. National Center for Health Statistics. Survey on Child Health. Washington, DC, 1993.
10 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families,
Administration on Children, Youth and Families, Children’s Bureau, http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/cb