Let He Who Is Without Sin Cast the First Stone

I got into a huge fight with one of my cousins recently, and it reminded me of why the work I did when I had my pageant title is so important. This family argument is an example of the unnecessary stigma, hatred, and shame that surrounds the issue of abortion and is the reason why so many women who have had this common procedure done are so reluctant to speak of it. Millions of these women feel it is a “dirty little secret” and carry it to their graves never revealed. THIS is the reason why I decided to take up the torch and become the first public figure to ever openly talk about having had an abortion. I knew it would bring a few consequences, but I did it anyway because I knew that the rewards of it--helping millions of women everywhere find the courage to stand up for themselves and not let others bully or shame them for their choice--would be well worth it. And it has. In the past year, many women from all across the country have contacted me and opened up to me about their own secret abortions they had years ago. They told me about how my courage and conviction of talking about my own experience to the world encouraged them to open up and talk about their own experiences and feel better about them. And that is just great. I am honored that I inspired these women to find the courage and conviction to stand up and talk about something that our Puritanical culture has stigmatized so badly. No woman should have to live the rest of her life thinking that she is a horrible person who deserves the hateful judgment of other people for a decision she felt she had no other choice to make. And when you consider that at least 1 out of every 3 American women has this procedure done at least once in her lifetime, that means there are an awful lot of women out there who are feel that way.

This argument with my cousin drives home a very important point that I and others like me have worked so hard to make people understand. People are often quick to label women who have abortions as “selfish”, “irresponsible”, and “immature”. But what they don’t seem to understand is that it takes just as much maturity and responsibility to honestly assess oneself and decide that you AREN’T ready or able to bring a child into the world and give it the kind of life it deserves as it does to decide to have a baby. No type of medical birth control is 100% foolproof, and unintended pregnancies can happen. Some women may assess themselves and decide that they have what it takes to carry the pregnancy to term and raise the baby. Other women may assess themselves and decide that they do not have what it takes to carry a pregnancy to term and raise a child. As long as both women honestly assess themselves and their lives at that point in time and make the decision they know is best for them and their circumstances, then there is nothing irresponsible about either decision. I’d venture to say that it takes even more responsibility and maturity to decide that you shouldn’t bring a child into the world than it does to decide that you want a baby. I know a lot of women who have had children when they probably shouldn’t have because they got all caught up in what I call “Baba Gaga” where they are blinded by all the excitement over baby supplies, baby showers, and all the attention women get for being pregnant. It takes a mature, responsible woman to look past all the Baby Gaga and say to herself, “I just don’t have what it takes to be a proper parent right now, and having a baby just wouldn’t be the right thing to do for me or that child.” In my opinion, it is the women and girls who rush to have babies they know they can’t adequately provide for...the ones who purposely have children to trap a man into staying with them or get attention...who are the “irresponsible” ones.

It is that point that finally made me reach my limit and blow up at my cousin. We come from very different upbringings. She was raised in a stable, two-parent, strict Christian household where everyone expected that she would always stay on the “straight and narrow” path in life. I was raised in a poor, chaotic ,one-parent household where nobody expected me to ever amount to much of anything. But despite out different upbringings, we have one thing in common: We both became pregnant out of wedlock at the age of 21. However, we each made different decisions on how to deal with our unplanned pregnancies. My cousin had a home and two parents who were able and willing to help her raise her child so that she could finish school and get her life back on track. So she carried her pregnancy to term and raised the child. My family told me that if I ever got pregnant, then I was not to come home because they didn’t want me around if I was pregnant and they would not help me raise an illegitimate child. I was a student in college and I had no family to help me, no place of my own to live, no vehicle, no job, and no money. I may have been a young college kid, but I had enough maturity to see that I did not have the necessities needed to properly care for a child. And besides that, my family had specifically told me not to come home if I got pregnant. I didn’t have the options that my cousin had, I literally had nowhere to turn. If I had went ahead and had that baby, that child and I would have lived in complete abject poverty and relied on government assistance to survive. That child would have lived the exact same kind of life that I lived when I was growing up…maybe even worse. So there was really only ONE choice I could make--end the pregnancy and continue on with my plans to make a better life for myself. My boyfriend and father of the baby was a good man but wasn’t in any better circumstances than I was. He and I talked it over in depth and both soberly agreed that we had no business raising a baby when we were both just a couple of college kids without stable careers, a place of our own to live in, or any of the necessities that a child requires. Many judgmental people with no knowledge or understanding of my background or circumstances at the time have simply asked “Why didn't you just put your baby up for adoption if you couldn’t take care of it instead of being selfish and taking away its chance at life?”, as if adoption is the magical answer to every problem. The option of adoption always seems so simple to anti-choicers who have never been in my situation. Too many people are under the misunderstanding that adoption is the alternative to abortion. It’s not. Adoption is the alternative to keeping and raising a baby. The alternative to abortion is pregnancy and childbirth. Before you can raise a baby or give it up for adoption, you have to endure 9 months of pregnancy and all of the stress that comes with that and then a day or two of grueling childbirth. Most women who don’t want to have a child don’t want to go through pregnancy and childbirth, either. It’s no walk in the park! And once again, when you are in a situation like mine where your family has told you not to even come home if you are pregnant, remaining pregnant for 9 months so that I could give the child up for adoption wasn’t really an option.

The point is, I made the best possible choice I could at that time, and I am just sick and tired of my cousin berating me for it and insinuating that she is a better person than me because she chose to carry her unplanned pregnancy to term and I didn’t. I’m tired of her holier-than-thou attitude and judgment of everything I do, and I‘ve finally reached the point where I‘ve had more than enough of it. I have no more tolerance left for it. She wasn’t “more responsible” than me or “more Christian” than me, she just had options available to her that I didn’t.  If she thinks I'm "un-Christian" or a heathen because of the decision I made, then perhaps she should read this piece about abortion written by a Theologan.  If I had had a stable home with a family who had the means to help me raise a child while finishing school and were WILLING to help me, then I may have made a different choice and became a mother at age 21 like she did. What’s done is done, and I do not need her or anyone else thumping their Bibles at me and calling me a horrible, selfish, irresponsible person when in fact I made the most responsible and selfless choice that I could given the limited options I had. In my opinion, going ahead and having that baby when I knew that I would have to end up relying on the government to support me and my baby would have been the most irresponsible thing I could have done. There is no doubt in my mind that I made the right decision, because look at where I am today: I have a Bachelor’s Degree, I have a secure job that pays very well, I have the freedom and ability to pursue all of my career and personal goals and dreams, and I don’t have to rely on anyone to support me. I am a self-sufficient, independent woman. There is no greater feeling in the world than that, let me tell you. The next time a child enters my life, whether it be planned or unplanned, I will be able to make a difference choice because now I have the life and means to properly provide for a child and give it the kind of life it deserves. I refuse to bring a child into this world unless I know for certain that I can provide it with every comfort and opportunity that I lacked when I was a child. I want my children to have lives that are 10 times better than mine. And there is nothing “selfish” about that!! I blew up at my cousin because I don’t need to defend or explain myself or my choices in life to her or anyone else, and I am tired of her passing judgment on me when she has never walked a single day in my shoes. I also don’t appreciate her calling me out for having sex outside of marriage and calling me “promiscuous” or a “slut” when she herself has done the exact same thing and has admitted to “liking boys A LOT”. She certainly didn’t conceive her child through Immaculate Conception! That is the pot calling the kettle black, and I suspect that there is some major projection going on here since she’s always accusing me of doing the exact same things that she has done. People with a guilty conscience often try to alleviate their internal guilt and shame for things they have done by projecting it onto others and accusing them of doing the same mistakes that they have done. This is a classic case of it. For someone who claims to be such a Christian with strong faith and values, she sure isn’t following what the Christian faith teaches its followers--do NOT judge others. If her daughter “saved her” from a life of wild behavior and if she has enjoyed being a young parent, then good for her. Her unplanned pregnancy had a happy ending and she should be thankful for that. My unplanned pregnancy had a happy ending for me too…I was able to have a second chance and get my life where it needed to be so that I wouldn’t have to continue living the way I did when I was growing up. Having a child at 21 may have saved her life, but it would have completely destroyed mine and the life of that potential child. She needs to accept and respect that and get off my back about it.  If she can't do that, then can can take her Bible and shove it where the sun doesn't shine.

 

I published this piece on my own blog, http://missillinois.blogspot.com/2011/06/let-he-who-is-without-sin-case-first.html  and at first it got some really bad reviews.  My holy-roller cousin caught wind of it and was directing other people from her church to post hateful comments on it.  One of them even threatened to "end me"!  Give me a break!!  I deleted all of the nasty comments, and the thankfully the last few comments posted on it have been positive and supportive. Typical anti-choicers...threaten people with bodily harm and death if you disagree with them or don't do as they say or believe.  And on top of that, get this--my cousin went and CALLED THE COPS ON ME this morning because she's throwing a hissy fit over my blog entry.  Again, typical anti-choicer.  Throw a loud whiny hissy fit when you can't control other people or succeed in making them feel ashamed for their choices in life.  I don't mean to offend any women on this board who are stay-at-home wives and mothers, but my cousin is a typical "Christian housewife and mommy" and I think part of her problem is that she needs to get a life and find something constructive to do with her time rather than sitting at home all day drinking coffee, watching soap operas, and preaching the Gospel to people who don't want or need to hear it.  For someone who constantly gloats about how happy and blessed she is to be a wife, mother, and homemaker, something tells me she's really not that satisfied with it deep down.

This post was originally published at RH Reality Check, a site of news, community and commentary for reproductive health and justice


 
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