Monday, October 19, 2009

Introducing Rosa

Ed. note: Rosa is our newest blogger. She lives in a small town outside of Louisville, KY and worked in a crisis pregnancy center until unforeseen events threw a wrench in the gears, changing her outlook on reproductive choices all together. We're pleased to have her on our side!
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My name is Rosa. For my personal confidentiality I'd like to leave it at that, and I hope that is okay. I'm still very much involved in PTA, church groups, and social clubs with people from the following story, so I'd like to remain as covert as possible. But I will say that I live in a small town in Kentucky with my husband and two children. I have a college education, I work part time, and I'd say I have a wonderful life.

I am not an activist. Well I am no longer an activist. Not too long ago, I was involved in a women's group at my church. My church was pretty divided on the abortion issue, but when one woman, we'll call her Kathy, joined the congregation nearly a decade ago that began to change. Suddenly, abortion was the discussion. Kathy brought pamphlets with pictures of aborted fetuses (all late term I think) from her church in the town she'd just moved from. Our women's group got up in arms about it, hearing only the side Kathy's pamphlets told. Abortion, each read, is one of the most horrendous acts against God a person can commit. It harms women, and most importantly, destroys families. It kills a living baby and has a high rate of very serious complications.

Now Kathy's materials didn't come without opposition. But she was well-prepared and we were no match for her. After all, all our thoughts and feelings regarding abortion came from what Kathy called the "secular press" which didn't value life. We began reading the newsletters from groups like Focus on the Family and became even more horrified. The tales went on: women use abortion as birth control. Abortion causes drug use and depression. Abortion causes breast cancer and infertility. And the most common: women choose abortion because they don't think they have any other option.

So with our best intentions gathered up, we began to do what was called "sidewalk counseling" at the abortion clinic in Louisville. These scenes still take place weekly, or so I've read. We'd block women from entering the clinic and tell them of the crisis pregnancy center across the road that would offer an alternative to "killing the baby." I can tell you I did sidewalk counseling every week for over a year and never once saw a woman change her mind and cross the road to the CPC. I hear stories of that happening, but seeing how most women and their supports reacted to our methods I'd say it's far fetched.

Anyway. One thing led to another and I began to work in a Louisville CPC part time. By "work," I mean volunteer, but I gave up my job for it, commuted over 30 miles to get there, and worked four days a week. My family was having trouble making ends meet with just the two kids, but I spoke with my husband and told him that I'd been given a mission from God. I really felt that way!

Then God threw a wrench in the gears. Somehow, I became pregnant. It wasn't supposed to happen, as a complicated c-section with my second child made another pregnancy pretty impossible, or so they said. So there I was. Pregnant, nauseous all the time, with two children and a single income household. But the CPC wasn't all bad. They started paying me a very modest hourly wage to keep me on, as I'd had some experience with peer mentoring and was becoming quite valuable to the agency's more difficult clients.

But getting back to the CPC. Long before I began to think differently about abortion I was questioning the way the place operated. Not because I thought they were flat out lying to women, but because of the way they offered assistance. Our task in greeting new clients was to determine, on a scale from 1-10, how "abortion vulnerable" the woman is. That is, is she considering abortion, or did she come here because she's already chosen life and wants help with the new baby? If a woman was deemed not abortion vulnerable at all, they were often given nothing more than an opportunity to volunteer at the CPC itself, on top of whatever real job they actually had. They were paid in diapers, wet wipes, formula, some second-hand clothing. Nothing substantial. Certainly no prenatal care or anything like that. The abortion vulnerable women, however, they were offered the lot. High chairs, cribs, brand new clothing, even financial assistance for prenatal and pediatric care in rare cases! Doesn't that seem backwards? There are women who wanted to just have the abortion and be done with it, pay their $400 or whatever it is, and leave it behind. But they were getting what women who were struggling to make their choices should have had. I had many conversations with God about this, and with each one I became more convinced that what I was doing was not God's work at all.

So back to the pregnancy. I wasn't about to ask for assistance at the CPC, even though used our questionnaire to determine that I was, in fact, very "abortion vulnerable." Of course I couldn't tell my colleagues that. After all, the picture the CPC paints of the women who seek abortions is, I now know, very inaccurate: young, unmarried high school women who don't know Jesus and are generally irresponsible. If only I'd taken the time to speak with the many women I "counselled" in that clinic parking lot! I'd have learned that I, a Christian 30-something mother of two, was the face of abortion as well.

I really don't want to tell the story of what happened. All I will say is that I had to end the pregnancy. All I will say is that I could not go to a clinic because I was sure my fellow pro-life activists would see me. All I will say is that I ended up in the emergency room with a lacerated cervix and uterine hemorrhage.

It took months to get over what I'd done to myself. Everything I'd been telling women about abortion came spilling out with that one determined thrust. Fortunately, the hospital plugged me in with a support group of women who were having emotional difficulty after abortion. I wish I'd seen this group sooner. I learned, first of all, that my picture of who has abortions was horribly skewed. Here I was sitting with religious women and atheist women. These women were married, single, engaged, dating, divorced. They were 18, 29, 40. White, Black, Asian. Many of their accounts highlighted the parking lot protesters as a key thing they remember from their abortion. They charted their journey from entering the clinic in fear to leaving in shame. I couldn't help but think, "Did I help make them feel this way?" Conversations with God soothed my self-blame, but did implant in my soul the idea that I simply could not do the work I had spent so much time doing.

I learned so much about abortion by simply putting down the propaganda and letting the stories speak for themselves. Especially mine: it wasn't that I didn't "think" I had any other option. I truly felt, I KNEW, I had no other option. I cannot explain it, and I think very few women who have elected abortions can. Which I suppose is why it's so hard to put together a coherent argument for what we fight for. But I'm trying, and I hope you will too.

10 comments:

escort said...

thank you rosa, for sharing your story. i have been an escort at that clinic for ten years now. maybe we know each other, in a way. you have a powerful and important message. again, thank you for your bravery, and for sharing. maybe others can learn from your truth.

http://everysaturdaymorning.wordpress.com/

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing your story, Rosa!

Criss L. Cox said...

Thanks for writing this.

I am very sorry you had to go through what you did. Thank you for speaking out about your experience.

Abortion is a very personal choice. I know why I did it, and I have no regrets about what I did. But I can't justify that to someone who refuses to listen to me, which is what happens with women like Kathy.

If you respect women, you will allow each woman to make her own choice. You will give her the information and resources she needs, and let her make her own choice. That's why we fight, but it's something so basic that if you don't instinctively know it and feel it, nobody can explain it to you. Which is why some Kathies will never "get it."

Rosa said...

Escort,
I have been reading your blog for a while now and truly appreciate what you do. Even during my exploits on the "other side" I appreciated the respect you escorts showed the women you were helping by not screaming back at us. It must take a lot of self control!

I would love to help escort, but as I've said I still work amongst the same women and men who protest that clinic in church and PTA, and for the sake of my children I think I should just remain in the background for a while. But if I have a change of heart I will most certainly be contacting that clinic. You do great things for women facing incredibly difficult times.

Anonymous said...

Your story is so incredible, and very moving. I hope that you have found a lot of support (and that us folks on the internet can act as a support system, even though we may never meet face to face!).
I can't imagine the strain that a person feels when they come from a background with such strong beliefs and then have to independently question those beliefs, without the support of the community they've depended on.
I wish you all the best, and I hope that you find a lot of love and support!
Also, please keep in mind that while escorting is one way that people work for what they feel is right, what you are doing is SO important to! Telling your story is very powerful, so don't underestimate your impact!!

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Terri said...

Oh Rosa, this story is heart breaking! I was very "pro-life" myself until my 17 year old daughter came home from school one day crying and told me she was pregnant. Her boyfriend was standing there with her holding her hand. Although I'm sure he was scared to death! What surprised me was my response. I really learned something about myself: I asked simply, "What do you want to do?" She said she did not want to be pregnant. She didn't use the A word because she knew how I felt but I said to her, it just came pouring out, "Honey, if you want an abortion then we will go to a clinic and we will talk to someone about it." And that was that. How caring and compassionate all the counselors and doctors were! They took such care in helping her decide if she really wanted the abortion or if she might benefit better from an alternative. I was with her holding her hand when the abortion was performed. I felt no remorse for what I should have thought was my "grandchild" because I was just there being a Mom to my little girl. I never begrudged her for it because she was a responsible young woman who got into trouble as so many her age do. It goes to show, most pro-lifers are those who have never loved someone who really TRULY needed a Choice. You never can tell. I thought I'd share my "turn around" story as well, you are not alone.

kahri said...

Thanks so much for sharing your story. It is horrifying to hear about the "abortion vulnerable scale" and to know how at least one CPC fails to support the women who have already decided they want to give birth.

Please know that you don't have to become a clinic escort. I agree with what the anonymous commenter above said, you are giving back already just by writing your story.

Consider, as well, that there are likely to be several other women in your church or PTA who have had abortions. While some of them may regret their decisions, others may simply not want to think about their past choices due to the current tension around the abortion issue in the community. You are probably not as alone as you think you are.

Mikel said...

Wow...just wow. Thanks so much for sharing your story. I wonder how many of these stories there are out there that we never hear?

m. said...

hi rosa,
"escort" again. i am also part of a group that works to educate and empower people around their own health needs. recently our group has been asked to produce a film documenting barriers to access in KY. we are in very early planning stages, but i wanted to go ahead and ask if you would be willing to share your story for the purposes of the film. please email me directly and we can discuss details. i will use the utmost discretion with all details around your identity, and will fully respect your wishes as to what parts of your story we use. you can even change your mind up to the last minute. we'll show you how we use your story, and if you don't like it we won't use it.
please think about this and let me know. your identity will be totally safe. thank you for your thoughts. meg