Friday, January 22, 2010

Trust Women

We were standing out on the sidewalk, the cold air from the Susquehanna blasting into us as we looked out over the water, trying not to listen to the shouting beside us. I looked over at my friend and shrugged apologetically when they began to pray over us, then gripped my sign--- Who Would Jesus Harass?--- tighter and straightened my back ready to withstand whatever they threw at us, just hoping to make ourselves some kind of barrier between them and the women entering the clinic.

A bunch of us went every Saturday morning before the 2008 election to counter-protest outside of a women's health clinic in Harrisburg that provided abortions to women every other Saturday morning. The health care workers came outside to thank us every time, saying that no one had ever supported them like this before. One of our professors who lived in Harrisburg brought us coffee one morning. Another woman walked past us, read our signs, and then, after telling the protesters what she was doing and why, she went into the clinic to make a donation. For me, though, it was just about drawing the violence of the protesters away from the women going into the clinic.

One week, a woman had gotten into the wrong lane and had to cross over a lane last minute to make the driveway. Another car hit her, but luckily there was not much damage. Still, both cars pulled into the driveway and the woman got out of her car to exchange information. There was a younger woman who waited in the passenger's seat. As soon as the older woman got out of her car, the protesters started talking to her, telling her what a mistake she was making. She was shaking as she turned around to face them. "You have no idea how hard of a decision this was for us!" she shouted with such emotion that it shut them up. I choked up because of the force of her emotion,the force of her pain.

While not every woman's decision to have an abortion is a painful one, this woman's answer will be imprinted in my mind forever. Her face, the tone of her voice, her clenched fists will always be in my mind whenever I think of what reproductive freedom means to me.

Today marks thirty-seven years that Roe v. Wade has been in effect. Yet, control over their own bodies has always been a struggle for women in this country. Abortion providers face violence daily. Dr. George Tiller, a gentle man of faith who said at a conference I was at in 2008 that he continued providing late-term abortions for women because of he would never want his own daughter to suffer an unwanted pregnancy, was brutally murdered in his church. His killer claims it was in self defense to save the "unborn." Sick.

And in 2007, the Supreme Court upheld the Federal Abortion Ban (the so-called Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003) to protect women from decisions they may regret later: as Justice Kennedy said,"It is self-evident that a mother who comes to regret her choice to abort must struggle with grief more anguished and sorrow more profound when she learns, only after the event, what she once did not know: that she allowed a doctor to pierce the skull and vacuum the fast-developing brain of her unborn child, a child assuming the human form." Despite the medically inaccurate statement, the most frightening thing here is that fact that still in the second millennium old men are finding it necessary to curtail women's control over their own bodies "for their own good."

If we are so concerned with the dignity of human life, why is it that women are continually denied the dignity of making decisions for themselves? "Trust Women" to me means allow us the dignity to make our own decisions because I know what is best for my body better than Justice Kennedy or those protesters outside of the clinic in Harrisburg. Trust women.

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