Amy Roberts: The Right is wrong on abortion
I don’t know when, exactly, the Christian right started getting it so wrong, but I can pinpoint the exact moment I understood the movement was much more about power than principles.
I didn’t grow up a particularly religious home. I would call my upbringing “holiday holy” more than anything. We watched the poinsettias turn into lilies — church was for Christmas, Easter, and the occasional funeral.
When I went to college in Texas, my arm’s length approach to Christianity was immediately considered both a sin, and social suicide. The university I attended was large, and technically secular, but located in the buckle of the Bible belt. I hadn’t even unpacked my second box in my tiny dorm room before I was invited to a “freshman fellowship” meeting. Soon after, I was handed a flyer to attend a “sunrise worship service.” Before the sun went down, a campus ministry group made the rounds and handed out Bibles to any student who didn’t have one already perched on the nightstand.
I didn’t know a soul on that campus, more than 1,000 miles from my home in Nebraska. The Internet was still in its infancy, e-mail was only available via dial-up service in a computer lab, and we paid by the minute to make a long-distance call. I felt pretty isolated. Looking back now, I assume that was carefully orchestrated. Teenagers away from the safety and security of home for the first time are malleable, if not vulnerable.
Given my introduction to life on the campus, church seemed like a logical place to make friends, and there were no less than 20 of them within walking distance of my dorm. I settled on the one with the latest start time.
Student members were encouraged, if not expected, to attend several services each week and hold one another accountable. There were several prayer groups and Bible studies and meetings with the preacher to juggle between classes. As an adult, I have the life experience and critical thinking skills to understand I was being indoctrinated. But as a teenager, I was just looking for social connection.
My sophomore year, a Planned Parenthood announced it would be opening a clinic near campus. Their outreach was respectful of all beliefs and showcased their well-woman services — like routine pap smears, UTIs, and cancer screenings — far more than it mentioned birth control or unwanted pregnancy. Despite this, congregations across the town gathered to pray, protest, and generally condemn the organization to hell.
About this time, I had started having more painful periods and, being too young to understand how to navigate the complicated world of my parents’ insurance, I made an appointment at Planned Parenthood. I wasn’t going there to have an abortion, so I thought little of it. Plus, I had the audacity to assume what happened in my uterus was my business.
Less than five hours after receiving a prescription to help shrink the fibroids that had been causing debilitating pain each month, I got a call from my pastor, ordering me to see him at once. “Who are you having sex with? How many partners have you had? Are you pregnant?” He demanded to know the details of my personal life, without pausing long enough to let me answer.
In his office, I shrank. And that was the point. I was meant to feel shame. Humiliation and fear are powerful tools for control.
A few weeks later, when I had a period that didn’t leave me curled up in the fetal position for days, I realized that pastor didn’t actually care what my reason for visiting a Planned Parenthood was, or how the clinic had helped me. He only cared that a female in his flock had defied him.
And just like that pastor, the restrictive abortion legislation now sweeping this country isn’t about life or morality or faith. It’s about control; an attempt to dictate a woman’s sexual behavior and enforce a reactionary view about women and sex.
If any of those legislators really believed in the “sanctity of life,” they would vote in favor of universal healthcare, they’d vote in favor of stricter gun laws, and they would certainly not be in favor of the death penalty. If these lawmakers really wanted to decrease abortions, they’d require comprehensive sex-education in schools, they’d ensure access to low-cost contraception, they’d fund programs to help domestic violence victims and they’d pass legislation forbidding a rapist from seeking custody of a child conceived during a rape — something that is currently legal in a handful states, including Alabama.
Their myopic focus on abortion isn’t about life. It’s about robbing women of their bodily autonomy, it’s about denying women equal treatment, and above all else, it’s about control.
Amy Roberts is a freelance writer, longtime Park City resident and the proud owner of two rescued Dalmatians, Stanley and Willis. Follow her on Twitter @amycroberts.
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