I couldn’t have told you why I was pro-choice – not with any depth, anyway. It just came with the feminist starter kit. I was an intelligent woman in my twenties, so of course, I was pro-choice. If anybody argued with me about it, I would yell talking points and phrases I’d gleaned from the media: “bodily autonomy,” “reproductive rights,” etc., but the conversation never got any deeper than that. If it had, I would have been in over my head. For years, I was never challenged, and I was able to keep my illusions.
Then I reconnected with a friend. I’ll call her Sadie. We had been friends since high school but had lost touch for some time. Shortly after we were back in contact, she came to pick me up one afternoon. Her husband was in the Army and stationed overseas. She asked if I would spend the night to keep her and her kids company.
The Sadie of old was a gothy feminist, in wicked black boots and burgundy lipstick. The new Sadie was wearing sweats and driving a minivan, replete with two adorable young children. I was a bit surprised, but a greater shock hit me when I read her bumper sticker: “CHOOSE LIFE.” To me, the label “pro-life” meant “conservative” and “Christian,” words that were synonymous with “mean” and “ignorant.” I was smart. I was a woman. I was a feminist. Of course, I was pro-choice.
I kept my mouth shut about the bumper sticker. For a while.
Later at her house, the kids were in bed, and Sadie and I were drinking a little whisky and playing Lord of the Rings Trivial Pursuit. Finally, my tongue loosened by the liquor, I blurted out: “What gives? I know you married a Catholic. I know you’re all ‘stay-at-home- mom/Army-wife’ now, but Sadie… You’ve gone too far. I thought you were a feminist!”
Sadie replied calmly that she was still a feminist. Then she told me something that blew my mind: “I’ve always been pro-life.”
I don’t know if it was the whisky or the shock of this revelation, but then, for the first time ever, I allowed someone to make a pro-life argument to me. I not only allowed it – I invited it. I asked her, “Okay. Let’s hear it. Why are you pro-life?”
She talked. I asked questions, and she answered them. She didn’t bring up God or religion. If she had, I would have rolled my eyes and begun to dismiss her. I wasn’t a believer, but I didn’t have to be. This was not about God; this was about right and wrong, human and inhuman, war and peace.
Sadie spoke of human rights, ethics, and science. She explained the provable fact that the unborn human is a distinct and separate life from the moment of his or her conception. She shared the statistic that in more than 99 percent of cases, the pregnant woman willingly engaged in the act that led to her pregnancy. How then, she asked, could she treat her baby as an unwanted alien invader, a nutrient-stealing parasite, in order to justify its killing?
She also talked about the harm done to women by the abortion procedure – physically, mentally, and emotionally. She talked about the brutality of abortion, how the fetus is often ripped limb from limb, and how the woman is often left wounded – and sometimes infertile. She explained “partial-birth abortion.” She made me understand the cycle of violence that is continued when a woman, feeling oppressed herself, passes that oppression on to her children.
I asked to see the photographs to which she’d alluded during our conversation. I saw them. I saw proof of what abortion does, and the lie that says that an unborn child is just a “clump of cells” or a “blob of tissue” was destroyed for me – forever. My ignorance was gone, and I was pro-life.
Don’t get me wrong – I’d seen those images before, but I’d never really seen them. I did not see the humanity of the children shown in those images until my heart was opened to the fact that I was looking at a human being. As a pro-choice woman, when I was shown graphic images of aborted fetuses – held up in front of clinics, at protests, or seen accidentally while surfing the Web – I did not see murdered human beings. I saw my own opinion, assaulted. I saw crazy people holding gross signs, and my mind glossed over the rest.
To this day, I have many friends of various opinions on abortion. I don’t know a single person who has been converted by an unexpected graphic image waved in his or her face, and I don’t like the idea of making a clinic look like a safe haven from the scary people outside. But when I was ready, and asked to see them, graphic images of intact and aborted unborn children were the final nail in the coffin of my pro-abortion beliefs.
I kept saying to Sadie, “Oh, my God. You just made me pro-life.”
I spent the next week on the Internet trying to “un-convince” myself of the truth of abortion, hoping that something would make me pro-choice again. But you can’t unlearn what you’ve learned. Information made me pro-life. Information about the early feminists and their pro-life views convinced me that Sadie told the truth when she called herself a feminist.
Over time, I’ve become passionate about informing women that abortion is not empowerment, and that feminism does not mean passing tyranny on to our children.
A year after that fateful conversation with Sadie, I was Catholic. Today, I call myself a conservative. But I don’t believe you need to be religious or conservative to be pro-life. In fact, Sadie has done an about-face herself. She considers herself proudly liberal, but she is still pro-life.
And we are both still, proudly, feminists.
Kristen Hatten is a pro-life activist, blogs for Live Action News, and is the Vice President of New Wave Feminists.