I wrote this in the summer time. But reading Michael Wear’s piece in the Atlantic made me think maybe it was time to publish it.
I grew up Republican in Mississippi, and though I’m not either anymore, I’m still learning the new contexts I’ve grown into. I kinda feel like I must be a Democrat, because they seem to care the most about the people and issues I care the most about, but I’m still learning the difference between liberal and left and progressive. I have figured out that the Democratic Socialists are not my party because I don’t want to abolish the family. Growing up they are all just evil “Democraps,” and that was a lot easier to understand. As I have followed writers, thinkers, and activists on Twitter to learn more about the issues I have grown to care about (mostly public education, police brutality, poverty, and systemic racism), I’ve been completely befuddled by the division in what, for years, I thought of as one complete block trying to threaten life as I knew it.
And of course, now it seems the GOP is trying to threaten the lives of folks I know and love.
But, you know, I am still an evangelical (if that term even means anything anymore) Christian — but one of the 19%.
Recently, some part of the Democratic Party (I’m still a bit weak on all the labels and organizations) said they would be willing to give money to pro-life Democrats. I have been voting Democratic for 12 years now I think, but I still don’t know who the base is — and maybe they don’t either and that’s part of the problem. Anyway, I saw a lot of people who otherwise care about the aforementioned issues I care about immediately react. “Why would you alienate your base?” “Reproductive rights are human rights!” None of the people with whom I am in sympathy with on many other issues shared a reaction that was anything but negative. Anyway, in response, Michael Wear called for people who are pro-life and would rather be Democrats but don’t feel welcome to speak up and out. And a bunch of [white] people responded to his call.
I didn’t respond to him, though, because I know I’m going to vote Democratic. And it looks like it’s going to take 1000 words instead of 140 characters to answer.
I’ve struggled with my designation when it comes to the issue of abortion. I think I might be technically pro-choice (don’t tell my mom!). I think it’s a sad, bad choice but I acknowledge that for loads of people it might feel like their best one. And I definitely don’t want babies and mamas dying in back alleys. But if you turned up on my doorstep with an unwanted pregnancy, I’d beg you to keep the baby, and do everything in my power to make sure you had sufficient resources for your pregnancy and the entire childhood of that baby. Even though I just potty-trained our youngest, I would raise that baby for you if you wanted me to. I don’t know if I would be able to drive you to the abortion clinic if you decided to end the pregnancy, but I wouldn’t yell “murderer” at you. I’m not a politician, and besides voting and following along on Twitter, and just a few phone calls recently, I don’t think of myself as a political person. My hope is for every woman have everything she needs to prevent unwanted pregnancies, and every pregnant woman have everything she needs to make a choice to say yes to carrying and birthing her child, and mothering (if she wants to) that child (and also for all the men involved to be appropriately supportive). I do think that in general, it seems like Democratic policies, however you want to parse them, do a better job at bringing this hope to fruition. I don’t know — does this make me pro-choice?
But I don’t feel pro-choice. I want babies in wombs to live and flourish through adulthood. See, I’ve had a couple of spontaneous abortions, that is to say, miscarriages, myself. When the living heart-beating contents of your womb die, they come out the same way as if you had chosen to get the still-living contents out. I’ve had my OB dilate my cervix and scrape and scoop the contents of my uterus out, which is the frequent medical procedure for a first semester surgical abortion. I’ve been given pills to induce cramping and passing the pregnancy, like a medical abortion. Ten years of sexual activity have given me seven pregnancies. (And yeah, we use contraceptives correctly. We just love babies.) And seven pregnancies and only four babies have shown me how close to death the creation of life is.
I’ve just finished eight and a half years of diapers, and my youngest starts school with her big siblings in just two weeks. A new baby would send our life back to a place I’ve only just managed to clamber out of. But though it is my body, I can share for 18 months (the extra is for nursing). Because, of course, I believe Jesus is really in charge of my body, and he calls me to be generous with it. But you’d better believe an 8th pregnancy would be full of grief about our life changing back and anxiety about miscarriage.
My last miscarriage was in July of 2015. Sometime after that, someone started a “Shout your abortion” tag on Twitter (a place in which I obviously spend too much time). I tried not to see it, but every tweet I did see felt like a slap in the face. My pregnancy was wanted and I lost it, and I wanted to scream obscenities at each person who’d ended their pregnancies and boasted about it so cavalierly. And today, every anxious voice raised about the message that funding pro-life Democrats send, every heightened rhetoric about the importance of abortion to the Democratic base, brings me back to that night where I felt like they kicked me and my grief in the face. That party doesn’t seem to have space for me.
But see, the other thing is, my husband is Black. My four children, and my three miscarriages, are the descendants of enslaved people. The only (viable?) political party that wants policies protecting them and their civil rights, that seems to have any idea of the consequences of systemic racism on their life is the Democratic one. For the sake of my living breathing Black family, I gotta vote Democratic.
But if you have to love abortion, to celebrate abortion to be welcomed at the Democratic table, I’ll let that bread and juice pass me by. I’ll volunteer in the nursery, but I can’t swallow that as a sacrament. You keep your “I ♥︎ abortion” t-shirt, and I’ll just step back when you pass the plates. Abortion won’t keep me from voting Democrat, but the veneration of abortion will keep me from being a Democrat.
So there, Michael Wear. That’s what I think.