When I lived in Sacramento, I went to a women’s clinic for birth control. The patients were mostly women of color, because of how poverty works. The place gave free services to we who had no health insurance. I was unemployed and under-employed, and I got birth control free. Yeah, it was mostly poor people.
They had three waiting rooms–I really liked the third, most inner waiting room because you could lie down. The informative posters on the wall were cool.
I asked to have a women doctor, for my annual exam, because I don’t like strangers in my parts, but especially random dudes. The worker said, “We only employ women at this clinic.” I was impressed and a little confused.
Years later when my friend-neighbor M went there for an abortion, she asked me and Ming to walk her in. The pro-lifers were taking the day off, so she didn’t need a bodyguard. She wanted us to be there for her emotionally. I gave her a hug, in the first waiting room.
She was having a health issue and needed to abort. I certainly would judge her for none of that. I trusted her to know herself and her situation. She really loved the man who had impregnated her, and wanted to have a kid with him. But something was going on with her health I never understood.
She was a bright, kind, complicated young woman, unemployed and doing her best in a world that was not set up for her well-being. I remember her with compassion.
dodging abortion protesters
That birth control clinic is the only place I ever had to dodge abortion protesters. The years I went to that clinic, that was a huge discomfort. The ironic part was that I went to the clinic for birth control, so that I could never need an abortion. The protesters were making it harder for me to do the thing they…wanted me to do?
Or really, they wanted me never to have sex, unless I was trying to birth babies for God? I wasn’t going to have babies for God or anyone.
I was really afraid of getting pregnant. That was before I knew Ming; I was mostly agoraphobic and not a happy person. I lived with my ex-husband in an apartment I hated. My mental health was a huge struggle, and it would have been an extremely bad environment to bring a kid into. Understatement. I couldn’t care for myself, let alone a baby. That situation would have gone from bad to worse.
air force base
Later when I became a peace activist and Sacred Peace Walker, I protested at an Air Force Base for the first time. I would remember those abortion protesters. Was I being like them?
The abortion protesters messed with my head. I was a vulnerable young crazy person, trying to do what was right so I wouldn’t get pregnant. The protesters hurt me. It felt violent and cruel, to be untrusted by them and told what to do.
Mostly they were a bunch of white people who seemed way more secure in their lives, telling a bunch of more vulnerable women who were mostly women of color what to do, in a cruel way. Fetal life was more important than mine, for sure.
Felt like the protesters saw all of us as transparent–they were looking through me to my uterus. Was there a sacred, blameless, small, defenseless embryo or fetus there? The innocent baby was worth saving. All the women walking into the clinic were messy and already spoiled. They saw me as not worth saving.
annoying vs hurting
The workers at the air force base are in a different situation, from a vulnerable, mostly poor, mostly young woman trying to get birth control or an abortion. The military people are trying to feed and house themselves and their families with a nasty job. For some, it might have been a last resort. But there are other ways to make money, in this world.
I might annoy the air force base workers, by protesting at the air force base, but I don’t think I’m hurting them. Hopefully I give them food for thought, but am I judging them harshly? Well, if they kill brown people in other countries by remote control, or work to support those who do–I’m not keen on that. The racism of it, the violence, the imperialism, and creepiness.
A woman making a personal choice for her life–feels very different from someone taking orders inside a war machine of greed and racist harm. Birth control is different from war.
But I pay attention to my attitude. Smug, self-righteous, self-aggrandizing, condescending judgment? I’d prefer to share my opinion with kindness. I prefer carrying a sign that conveys love. But the person reading the sign brings a lot of assumption to it, and who knows what they take in.
I’m not done thinking about birth control, peace, why people work what jobs, misogyny, protesting, what my sign says. I want to help make a better world. So in that sense, I have something in common with abortion protesters. They care enough to show up and make some noise, for what they believe. I do too.
I see their views as wrong, encroaching on my freedom and interfering with my well-being. Shaming me for being a sexual being, and blaming me rather than focusing on the sperm side. Zero of the people going into that clinic got pregnant without some cooperating sperm.
But it’s easier to try to catch a vulnerable woman right before a procedure, than to actually change culture, prevent men from ejaculating where they shouldn’t, make a world where everyone has what they need economically and emotionally, or look at how other places have less abortion, and how to actually help people.
They see my views as wrong too. It’s a weird world. I would rather listen to individual women than to a war machine.
When pro-lifers wail, “You’re killing babies! That’s all there is to it!” with no consideration for an actual woman’s actual life, what a man did, whether culture will support her and a kid, whether culture functions for the well-being of people at all? There’s no point in having a conversation.
The nuance is lost. A rigid rule is easier than looking at real life and its glowing truth.
that which I despise
The first time I heard the quote “May I not become that which I despise,” I was confused. How could I become what I despise? That’s the one thing I would never become!
Working as a peace activist for years, I see it everywhere, now. Love and gentleness can become hateful harshness really quick. Seeing so much corruption and violence can make us violent, fed up with injustice until we become unjust.
Or maybe we got into peace work in the first place because we have violence inside us. Like all those nuts psychiatrists! What attracted them to working with crazy people such as myself in the first place?