My mother used to say that you could tell if someone was *really* Catholic by whether or not there were knees printed in the carpet; the first boy who tried to feel my aunt up, found her cross instead and promptly knew he was barking up the wrong tree. My grandmother didn’t use birth control, she had ten children in fifteen years, like any good Catholic wife of the 1940s.
We were like, real true blue, homies-with-the-Vatican Catholics.
Yet, unlike most devout members of Catholicism and other sects of Christianity, my family has been a supporter of reproductive rights. I grew up in a pro choice household. Rants against the religious right were common in my childhood and it was made very clear, very early on, that a woman has a right to do what she wants with her body.
And I want to be very clear about being pro choice and religious: my mom and my family do not support abortion in spite of their faith, but because of it. My mom believes in the compassion of religion; for her, the parables of the Bible were not about right and wrong, they were about compassion. To be Christian is to love Jesus, it is to accept his teachings, and it is celebrate the gospel. For my mom, for my family, this means offering love to those who need it and it means helping those who need it. Life is sacred and it deserves to be protected. But life shouldn’t be foisted on those who aren’t ready for it, and if we want children to have lives, we should want them to have good ones.
I am not here to tell you how to believe in God or how to celebrate your faith. I couldn’t possibly do that. Faith is personal. It is a journey, as cheesy as that is. And neither I nor my family are qualified to make dicta on scripture. Which is why I resent it so deeply when the pro life movement does this for me.
You cannot tell me how to have faith. Being a good Catholic is between me and my priest. My reproductive choices are not your business. If you believe in scripture, preach scripture. Ask me about my opinion on the street, challenge me in classrooms, try to teach me, and respect that I may not listen. Do not define life for me.
Most importantly, do not systematically remove all reproductive options from female-bodied people. That is not your choice to make and your faith should never be the tool for legislative oppression. That is the beauty of a democracy: choice.
Today, we are more in danger of losing this democratic value more than ever, especially in regards to our reproductive rights. Forty three years ago, the Supreme Court ruled that all female-bodied people have the right to first trimester abortions. Ever since, the religious right has been waging war against a woman’s ability to get abortions. Between 2010 and 2014, 231 abortion restrictions were passed. More continue to be passed every legislative session. In my own state of Arizona, those wishing to receive an abortion must receive counseling, obtain an ultrasound within 24 hours of having the abortion, wait 24 hours, and if they are a minor, they must have their parents sign a permission form, that then must be notorized. There are only ten abortion clinics to service the whole of Texas and women are getting desperate, as seen in the rise of self induced abortions in Texas. It makes me sad. It makes me angry.
I support all women who want to terminate a pregnancy. There are many who disagree with me, who would tell me that I am a baby killer and murderer. These people can go ahead and hate me, and they can say mean things about me. I am happy to be in disagreement; I believe in substantive discourse and the right to have passionate arguments about what is right and what is wrong.
But I refuse to accept legislation that removes all reproductive options from female-bodied women because of one interpretation of Gospel. We cannot let this absurdity stand.
Eleanor Allen-Henderson grew up in Tucson, AZ. She loves the desert and her friends. Her current apartment is less than 200 square feet that she makes less lonely with poems and pictures of her parents. You can occasionally find her ranting about war and other bullshit she doesn’t like. Her bottles of choice are Orangina and the tears of boys.