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September 24, 2014

Written in my journal October 7th around 2:00 a.m.

I drove downtown around six-thirty that evening. I grabbed my bag from the passenger seat, locked the doors, put the keys in my pocket, and started walking. As I walked, I looked around at the other pedestrians and cars passing by. It looked like a typical day. But this wasn’t a typical day. I was going to a sacred place, a place where many desperate women go to get help to protect their very lives and to assert the most vital part of our humanity – our right to choose.

Last Thursday, as I sat on Lucy’s* couch telling her about what it was like losing a second child the words flowed from me like an underground spring that was bursting through the ground for the first time.

“Our choices are more important that people realize. Our choices are what make us who we are. When you take someone’s choice away, you strip them of their humanity.”

We don’t always get to choose what happens to us. But we have choices about how to respond to trials the world inflicts. And through those choices, we regain our personal power. And when someone or something – a system, an institution, a culture – takes those choices from a person, it dehumanizes every one of us.

Beth was at the clinic that day to protest abortion. That seems ridiculous to me – protesting abortion, that is. It’s like protesting cancer or diabetes. Nobody likes abortion. There is not a sincere woman in all of existence who intentionally gets themselves pregnant just so they can get an abortion.

I was at the clinic to support women’s reproductive health with many other women’s rights advocates. But I was also there to stand up for my two babies. I know that some people will not understand me. Some people will deny my logic. But frankly, I don’t give a damn.

I firmly believe with all my heart that the two children I carried in my womb were exactly that – they were my children, Alexandra Marie and Frances Leigh. Nobody has a right to tell me that I am wrong about that. Nobody has a right to tell me that they were merely “products of conception” or “fetal tissue.” They are real children – as real as any newborn, infant, toddler, or teen. And nobody has a right to say otherwise.

If I want Alex and Frankie to have their humanity acknowledged by the rest of the world, then I also have to acknowledge the fact that a woman instinctively knows the difference between a baby growing in her womb and mere fetal tissue. That’s why you see defenders of choice holding up posters that say “trust women.” We need to trust that women and mothers have that sacred instinct to know the difference.

I have a friend who is a self-identified atheist. He is a “pro-life” or “anti-choice” advocate – take your pick of nomenclature. Personally, I think both terms are misleading. But regardless, Porter* and I got into a discussion about the issue. He asked me if women just get to decide whether or not a fetus is human.

I answer his question with another question. Do we get to decide our feelings? The honest is answer is that we don’t get to decide our feelings. Our feelings are an instinctive reaction to presented circumstances, uncontrollable and unruly at times.  We do get to control our thoughts. And our thoughts have influence over our feelings. With practice, we can learn to control our reactions to different feelings. And we can even learn to change our thoughts which affect our feelings. But both skills require great amounts of practice, dedication, and presence of mind to learn.

While our thoughts and actions can be tempered and we can tailor them to fit the person we choose to be, our feelings are not meant to be controlled. Our feelings exist to tell us the deepest truths about life and our very selves. But there is something that runs even deeper than our feelings – and that is our instinct.

When my body conceived Alexandra, I had the very distinct sensation that I was no longer alone in my own body. That was my instinct at work. Because I was eagerly hoping for a pregnancy, my thoughts influenced how I felt about it. I was overjoyed. My thoughts and feelings fueled my excitement and behavior as I was elated and couldn’t wait to tell the world what I was experiencing. But that part of me that felt her presence – my instinct – would not be denied. Even if I had not wanted to become pregnant, if I did not feel joy or exuberance, my instinct would still be intact, insisting to me that this little one growing inside of me was every bit human as I was.

So my short answer to Porter is “no” – women do not just “decide” if a fertilized egg is human or not. It’s not even something we women “feel out.” It runs deeper than that. It runs deep into something sacred that humanity hardly understands.

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