I Was a “Prolife” Republican… Until I Fell in Love

Andrea Grimes

What saddens me now are women who want to make abortion either completely inaccessible or outlaw it altogether. Because I truly believe that most women, anti-choice or otherwise, are glad, in their hearts, to have a choice.

This is cross-posted with permission from Hay Ladies.

I had a favorite line, in high school, when debating people on the subject of abortion. It was “Hey, that thing in your stomach’s not gonna come out a toaster, right? It’s a baby!”

Oh, I thought I was really, super clever with that one. Because I loved talking about the babies. I talked about the babies at the high school Young Republicans Club–not only was I the president, but also the founder. I talked about the babies at Club 412, the evangelical punk teen hang-out in Fort Worth I frequented with my friends. I talked about the babies in class. I cried about the babies while I strummed my guitar. I wrote songs about the babies, imagining myself as a broken, murderous whore who regretted her abortions.

I didn’t have an opinion one way or the other on abortion until I started hanging out with right-wing punk rock kids in high school. Then, somebody–probably one of the older teenage punk rock boys I would later fend off in the back of a car or behind the chapel at church camp–handed me a pamphlet with an aborted fetus on the front. The pamphlet told me all about how abortion causes breast cancer and about how women who abort can never be redeemed in the eyes of God and will live with heartache and depression for the rest of their lives, a shell of the beautiful thing they could have been if they’d only carried to term. I was outraged. I couldn’t believe women were killing members of my own generation–my sisters and brothers!–just because they couldn’t keep their legs together.

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Because while I said it was about the babies, it wasn’t. It was about slut-shaming. I absolutely loved slut-shaming. Because I was saving myself for marriage–well, oral sex doesn’t really count anyway, does it?–-I knew that I would always be right and virtuous and I would never be a murderer like those sluts. The issue couldn’t possibly be up for real debate, to my mind: either you were a baby-killer slut, or you behaved like a proper Christian woman and only let him get to third base. Babies were simultaneously women’s punishment for having premarital sex and beautiful gifts from Jesus Himself. That didn’t seem like a contradiction in my mind. It was just another one of God’s perfect mysteries.

After all, I was 16, 17, 18. I knew everything. And what I knew more than anything else was that anyone who got herself into the position of having an unwanted pregnancy was filthy in body and soul. And again, since I would absolutely never have premarital sex, I would absolutely never make the decision to murder my child. Because I was pure, and so were babies, and together, me and the babies and my perfect hymen, we were all going to be fine if we could just fight the ignorant sluts. So that’s what I did. I talked and argued and cajoled and pontificated. I ministered to the heathen nerdgirl sluts in Telnet chats and online bulletin boards. I stood up for what I believed in, which was: If you do not believe like me, you deserve whatever brand of God’s wrath comes your way.

But, you know, to hear me talk, it was all about the babies. The innocent children. The mass genocide! Perpetuated, of course, by millions of American women who I imagined happily scooping out their wombs with ladles before heading back out for another gang-bang. In private, my anti-choice friends and I would laugh and laugh (or, in some cases, LOL and LOL, if we were chatting online) about how stupid women were for having premarital sex. How evil they were for not being able to control themselves. How great I was for not having sex with my boyfriend. How loved and special I was in the eyes of God because I didn’t let my boyfriend, you know, do it with me.

If I’d thought about it any, I might have realized that it takes two to create an unwanted pregnancy. But the conversation was never, ever about men or their behavior. It was only about women.

So, what happened? How did I come to be editing a lefty, pinko-assed feminist blog?

Well, I got off my religious high horse and on to a sex life I enjoyed and found fulfilling.

At college, I met a wonderful, sweet Jewish boy who fell in love with me and who I fell in love with right back. And he didn’t have any hang-ups about sex, though he was also a virgin. And we did all of the things except for The Big Sex, and the more I grew to love him, the more I thought back on those people I knew back home who told me sex was awful and would break me. How could sex with this guy, this absolute sweetheart, break me? And so we had The Big Sex. And it was great and fun and loving, and we kept having all of The Big Sex, for about three weeks, until I realized it was about time for my period.

Suddenly: I was the dirty, filthy slut. I was the horny bitch. I was the callous murderer-in-training. What, did I think my womb was going to grow a toaster if we had a condom mishap?

Of course not. I didn’t think babies were toasters and I didn’t believe I was going to birth a toaster if I got pregnant, so how had I managed to belittle women for years with this condescending, patronizing line about a small kitchen appliance? I was frozen in a kind of moral limbo–I couldn’t believe I found myself simultaneously relieved that I could access an abortion if I wanted to, and saddened and stressed out by the possibility of having to make that decision.

So I went right the fuck out and got myself some hormonal birth control, is what I did.

I marched into my college women’s health center–oh, thank God they had one–and I got my first pap smear and the Ortho-Evra patch and talked to the nurses about STD’s and pregnancy and how to take care of my body. I had never had any of those conversations with my family or church or friends or teachers back home in Texas. I learned more in a two-hour visit to that college women’s health center than I had in the 19 years leading up to it. And yet as a passionate anti-choicer, I had considered myself an expert on sex and reproductive health–my own and everyone else’s–because of a few pamphlets and preachers.

Today, I see that nothing about my religious anti-choice views did anything to prevent abortion. They did a lot to shame myself and my friends, but nothing to prevent abortion. Today, I hear anti-choicers talk about the babies and the unborn and the American genocide, but what I really hear beneath all that is slut-shaming and fear of female sexuality. I hear that language clearly because I spoke it once, myself. It is a familiar language to me.

And I even have a little bemused sympathy for old men who try to pass anti-choice legislation. Because they really will not ever have to worry about abortion. And once, I thought I wouldn’t, either. So I see where they’re coming from. I see how blind to the experiences of others they are. Privilege does that to people. If they weren’t so damned full of themselves, and so damned politically powerful, I might even find them funny.

What saddens me more than anything else are women who want to make abortion either so inaccessible as to render it impracticable, or who want to outlaw it altogether. Because I truly believe that most women, anti-choice or otherwise, who’ve experienced even a flicker of uncertainty about a pregnancy in this country since 1973 have been glad, in their hearts, to have a choice. I believe wanting to take that choice away from others is deeply about shame and punishment and judgment, and not about righteousness and love. I believe that because I rarely see those who want to outlaw abortion doing anything to combat its cause: unintended pregnancy, and I see them doing a lot to punish and shame women.

There is nothing “pro-life” about sonogram bills and denying Medicaid funding to (some!) rape victims or allowing doctors to opt out of giving pregnant women life-saving abortions. I know that what has kept me from having to make a decision about an unintended pregnancy is not the prospect of hearing a fetal heartbeat or having to go through a 24-hour wait period, but safe, easy and affordable access to contraception and good, honest medical information disseminated by doctors and medical professionals without religious agendas.

I was a girl growing up in Texas who was failed by abstinence-only education and soured by extreme religious dogma. I don’t want other girls to go through that, too. And so if you’ve gotten through this whole essay, consider donating to Planned Parenthood. Get on a NARAL mailing list. Fight HR3. Stand up against empty religious and political pandering and stand up for real solutions like affordable health care, comprehensive sex education and contraceptive access.

Roundups Politics

Campaign Week in Review: Tim Kaine Outlines Plan to ‘Make Housing Fair’

Ally Boguhn

“A house is more than just a place to sleep. It's part of the foundation on which a family can build a life,” wrote Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA). “Where you live determines the jobs you can find, the schools your children can attend, the air you breathe and the opportunities you have. And when you are blocked from living where you want, it cuts to the core of who you are.”

Donald Trump made some controversial changes to his campaign staff this week, and Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) noted his commitment to better housing policies.

Trump Hires Controversial Conservative Media Figure

Republican presidential nominee Trump made two notable additions to his campaign staff this week, hiring Breitbart News’ Stephen Bannon as CEO and GOP pollster Kellyanne Conway as campaign manager.

“I have known Steve and Kellyanne both for many years. They are extremely capable, highly qualified people who love to win and know how to win,” said Trump in a Wednesday statement announcing the hires. “I believe we’re adding some of the best talents in politics, with the experience and expertise needed to defeat Hillary Clinton in November and continue to share my message and vision to Make America Great Again.”

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Both have been criticized as being divisive figures.

Conway, for example, previously advised then-client Todd Akin to wait out the backlash after his notorious “legitimate rape” comments, comparing the controversy to “the Waco with David Koresh situation where they’re trying to smoke him out with the SWAT teams.” According to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), Conway is also “often cited by anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim organizations such as the think tank Center for Security Policy and NumbersUSA.”

Under Bannon’s leadership, “mainstream conservative website” Breitbart.com changed “into a cesspool of the alt-right,” suggested the publication’s former editor at large, Ben Shapiro, in a piece for the Washington Post‘s PostEverything. “It’s a movement shot through with racism and anti-Semitism.”

Speaking with ABC News this week, Kurt Bardella, who also previously worked with Bannon at Breitbart, alleged that Bannon had exhibited “nationalism and hatred for immigrants, people coming into this country to try to get a better life for themselves” during editorial calls.

“If anyone sat there and listened to that call, you’d think that you were attending a white supremacist rally,” said Bardella.

Trump’s new hire drew heated criticism from the Clinton campaign in a Wednesday press call. “The Breitbart organization has been known to defend white supremacists,” said Robby Mook, Clinton’s campaign manager. After pointing to an analysis from the SPLC linking Breitbart to the extremist alt-right movement, Mook listed a number of other controversial positions pushed by the site.

“Breitbart has compared the work of Planned Parenthood to the Holocaust. They’ve also repeatedly used anti-LGBT slurs in their coverage. And finally, like Trump himself, Breitbart and Bannon have frequently trafficked in all sorts of deranged conspiracy theories from touting that President Obama was not born in America to claiming that the Obama Administration was ‘importing more hating Muslims.’”

“It’s clear that [Trump’s] divisive, erratic, and dangerous rhetoric simply represents who he really is,” continued Mook.

Kaine Outlines Plan to “Make Housing Fair”

Clinton’s vice presidential nominee Kaine wrote an essay for CNN late last week explaining how the Clinton-Kaine ticket can “make housing fair” in the United States.

“A house is more than just a place to sleep. It’s part of the foundation on which a family can build a life,” wrote Kaine. “Where you live determines the jobs you can find, the schools your children can attend, the air you breathe and the opportunities you have. And when you are blocked from living where you want, it cuts to the core of who you are.”

Kaine shared the story of Lorraine, a young Black woman who had experienced housing discrimination, whom Kaine had represented pro bono just after completing law school.

“This is one issue that shows the essential role government can play in creating a fairer society. Sen. Ed Brooke, an African-American Republican from Massachusetts, and Sen. Walter Mondale, a white Democrat from Minnesota, came together to draft the Fair Housing Act, which protects people from discrimination in the housing market,” noted Kaine, pointing to the 1968 law.

“Today, more action is still needed. That’s why Hillary Clinton and I have a bold, progressive plan to fight housing inequities across Americaespecially in communities that have been left out or left behind,” Kaine continued.

The Virginia senator outlined some of the key related components of Clinton’s “Breaking Every Barrier Agenda,” including an initiative to offer $10,000 in down payment assistance to new homebuyers that earn less than the median income in a given area, and plans to “bolster resources to enforce Fair Housing laws and fight housing discrimination in all its forms.”

The need for fair and affordable housing is a pressing issue for people throughout the country.

“It is estimated that each year more than four million acts of [housing] discrimination occur in the rental market alone,” found a 2015 analysis by the National Fair Housing Alliance.

No county in the United States has enough affordable housing to accommodate the needs of those with low incomes, according to a 2015 report released by the Urban Institute. “Since 2000, rents have risen while the number of renters who need low-priced housing has increased,” explained the report. “Nationwide, only 28 adequate and affordable units are available for every 100 renter households with incomes at or below 30 percent of the area median income.”

What Else We’re Reading

CBS News’ Will Rahn penned a primer explaining Trump campaign CEO Bannon’s relationship to the alt-right.

White supremacists and the alt-right “rejoice[d]” after Trump hired Bannon, reported Betsy Woodruff and Gideon Resnick for the Daily Beast.

Clinton published an essay in Teen Vogue this week encouraging young people to fight for what they care about, learn from those with whom they disagree, and get out the vote.

“In calling for ‘extreme vetting’ of foreigners entering the United States, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump suggested a return to a 1950s-era immigration standard—since abandoned—that barred entry to people based on their political beliefs,” explained USA Today.

Trump wants to cut a visa program “his own companies have used … to bring in hundreds of foreign workers, including fashion models for his modeling agency who need exhibit no special skills,” according to a report by the New York Times.

A Koch-backed group “has unleashed an aggressive campaign to kill a ballot measure in South Dakota that would require Koch-affiliated groups and others like them to reveal their donors’ identities.”

News Health Systems

What Happens When a Catholic-Run Clinic Comes to Your Local Walgreens?

Amy Littlefield

“It causes us great concern when we think about vulnerable populations ... [who] may need to use these clinics for things like getting their contraception prescribed and who would never think that when they went into a Walgreens they would be restricted by Catholic doctrine,” Lorie Chaiten, director of the women’s and reproductive rights project of the ACLU of Illinois, told Rewire.

One of the largest Catholic health systems is set to begin running health clinics inside 27 Walgreens stores in Missouri and Illinois next week. The deal between Walgreens and SSM Health has raised concerns from public interest groups worried that care may be compromised by religious doctrine.

Catholic health systems generally follow directives issued by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops that restrict access to an array of services, including abortion care, contraception, tubal ligations, vasectomies, and fertility treatments.

“We are concerned that the clinics will likewise be required to follow the [directives], thereby severely curtailing access to important reproductive health services, information, and referrals,” MergerWatch, the National Health Law Program, and the American Civil Liberties Unions of Illinois and Missouri wrote in a letter to Walgreens on Wednesday. They also sent a letter to SSM Health.

In a statement emailed to Rewire, Walgreens said its relationship with SSM Health “will not have any impact on any of our current clinic or pharmacy policies and procedures.”

SSM Health emailed a statement saying it “will continue to offer the same services that are currently available at Walgreens Healthcare Clinics today.” If a patient needs services “that are beyond the scope of what is appropriate for a retail clinic setting, they will be referred to a primary care physician or other provider of their choice,” the statement read.

A spokesperson for SSM Health demurred when Rewire asked if that would include referrals for abortion care.

“I’ve got to check this part out, my apologies, this is one that hadn’t occurred to me,” said Jason Merrill, the spokesperson.

Merrill later reiterated SSM Health’s statement that it would continue to offer the same services.

Catholic health systems have in recent years expanded control over U.S. hospitals, with one in six acute-care hospital beds now in a Catholic-owned or -affiliated facility. Patients in such hospitals have been turned away while miscarrying, denied tubal ligations, and refused abortion care despite conditions like brain cancer.

Catholic health systems have also expanded into the broader landscape of outpatient services, raising new questions about how religion could influence other forms of care.

“The whole health system is transforming itself with more and more health care being delivered outside the hospital,” Lois Uttley, director of MergerWatch, told Rewire. “So we are looking carefully to make sure that the religious restrictions that have been such a problem for reproductive health care at Catholic hospitals are not now transferred to these drug store clinics or to urgent care centers or free-standing emergency rooms.”

Walgreens last year announced a similar arrangement with the Catholic health system Providence Health & Services to bring up to 25 retail clinics to Oregon and Washington. After expressing concerns about the deal, the ACLU of Washington said it received assurances from both Walgreens and Providence that services at those clinics would not be affected by religious doctrine.

Meanwhile, the major urgent care provider CityMD recently announced a partnership with CHI Franciscan Health–which is affiliated with Catholic Health Initiatives–to open urgent care centers in Washington state.

“We’re seeing [Catholic health systems] going into the urgent care business and into the primary care business and in accountable care organizations, where they are having an influence on the services that are available to the public and to consumers,” Susan Berke Fogel, director of reproductive health at the National Health Law Program, told Rewire.

GoHealth Urgent Care, which describes itself as “one of the fastest growing urgent care companies in the U.S.,” announced an agreement this year with Dignity Health to bring urgent care centers to California’s Bay Area. Dignity Health used to be called Catholic Healthcare West, but changed its name in 2012.

“This is another pattern that we’ve seen of Catholic health plans and health providers changing their names to things that don’t sound so Catholic,” Lois Uttley said.

 

In the letters sent Wednesday, the National Health Law Program and other groups requested meetings with Walgreens and SSM Health to discuss concerns about the potential influence of religion on the clinics.

“It causes us great concern when we think about vulnerable populations, we think about low-income people… people who… may need to use these clinics for things like getting their contraception prescribed and who would never think that when they went into a Walgreens they would be restricted by Catholic doctrine,” Lorie Chaiten, director of the Reproductive Rights Project of the ACLU of Illinois, told Rewire.

The new clinics in Walgreens will reportedly be called “SSM Health Express Clinics at Walgreens.” According to SSM Health’s website, its initials “[pay] tribute” to the Sisters of St. Mary.

“We are fairly forthcoming with the fact that we are a mission-based health care organization,” Merrill told Rewire. “That’s something we embrace. I don’t think it’s anything we would hide.”

 

Tell us your story. Have religious restrictions affected your ability to access health care? Email stories@rewire.news

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