Coming Out on Abortion By MONIKA RODMAN, ANNE MARIE TASSONE, STEVE FINNEGAN, JOHN WATKINS and VICKI EVANS Commentary
Saturday, Jan. 22 marked the 32nd anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision, which abortion rights supporters celebrated as necessary for women’s equality and well-being. Here in the Bay Area, a new Roe tradition began on that day—a first ever Walk for Life in honor of those whose lives were ended before birth, and in support of women and men who bear the scars of abortion.
We who walked did not do so in judgment of any individual who has been through abortion; we walked for justice toward the most vulnerable members of our human family, calling our neighbors to embrace a better choice: Non-violent response to unplanned pregnancy. Together with Alice Paul, author of the original Equal Rights Amendment, we view abortion as “the ultimate exploitation of women.”
As Bay Area residents, we know we represent a minority opinion on abortion. We are not surprised that abortion rights proponents were threatened by our incursion on their perceived territory. A local Planned Parenthood spokesperson fretted, “(w)e couldn’t believe that they had the nerve to come to San Francisco.” What did surprise us was that our own elected officials in San Francisco, Berkeley and Oakland “unwelcomed” us in no uncertain terms by declaring our cities “pro-choice and proud.” Remarkably, those who otherwise celebrate diversity are unable to imagine any diversity of opinion on abortion.
While “pro-lifers” may be a Bay Area minority—portrayed by abortion rights activists as exotic and fearsome creatures—we are everywhere. We’re behind you waiting to pay our bridge toll, on the mat next to yours at yoga class, ahead of you in line at the Berkeley Bowl or Farmers’ Market. We actually lead pretty normal lives, juggling work and home responsibilities. We send relief money to Asia and sponsor children in Africa. Some of us have worked in teen sexuality education or helped those experiencing unplanned pregnancy.
We who pen this piece include a single, adoptive mother, two San Francisco natives (one of whom serves on the city’s fire department), and a homeless shelter volunteer. We were happy to march with farmers from Fresno, blue-haired grandmothers from Modesto, and students from UCSF, Stanford and UC Berkeley. None of us are outsiders in the cause of justice toward preborn children.
For each of us our anti-abortion commitment represents part of a broader vision of social justice. We have agitated for health care and immigrant rights and demonstrated against wars, apartheid and the death penalty. It is natural for us publicly to oppose a violence carried out daily much closer to home, in medical facilities we pass on our way to work.
Some of us have had abortions or paid for them. Many of us only realized the destructiveness of abortion after making the choice. Others have lost a sibling to abortion or were ourselves at risk of abortion due to the circumstances of our own conception. Understandably, we are uneasy with any assertion that our lives had value before birth only if someone else wanted us.
Just 150 years ago the rhetoric of personal choice was employed to uphold the institution of slavery: slaves were judged to be the personal property of their owners—not unlike today’s judgment that preborn children are the property of their mothers, to be discarded if she or someone influencing her does not want the child.
“Pro-lifers” are here to stay. On Jan. 22 we walked to challenge our neighbors to a higher ideal than that embodied by Roe. On the remaining 364 days of the year we will work in quiet, largely hidden ways, so that one day soon each and every child may be both protected by law and welcomed into life.
Monika Rodman is a Berkeley resident. Her co-authors are residents of Oakland, San Francisco and Marin County, respectively.