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Not going to hell! Not self-destructing! In control!

by Stephanie Hickey, associate Lifestyles editor

 

I walked in the March for Life when I was 11 years old. Being part of a Catholic family living in a suburb of Washington D.C., where the march was held, put us in the perfect spot to “defend life,” as my mother liked to call it. I remember preparing for the march by putting on layers of warm clothing (the pro-life activists seem to find it more effective to represent their cause in the freezing cold; spring the season of life and vitality, is out of the question). My mother made it seem that we were preparing for a battle between good and evil. We were the good, and those baby killers were the evil (that’s what she called them).

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I was overwhelmed with pro-life propaganda at home and brain washed with pro-life sentiment at school. The word abortion made me cringe, as I associated it with sexually promiscuous, selfish, hateful people. Bloody partial- birth abortion posters, lined the walls of classrooms at my school, while Jesus stared down from the cross, as if to sanctify the suffering. I was taught that if you kill your own child, which is what the pro-life movement considers a fetus, then you must be a monster.

Nonetheless, having just reached puberty, I began to question what I was being told. I’d heard about 11-and-12 year-old girls being impregnated by abusive parents or neighbors. Then, due to state law, they were forced to become parents if they weren’t lucky enough to find adoptive parents.

I was being taught to “respect, protect, and appreciate life” by my pro-life teachers and family members. But who was going to respect and protect the violated young girls? I myself was frightened by the changes of adolescence, scared by my own reflection in the mirror, and embarrassed by my budding breasts. The thought of being raped scared me to death, but the thought of having to relive the pain again and again as I carried and raised the child of that rape terrified me beyond words. As I saw it, I had two options: never leave the house again or kill myself if I ever did get pregnant.

Later, in high school at Bishop O’Connell in Arlington, Virginia, my views continued to change. The hallways were still filled with anti-abortion posters, and Jesus continued to stare down from the cross, but my friends were having sex anyway. Some of them were going on birth control. Some of them were leaving it up to chance. We were all going to hell as far as our religion was concerned, but we didn’t care. We didn’t care until someone got pregnant.

At 16, I was energetic, excited about the future, and completely irresponsible. So was my good friend Marie, who ended up pregnant half way through our sophomore year. I’d known her for years; our families had walked in the March for Life together. She lied to her parents one weekend and said she was staying at my house. Actually, she was at an abortion clinic hours away. Marie hadn’t been a monster by any means, but she became one. She was never the same. How could she be, when walking down the hallway of our Catholic high school, would make any person forced to that kind of decision wilt with guilt.

 

I firmly believe that Marie made the right choice, though it haunted her for years after. She wasn’t a baby killer. She was a lost teenage girl who’d been afraid to ask her mother about birth control.

Now, I’m 22 years old and I’ve never been happier. I feel in control of my destiny. I have plans for my future. I am slowly becoming more responsible, but I’ve got a long way to go. I “respect, protect, and appreciate life,” but I also respect my right to choose. What would I do if I got pregnant? It would depend on the circumstances, but I know that suicide is no longer an option.

 

 

 

 

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