By Kimberly Poovey
*A version of this post originally appeared on Columbia Mom in May of 2020*
I grew up as the poster child for the evangelical pro-life movement.
From infancy, my mom brought me to our local Crisis Pregnancy Center as she volunteered or brought in donations. From the time I was in kindergarten, I was fundraising on my own for the center’s annual “Walk for Life” events, often winning prizes for bringing in the most donations. I attended every annual fundraising banquet and held pro-life signs on the side of the highway to “raise awareness.” I went to Purity Balls and wore a promise ring.
In my young innocence, I truly was “pro-life” in the purest sense of the word: I valued all human life profoundly, and the idea of abortion genuinely broke my tender heart. I couldn’t imagine a world where mothers were willing to “kill their babies.” With the confidence of a sheltered, teenaged, virgin evangelical, I stated firmly that adoption was always the easier option.
Why would anyone kill a baby if they could just choose to place it with a loving family instead? I believed in all of this with such conviction that I got an internship at a Crisis Pregnancy Center the moment I graduated from high school and proceeded to spend the next decade in pro-life ministry work.
I’m thankful for my time in that line of work because I had the privilege of meeting and learning from and helping a lot of people in my community. However, my feelings about it now are very complicated.
The organization I worked for did a lot of good. I saw countless families receive free baby supplies, diapers, and life-saving formula with dignity and no strings attached. I saw high-quality medical services offered free of charge for low-income families, undocumented immigrants, refugees, and young women without health insurance.
I saw scared, anxious women and men leave our office feeling peace and strength after gaining resources they previously weren’t aware of. I personally had the privilege of giving at-risk teenagers a safe place to go after school where they could interact with healthy mentors, learn, and grow.
But, I also learned that the abortion debate is not as black and white as I had always believed it to be.
I saw pregnant twelve-year-old girls who were victims of statutory rape who carried their children to term, (literal babies having babies), only to get pregnant again just a few short years later. I saw teen parents with absolutely no support from their partners or parents working two jobs, going to school, and falling asleep in their seats on a daily basis. I saw an impoverished mother of ten find out that she was pregnant with triplets, (yes, triplets), and then learn just a few weeks later that her sixteen-year-old daughter was pregnant too. (Her husband left her shortly thereafter.)
I saw ill-equipped wealthy white volunteers tell BIPOC clients to “just quit it” when discussing sex outside of marriage, while abjectly refusing to talk about reliable methods of birth control. I’m sure these volunteers meant well, but I’m certain they often did their clients more harm than good.
I’m still haunted by an eleven-year-old rape victim who was pressured out of any option other than carrying her pregnancy to term. Her main concern? If she would still be able to run and play outside while she was pregnant. (My heart still aches thinking of her impossibly young and innocent face.)
After having a baby myself, (at 29 years of age with a supportive partner and all the resources in the world), I no longer believe that carrying a child to term and choosing to make an adoption plan is an “easy option.”
Physically and mentally, giving birth to my beloved son quite nearly destroyed me. I adore being a mother, but thinking of repeating the postpartum stage sends me into a spiral of anxiety as if I were about to go back to war.
Carrying a pregnancy changes you. Full stop. There’s no way around it.
Then there is the undeniable fact that we currently live in a country with “pro-life” leadership that offers little to no actual “life-support” after a baby emerges from the womb. If America were, in fact, pro-life, we would be offering accessible healthcare to everyone, expectant parents and children especially.
Giving birth in a hospital wouldn’t be an event that could bankrupt an entire family. We would be helping families access affordable, safe childcare, and education for their little ones. We as individuals and communities would be leaping at the opportunity to feed, clothe, and house parents and children in need.
We would be providing outstanding postpartum support to all mothers and giving out postpartum mental health screenings like candy at a parade. Reliable birth control would be accessible and affordable to absolutely anyone who wanted or needed it. All of this and more is essential to the fabric of a pro-life nation.
Do I believe that unborn children matter? Yes. Do I believe that the law of the land should require every pregnant woman under every circumstance to carry her pregnancy to term? No, absolutely not. I believe that the eleven-year-old rape victim’s life deserves protection too. Do I believe that any woman who has ever had an abortion should be arrested and charged with murder? HELL no. And I don’t think that most ardently pro-life people do either.
I believe that the government shouldn’t have a say regarding my body or any other person’s body. I believe that this argument exists among a million shades of grey, far from the black and white I once imagined it to be.
Am I still pro-life? I don’t know. But I hope that my previously held pro-life beliefs have grown deeper and wider and more inclusive than they ever were before.
[…] perspective of a person who worked in full-time “pro-life ministry” for a decade of my life. (You can read more about that journey here.) Those years gave me a stark lesson in just how nuanced each of these personal choices really […]