Hearing the underwater mechanical beat of an ultrasound machine monitoring a fetal heart rate was miraculous. And terrifying.
I slept on the floor in an apartment with no furniture and went to my parents’ church food bank for food. And I was going to be a father. I had so little knowledge of what this was going to entail that I didn’t particularly worry about it. I was a child about to have a child.
But there was no thud on the next OBGYN date. The fetus was there on the monitor. The heartbeat was gone. That’s how we knew there had been a miscarriage.
Two extremely difficult things followed: a number of days to live with the knowledge she carried with her of a dead fetus, and the eventual appointment with a doctor at Maine Medical Center.
My heart sank somewhere near the bottom of my stomach when we received this recommendation. I recognized the name.
When I was 14 or 15, I had been part of a small faction of evangelical Christians and Catholics who had picketed this doctor’s suburban office and on the sidewalk outside the hospital entrance. with signs saying “Abortion is Murder” and “Don’t Kill Your Baby,” or that simply featured poster-sized images of aborted fetuses.
With some distance, I had definitely begun to question what my parents and their church had passed down as the “absolute word of God” regarding the subordinate “role of women”, the inherent sinfulness of people drawn to the same sex. and various other societal and political statements based on loose and selective interpretations of portions of Bible verses.
But I was about to meet face to face with someone I had known, by name, as a monstrous baby killer.
The interaction ended up being as professional as one would expect. He was nice. He performed the procedure. He answered all of our questions. Everything you would expect from a doctor caring for a patient.
This meeting goes back a long time. Safe and legal access to abortion had been the law of the land since Roe v. Wade, before I was born.
Since then, I’ve mostly avoided the subject. Part of it was a reluctance as a cis man to be out there to offer my views on women’s reproductive rights and bodily autonomy. Part of it was a reluctance to admit that I had so fundamentally changed my mind about something that both sides of the issue tend to see in very black and white terms.
Most of the time I was on my toes around something that overshadows all other issues for many of my extended family. And I risk alienating them by writing this.
While my siblings range from Trump supporters to moderate/never Trump Republicans to progressives, those who have shared their views on abortion remain strongly opposed to it, just as we were raised.
But we were also raised on the propaganda of the John Birch Society. We went to a conservative evangelical Christian therapist who said in a session that most family problems stem from a wife not obeying her husband. We were raised in a church and a home where tax cuts and the deportation of welfare people and opposition to immigration and dismantling programs to end racial inequality were God’s will. Where you were turned away when you sought refuge with an abusive husband because you have to submit in your marriage. Where teachings on the evil of homosexuality conflicted with a homosexual brother.
Long after reading books on history and science and experiencing a diversity of human relationships and experiences and realizing how wrong and distorted it all was, I guess I still maintained an empathy for those who followed. this brand of organized religion. How could I not? I understood, because I had been there.
I lost that empathy a few years ago when my child told me he wanted to stop seeing my mom because she told them God only recognizes two genders. I finally stopped talking to my mom after she suggested I was responsible for killing babies because I wasn’t actively advancing the anti-abortion cause.
One can be spiritual, religious, Christian, agnostic or atheist and respect those who have different beliefs but have zero tolerance or patience for such things. It is not based on the teachings of Christ. It is an organized, abusive and manipulative disinformation campaign. It predates the Trump era by several generations, but is also rooted in the fueling of male power and greed. Before this religious faction spread misinformation about vaccine science, it was building an entire political movement around misinformation about abortion science.
Safe and legal access to reproductive health care has changed the lives of so many women I know, so many women you know, and countless others we don’t know but whose humanity and equality are as important as ours.
Today I read about what’s happening in places like Texas, and what’s about to happen in over half the country, just to start, and think back to my own experience.
First of all, I don’t even know how well equipped the doctors would be to safely perform the procedure we needed depending on where we lived. It was a treatment for a miscarriage, but it was an abortion procedure, performed by a doctor who specialized in abortions.
And if a doctor—or, say, a cop—had started asking questions about whether she had had a miscarriage on purpose, my rage, even as a naive, brainwashed young man, would have been nuclear.
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