I tried to have a second child in my late 30s. For me that meant a series of fertility treatments and miscarriages. It was a painful time, and after one miscarriage in particular, I ended up at a termination clinic. It was because of insurance coverage. My husband and I would have paid $2,000 out of pocket to have my OB perform the procedure (a D&C) at the hospital, whereas I could get the exact same procedure for $200 at the clinic.
A few things stand out from that experience.
First was my desire to make it crystal clear to every health professional I encountered that I had miscarried. I felt it important that they not see me as “someone who would have an abortion” — whatever that meant. Someone who could welcome a child without disrupting my educational goals, career or family? Someone who was pro-choice except when it came to myself? At least myself as a thirty-something upper middle-class woman in a happy and stable marriage? Someone who had not been raped? I’m pretty sure there weren’t many people in my position of privilege coming through the doors of the clinic that day. Looking back, I’m a little embarrassed that I was so vocal about my miscarriage.
Second were the doctors. I was the first patient of the day, and the doctor performing the D&C was running late, which meant I had some extra time to talk to the anesthesiologist. He said he worked at the clinic every Monday because he felt it was an important service to provide. I expressed my admiration. He and his wife had also dealt with miscarriage, and he was sorry for my loss. I expressed my thanks.
Then the other doctor came in and was all business. He didn’t even make eye contact with me as he explained the procedure he’d be performing and how long it would take — literally a matter of minutes. I started to feel nervous and looked at the anesthesiologist. He told me to count backwards from 10 and stroked my forehead, right at the hairline, until I went under. It was one of the most compassionate moments of my life, and I wrote a note to the clinic conveying my gratitude for his care.
Third was another patient I met while in the recovery room. She seemed surprisingly chipper, laughing and chatting up the person who walked her through post-op instructions. Once that conversation was over, she turned to me. Right off the bat, she asked if I had children. Yes, an eight-year-old daughter, I told her. “I have a one-year-old. My husband and I weren’t ready for another. One day, but not yet. His mom lives with us to help out, but it’s just too much right now, you know?”
I was stunned. But I no longer felt the need to distinguish myself from those exercising their right to choose. My guess was that this woman felt some level of guilt since she was trying to justify her choice to a stranger. It was a choice that I wouldn’t have made based on what she told me about her circumstances. I couldn’t affirm her in it, but there’s no way I was going to make her feel badly about it. So, I just nodded politely.
The Episcopal Church has declared that “we emphatically oppose abortion as a means of birth control, family planning, sex selection, or any reason of mere convenience.”
Yet when it comes to the rule of law, the Church has maintained since 1967 its “unequivocal opposition to any legislation on the part of the national or state governments which would abridge or deny the right of individuals to reach informed decisions [about the termination of pregnancy] and to act upon them.” The Church views women’s reproductive health care as “an integral part of a woman’s struggle to assert her dignity and worth as a human being.”
In light of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the Church has reaffirmed its pro-choice position and commitment to continue to advocate at the federal level to protect reproductive rights.
Of course, the membership of the Episcopal Church is not monolithic on whether abortion should be legal. There are those in our congregation on both sides of the issue. As we digest the recent news from the Supreme Court, please pray. Pray for those who are pro-choice and those who are pro-life. Pray for the woman who now has to worry if and where she can exercise her right to choose and whether she will be criminalized for it. Pray for those who advocate gun control and for those who do not. Pray for shooting victims and for shooters. Pray for the people of Ukraine and pray for the Russians.
Then work where you can, in whatever way God calls you, for what you believe is right and just, noble and true. But keep praying for the people who oppose you. It is the only way we’ll arrive at God’s new creation together.