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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

I was fortunate enough to go to an excellent college. I transplanted myself from my co-ed high school in the southwest to an all women’s college in the northeast.

Now this grand education I had opened my eyes to the idea of women’s equality, women’s power, and women’s control over their bodies. Admittedly, I did not become interested in reproductive rights until this school or until that women’s studies course. And thank heavens for these introductions, for who would I be without them?

After college, I moved into the city before graduate school and volunteered at the local Planned Parenthood as a clinic escort. I essentially helped women and their partners get into the clinic safely and successfully amidst the sometimes hostile crowd. To me, reproductive choice was a right protected by the law and protected by me. The protestors would say horrific things to women to get them to change their minds, to get them to turn around and leave the clinic. They took a women’s personal, difficult choice and turned it into a street mockery and shouting match. Those women’s faces I escorted into the building are burned in my mind. I could see the fear and I could feel it. But they had a choice-a choice for their bodies and their future. A choice. What did these protestors want of these women? An unwanted child? An unsafe, back alley abortion? Not the right to make decisions over their own body.

One morning of escorting, a new protestor emerged. She was known to the staff at Planned Parenthood, but not to me. She was slightly older than me, brown hair that touched the back of her thighs, and a loud, intimidating voice. She would bring anti-choice literature with her every Saturday and stand less than a foot away from escorts, reading her rhetoric. Mind you, we were trained not to engage with the protestors, but damn it was difficult. Our objective was getting the patients into the clinic. However, this particular protestor was hard to ignore. She would follow you around, reading into your ear with her booming voice.
It was one day that she announced she went to a well known all women’s college, the same college I had attended just under a year ago. I, of course, never told her I was also a graduate of said institution-that would only bring unwanted attention to our battle ground. It was such a disappointing moment, though. I credit this institution for my reproductive health awakening, my fierce advocacy and activism, and my desire to always protect a women’s reproductive freedom. And this woman, my “sister,” credited the same institution for her anti-choice motives. How could we have come from the same place and have such different views?

I think about that woman from time to time. Not all women view choice as an absolute right-even her with such a liberal, mind-awakening education. The realization I came too is that regardless of what she thinks or what she protests against, I fight for her reproductive rights as well. I cannot pick and choose which women I stand with and which I stand against. All women have a beautiful, divine choice over their bodies and their reproduction, all women. And I will fight for that choice as long as it takes, even if some women will fight against me.


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