Today I Saw the Life Chain

I was driving home from running some errands when I saw it. A person holding a sign standing beside the road. Then another, and another. It only took a moment to realize what it was. I honestly don’t think it took any cognition. I just knew.

Life Chain.

Sign after sign held high for those in passing cars to see. For me to see.

Abortion Kills Children.

Pray to End Abortion.

Abortion Stops a Beating Heart.

Person after person after person lined up beside the road, one after another. And the children. Children holding signs, children standing by their parents.

I have no idea what group or organization started this, but every year on the first Sunday afternoon of October thousands of people who oppose abortion across the country line up beside main roads in their towns and hold up anti-abortion signs.

Life Chain.

The reason I instantly recognized what it was is that, well, I’ve been there. Every year without fail, mom and dad would bundle us up and march all eight, ten, or twelve of us children downtown to join other abortion opponents along a main road. We picked up our signs and stretched out along the sidewalk, one after another after another.

“Let Faith hold the ‘Abortion Kills Children’ sign,” my mother would say, gesturing to my two-year-old sister. “No one will be able to look at that and not be moved.”

Growing up, I always looked forward to Life Chain. For me, it was something I could do. Every time I thought about abortion, which I had been taught to see as the holocaust of millions of babies, I felt sick to my stomach, more so because I felt helpless to do anything about it. But Life Chain was taking an actual action. It was actually doing something. We children always saw friends of ours there as well, the children of other Christian homeschooling families. We stood together and held up our signs so that people in cars passing by could read them. It provided us children with social time. While some of my siblings grumbled about being dragged along, I never did.

Sometimes cars honked at us in a friendly fashion, and we waved back. Other times people yelled out windows, hateful people with hateful looks on their faces.

It’s funny how much your point of view affects how you understand what you see, because this year I was the person in the car tempted to yell something. From this side of the fence, things look very different than they used to on the other side of the fence.

Today, when I look at those who would like to see abortion banned I am painfully aware that what they want to control my reproductive choices. And I am painfully aware that they care more about controlling my access to reproductive choice than they do about caring for children born to poor families, or making sure that I have access to paid maternity leave and affordable child care, or helping decrease the number of unwanted pregnancies through making contraception more available.

As I looked at the people along the road this afternoon, I felt anger rise in me. I wanted to yell something. to make known my opposition to what they were doing. But I knew it wouldn’t do any good. It wouldn’t help. I would be the hateful woman with the hateful look. Because mostly when I looked at the people along the road I saw the children. And when I looked at the children, I saw me as I was ten, fifteen, twenty years ago. I rolled up the window to avoid the temptation.

And as I passed the last of the protesters with their signs, I was reminded once again of how much my life has changed.

About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.

  • lucrezaborgia

    …and yet how many of these protestors are pro-birth control and pro-social programs that help mothers keep their kids? What is their support for day care and paid maternity leave?

    • phantomreader42

      lucrezaborgia asks:

      …and yet how many of these protestors are pro-birth control and pro-social programs that help mothers keep their kids? What is their support for day care and paid maternity leave?

      Close enough to zero as to be negligible.

  • machintelligence

    They are a bunch of hypocrites and we all know it. How do you suppose they will react to this study?
    http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-204_162-57526550/study-free-birth-control-leads-to-way-fewer-abortions/

    • Uly

      Oh, I’m sure they have a way to avoid the cognitive dissonance of babies as punishment and babies as blessing duke it out in their minds.

  • Gordon

    I would definitely have been moved, or rather my stomach would have been. I would have been moved to pity the kids in line but I think my nausea at their parents would overshadow that feeling.

  • http://louisebroadbentfiction.wordpress.com Louise Broadbent

    How about a Choice Chain on the other side of the road? Just a thought. No children, though – if they’re not old enough to make an informed opinion on this they’re not old enough to be made to promote the propaganda.

    • Kate

      The Choice Chain could hold signs that say “Illegal Abortion Kills Children” with a picture of a coat hanger or “Abortion Saves Childrens’ Lives” with a picture of a pregnant 12 year old.

  • http://jw-thoughts.blogspot JW

    Always a blame game that goes on with this issue. It is always about how hypocritical one side is over the other.

    JW

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

      JW, I’m genuinely curious, where do you see the pro-choice side being hypocritical?

    • Petticoat Philosopher

      That’s actually not what it’s about at all, JW. It sure doesn’t HELP that so many who call themselves “pro-life” are so hypocritical but that’s not what it’s about. What it’s about is the rights of women. That is the primary concern and the goal, not smearing the other side.

      • http://n/a robinm85

        And it’s also about privacy issues. I don’t think a lot of anti-choicers see that. Abortion and birth control are decisions that are made privately by women with the advice of their doctors. And if I remember right, doctor-patient relationships are private. I don’t care if people think abortion is wrong, just remember that not everyone does and that you must not be allowed to make medical decisions for someone else.

  • http://jw-thoughts.blogspot JW

    Pro-choice says they are for abortions because of various circumstances women find themselves in which is supposed to be rape and maybe other minor life circumstances. Yet with the voice of the Pro-life crowd it seems to show that the Pro-choice crowd pushes abortions more if the women dosn’t want the baby regardless of circumstance. Getting rid of the baby before it is born even if the woman cannot afford to raise the baby. The abortion debate on the pro-choice side seems to focus on rapes when the majority of abortions are not the result of rapes. While I don’t have stats I am willing to bet a good majority of abortions for are teens and college aged girls who had a fling and got pregnant. In my observations it seems the pro-choice crowd doesn’t show alot of support for the right to life for those who haven’t been raped and don’t counsel women to keep their babies or give them up for adoption. Even if a mom to be cannot raise her baby she can go to any fire department with no questions ask in order to give the baby a better home.
    I find angry people on both sides of the fence but on the Pro-Choice side they seem to polarizing to pro-abortion rather than Pro-Choice or even the hint of life. Shouldn’t Pro-choice hold a balance?

    JW

    JW

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

      JW, you are sadly misinformed regarding the pro-choice side. In fact, it sounds to me like what you know about pro-choicers is anti-abortion propaganda. Pro-choice means pro-choice. Not “pro-forcing people to have abortions.” Like I said regarding your comment on the other purity post, I think you are making the mistake of projecting. Just because the anti-abortion side – your side, I believe – wants to force women not to have abortions does not mean that the pro-choice side also wants to force something on women. We don’t. We really really don’t. We’re pro-choice.

      If you go to Planned Parenthood to have an abortion, you will first meet with a counselor who will make sure you know your options. That counselor will make sure you know you can keep the baby if you want it, or give it up for adoption if you want. No one will tell you you can’t have the baby or give it up for adoption if that’s what you want. Planned Parenthood is not about forcing people, or even pressuring people, to have abortions. Being pro-choice means being in favor of choice. Really, it really really does.

      You’ll find that pro-choicers are essentially universally in favor of a stronger social safety network to allow women in dire financial situations to have the choice to keep their babies. We don’t want women who don’t want to have abortions to feel like they have to because they can’t afford to raise a child even though they want to. We’re in favor of government health care so that the woman doesn’t have to face prohibitive pregnancy expenses, and in favor of government-subsidized daycare so that poor working mothers can afford another child if that is what they want. The weird thing is that while pro-choicers are in favor of these sorts of programs, the anti-abortion community where I grew up opposes them.

      Also, you’re not going to find a single pro-choice individual who would favor forcing a rape victim to abort if she doesn’t want to. Seriously: you’re not.

      To sum up, everything you said about pro-choicers in that paragraph is wrong. It’s not your fault you might think those things, because that is the propaganda put out about the pro-choice side by the anti-abortion side. You may not have known those ideas were incorrect. I heard them growing up as well, and didn’t know they were falsehoods either. But now that you know that it is made up of flat out lies, it would reflect badly on you if you were to continue to hold those views.

    • http://equalsuf.wordpress.com Jayn

      As far as the focus on rape…that’s more of a wedge issue, IMHO. A lot of pro-life arguments in the past have focused on ‘being responsible for your actions’, which makes rape exceptions the easiest position to defend because it’s hard to argue that the woman in those situations did anything wrong (though some people certainly try).

      For other issues, there is a lot of support for other choices wrt childbearing, those just aren’t under attack the way abortion and contraception are, so they tend to fall to the wayside. The main argument isn’t that a woman SHOULD abort in any given circumstance (though I think we all have our own thoughts anyways), but that she should be ABLE to. Almost no one is trying to stop a poor woman from having a kid if she wants to, on either side. So while there’s certainly need for better supports, the option is there and not going away. It’s the option to not do so that’s under attack.

    • thalwen

      So what if it’s a college student who had a fling? So what if it’s a woman who has sex with someone you don’t approve of? A baby should be a wanted addition to a family, not a punishment for being female and having sex. That is what the pro-choice movement is about. We want every pregnancy to be a wanted pregnancy, and every birth to be a safe and wanted birth. That is why the pro-choice movement supports assistance for mothers and their children, the anti-choice movement considers supports to be “big government,” and doesn’t pay much attention to the baby once it’s born. That’s why the pro-choice movement supports easy access to contraception, to reduce unwanted pregnancies in the first place, while the anti choicers want to restrict access to contraception, especially female controlled contraception, which increases unwanted pregnancies and abortions.

      You think it’s so easy to go through pregnancy and give birth? It is almost a year of your life where you health is compromised and you can suffer disabling complications, and you can die. Oh and then you can just dump the kid off at the fire department at a hospital, because it’s just that easy. I agree the focus on rape takes the conversation away from women having control over their bodies to whether a woman was sufficiently slutty to be denied control over her body. However, forcing a rape victim to bear her rapist’s baby is a particular kind of evil and that is what the anti-choicers are currently pushing.

      • Tracey

        JW, like many anti-choicers, believes it’s all those women getting themselves pregnant. Not a peep about the men who were involved. Lots of condemnations for those “college girls” (oh noes! Let ‘em get educated and they turn into nympomaniacs) and their flings, silence about the men whose sperm start the whole process.

      • Tracey

        JW, like many anti-choicers, believes it’s all those women getting themselves pregnant. Not a peep about the men who were involved. Lots of condemnations for those high school and “college girls” (oh noes! Let ‘em get educated and they turn into nympomaniacs) and their flings, silence about the men whose sperm start the whole process.

        As for risking her health and even life in a pregnancy, giving birth (which is 11 times more risky than an early-term abortion), then blithely just handing the baby off to a fire department…wow, that really shows the anti-choice view on actual babies, not just embryos. The mind that could embrace just tossing a born baby aside like an unwanted sweater…wow.

    • piny

      I don’t think teenage girls who had sex for teenage reasons should have to become mothers if they don’t want to, okay? It’s fact that a large number of teenage girls have sexual experiences with much older men; it’s also fact that a significant number of teenage pregnancies are conceived between teenage girls and much older men; I think that even though some teenage girls have wholly autonomous, supportive, safe initial encounters with sex, the prevalence of sexual abuse and rape means that all teenage girls live with sexual coercion. And so I believe that abortion is a necessary option: it’s not so that girls are forced out of motherhood, but so that there’s no point in the process where their choices disappear and their life becomes set on a single trajectory. Young women who want to become mothers also deserve support–and progressive policies help them. I’m sorry, but you’re talking to women here: women who have watched the women in their families grow up with or without pensions, retirement benefits, medical insurance, access to birth control, access to education, access to promotion, and the opportunity to obtain a decent job paying a fair wage. Don’t try to sell us this crap about how conservatives want women to be free to set their own lives and progressives want to trap them. We have grandmothers; we were taught by nuns. It won’t wash.

    • Petticoat Philosopher

      Oh, JW. There’s most likely no point in commenting on your post, since your general style is simply to semi-coherently regurgitate your ultra-conservative propaganda all over Libby’s blog and then leave without responding to any of her extraordinarily patient responses, but I just can’t resist. So let’s get a few things straight:

      “Pro-choice says they are for abortions because of various circumstances women find themselves in which is supposed to be rape and maybe other minor life circumstances.”

      “Pro-choice” says no such thing. Pro-choice says that a woman should be able to get an abortion if she chooses to, full stop. We are not in the business of pontificating about which reasons are acceptable, which life circumstances are “major” enough to justify her choice. If a woman chooses abortion, that option should be available to her.

      “The abortion debate on the pro-choice side seems to focus on rapes when the majority of abortions are not the result of rapes.”

      lolwut? This is just blatantly factually inaccurate. No pro-choice activist or advocate I have ever met, worked with, or read believe that most abortions are sought by rape victims. If anything, pro-choicers tend to be highly focused on combating the idea that only women who did not consent to sex are “deserving” of the choice of abortion. Pro-choicers are far more familiar with the demographics, circumstances and cited reasons behind abortion than YOU are, as you amply demonstrate with:

      “While I don’t have stats I am willing to bet a good majority of abortions for are teens and college aged girls who had a fling and got pregnant.”

      You should really bet on that, JW, because it is so true. Seriously, bet your entire life savings! You’re headed for the big time!

      Oh, all right, I’ll do you a favor and tell you you’re full of shit. While the Visions of Slutty Co-eds Dancing in Your Head surely move you to frenzy, that does not mean that they have any basis in reality. According to the Guttmacher Institute (and many other sources), over half of all women who obtain abortions already have one or more children. About three quarters of all women who obtain abortions cite, as a main reason, obligations and responsibilities to other people and dependents. Hardly your fantasy of nubile harlots, drinking and fucking their way through high school and college and disposing of the inconveniences willy-nilly so they can keep on going with their sinful lifestyle!

      And, yes, a great deal of college-age women do get abortions. (Although college-age women, although a substantial chunk of women seeking abortions, are nowhere near the majority. Girls below college-age account for a fairly small percentage.) Some of their unintended pregnancies even result from “flings.” (Although women that age have been known to have boyfriends and even husbands.) So what? Their rights over their own reproduction do not change just because they have made sexual choices that some disapprove of. Again, pro-choicers aren’t in to scrutinizing women’s lives and choices to determine which reproductive rights they get.

      “In my observations it seems the pro-choice crowd doesn’t show alot of support for the right to life for those who haven’t been raped and don’t counsel women to keep their babies or give them up for adoption. ”

      First off, you’re going to simply have to accept the fact that most pro-choicers do not see embryos as right-holding persons. You may strongly disagree, but that is our premise and it is on that that many of us base our support for abortion rights. The right to life of the embryo is irrelevant based on that premise–it does not exist. The right of women to choose is our concern. And you’re right, we don’t counsel women to keep their babies or give them up for adoption. We don’t see that as our job. Instead, we seek to make sure that women know what all their options are so they can make an informed choice without pressure from anybody. Although, in practice, that often means spending more time giving information on abortion availability and safety because there are so many obstructions to it and lies about it perpetuated by the anti-abortion crowd. And women already know that the choice to raise the baby or give it up for adoption are the more socially acceptable choices. Really, they do.

      “Even if a mom to be cannot raise her baby she can go to any fire department with no questions ask in order to give the baby a better home.”

      Oh, for pity’s sake, read something, ANYTHING about our foster care system and how many unwanted children are suffering in it. The short version? White babies are in high demand for prospective adoptive parents. Babies of color, not so much. Check it out yourself. Funny thing about reading and research, you sometimes actually learn about things from doing it.

  • SophieUK

    JW: “While I don’t have stats I am willing to bet a good majority of abortions for are teens and college aged girls who had a fling and got pregnant”

    The majority of abortions are actually performed on women who are already mothers – not teens and students although they are obviously represented. This is also why another of your claims doesn’t work in most cases:

    ” Even if a mom to be cannot raise her baby she can go to any fire department with no questions ask in order to give the baby a better home.”

    How are the woman’s other kids going to feel about that do you think? Watching their mother go through a pregnancy only to see her disappear off for a day or so at the end of it and then come back with no explanation and as if nothing has happened? Or being told that Mummy doesn’t have enough money to look after the baby so she had to give her to someone else?? Don’t you think the woman’s existing kids might feel pretty insecure at best and terrified at worst that one day they might also be given away if Mummy can’t afford them? Do you really think that any mother who loved her kids would put them through that?

    I would also say that many women don’t believe their “baby” would end up in a better home. Maybe they would be better off materially but most women I know would feel pretty uneasy about not knowing where their child was or if it was suffering. I live in the UK and this isn’t so much of a problem here but were I to live in the US, I’d be aware that there would be a good chance my “child” would end up with a Christian family. Because I believe that some Christian teachings are akin to child abuse I would not be comfortable with this at all (or can you specify who adopts your child in the US?). For example, if I did have a child then gave it away how do I know it won’t be gay or that it won’t grow up with a family who promote homophobia as if it is “love”? I would simply not bring a child into the world with risks of that magnitude to it’s well being. I do not believe abortion is killing a child. It is preventing the creation of a child that would not have a good shot at a decent life.

    • Rosa

      You know what is REALLY not motivating women who are on the fence to choose adoption?

      The promise that there are pro-life families out there just WAITING to take their baby. Especially traditional, spanking, out on the street with gory signs families. Isn’t that a spooky thought?

      • http://n/a robinm85

        Sophie and Rosa – you have made very fine arguments against adoption. I never even considered those things before. I have always been pro-adoption instead of raising it yourself (actually, I might be considered pro-abortion by some). Thank you ladies for giving me something to think about.

  • SophieUK

    * its well being – typing too fast!

  • http://jw-thoughts.blogspot JW

    Petticoat Philospher, I had planned on making a reply to several comments on her but after reading your first paragraph and the hatred and anger you display I think it is my interest to not to post anything. It is really sad that you are so judgmental and you want to tell me I am judgmental? Ok, I will pull out the offense card ‘You don’t even know me’. How is that for the poker face? lol wink
    JW

    • Petticoat Philosopher

      I do not know you so I do not hate you, JW, nor do I think my words are hateful. They are, however, angry. The blatant contempt you show for sexually active women and your use of it as an excuse to deny them rights over their own bodies is contemptible. There are words and actions that are DESERVING of harsh judgment. I am not judgmental simply because I judge.

      I’m sorry that my failure to use a non-threatening nicey-nice tone to debunk your ridiculous and unfounded statements injured your oh-so-delicate sensibilities, JW. But look at this way. I did you the favor of providing an excuse for you to not respond to any of the good arguments and facts that have been laid before you. You’re welcome!

      • Carol

        Tut, tut, JW doesn’t like your tone!

        JW, this is what happens when you launch arguments with “While I don’t have stats I am willing to bet” in a blog where people who, from what I read here, are statisticians, researchers and scholars. And then you’re all surprised and hurt when someone calls you on it. Maybe it is time to reconsider the groupthink you engage in and start doing your own research, like Petticoat Philosopher suggested.

      • Anonymouse

        I think the hate is actually coming from JW, who’s made it clear the low regard with which he holds women in general, and those Slutty McSlut-Sluts who “have flings” (notice his ire is never for the men involved). His “hurt” feelings are just a way to shift the blame for the bad things he spews out so effortlessly.

      • Carol

        “I think the hate is actually coming from JW, who’s made it clear the low regard with which he holds women in general”

        So very true. When he says “While I don’t have stats I am willing to bet” he himself admits he is completely ignorant about the situation, couldn’t be bothered to summon enough concern over it to figure it out on his own, yet is fully satisfied that he is in a position to pass judgment and dictate to women how they should behave and what they can and cannot do with their bodies. Sounds pretty hateful actually. That would be sort of like saying “While I don’t have the stats, I am willing to bet that men use Viagra to cheat on their wives. Now lets go write some legislation!”

  • smrnda

    The people who killed that African girl they adopted who were fans of the Pearls are a pretty good case that adoption is a very flawed solution.

    • Anonymouse

      And look at Andrea Yates; 10 years of being a constant broodmare for the lord made her mind snap, and she drowned all the kids her husband carelessly left her alone with, even though he knew she was profoundly mentally ill and her pillow was telling her she wasn’t a good mother.

  • Carol

    OK everyone, say it with me, the 4 exceptions should be rape, incest, the life of the mother and “me”.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/10/scott-desjarlais-abortion-pro-life_n_1953136.html

  • Chris

    I saw the life chain too and felt the same way!
    Thank you for putting our feelings into words.


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