Compassion. For me, being pro-choice is about having compassion. This is one thing my time spent volunteering as an escort at Planned Parenthood each week has really impressed on me. Every woman is an individual with her own story, and every woman deserves compassion and access to the tools she needs to build her life as best she can.
The other week I stood by a car as a woman crouched behind it, begging for a way into the clinic that didn’t involve having to walk by the yelling protesters. We told her that they couldn’t get near her, and could only yell, but that was still too much. Finally she walked between us into the clinic as the protesters yelled at her, and by the time she got inside she was so overcome that she almost broke down sobbing. Did I mention that she wasn’t there for herself? It was her teenage daughter at her side that she was there for. She was trying so hard to be strong.
Compassion. It’s about hugging those who are crying and helping those in need. It’s about extending an arm to the hurting and a lifeline to those who are falling. It’s about affirming every woman’s dignity to make her own decisions and forge her own life. It’s about being there for her. I often talk with the other escorts—there are always two of us, though just who it is changes—and I’m amazed by how many of them are active in other social justice work. Several of them also volunteer at the local women’s shelter.
This past week, as I walked one woman in, one of the protesters yelled “Don’t kill your baby! There is hope!” The woman laughed bitterly and responded by saying “No there isn’t.” Women who come to Planned Parenthood for abortions are often in the middle of trying circumstances. They have a job that doesn’t make allowances for pregnancy, they are already struggling to get out of poverty, they want to be able to give adequate time to the children they already have, they weren’t able to get the long term contraception they wanted because they don’t have health insurance, and on and on it goes. Every woman’s story is individual, and some women come to the decision to abort easily, and for others it’s difficult and complicated.
For me, being pro-choice is more than just a single issue. It’s not just about abortion rights, or about contraception, or about a social safety net. It’s something much bigger. It’s about putting an arm around the hopeless and offering help to those who need it. It’s about hoping for a better world, one with not only reproductive justice but also economic justice. It’s about wanting every child to grow up healthy, happy, and loved. It’s about reaching up, about embracing possibility, and about dreaming of something more. And, it’s about compassion.