Ordeal of the Bitter Waters Part 2

Ordeal of the Bitter Waters Part 2 October 21, 2013

by Samantha cross posted from her blog Defeating the Dragons

For this series, I’m going to be monitoring the comments a little more closely than I ordinarily do. I haven’t gotten any comments that I’ve needed to moderate, yet, but I am discussing an incredibly charged issue. I will not tolerate any personal attacks– on me or anyone else.

Also, I am not really writing this series to convince anyone. This series is about my story– the road I traveled that brought me to this point.

For a long time– years, actually– I was in a very similar space to many of you. It’s a place that is beginning to fill with people who are searching for answers and realizing that there aren’t many. So, I used to exist in a sort of limbo where nothing quite makes sense, but somehow it feels the most honest and the most compassionate. It’s an in-between place where your hearts can grieve over a tragedy, but still see the necessity for women to have access to safe reproductive medicine. Being willing to protect the reproductive rights of women, all while believing that abortion is morally wrong. Politically and legally necessary, but still wrong.

The interesting thing about this place is that there is a huge spectrum. No one is there for exactly the same reason, and the gray is constantly shifting. When I first entered that space, I was there because I had my first glimpse at the harsh, broken reality.

For most of my life, I believed that almost all abortions were wrong– evil, actually. The only exception– the only one– was in cases where the pregnancy threatened the life of the mother. Only then was it acceptable. Only then. Exceptions for rape and incest weren’t even on my horizon– after all, why punish an innocent baby? It’s not his fault that the father was a rapist. Two wrongs don’t make a right, and the words would come out glib and blithe while I confidently flipped my hair and turned up my nose at women who would murder their own baby.

But then I came staggering, bewildered, into the gray place. Because, at the time, I didn’t have the word rape for what had happened to me. The only thing I knew was that the thought of having my fiancé’s baby terrified me for reasons I couldn’t explain. I could not have his baby. I could not. And I didn’t understand why. But, in those weeks, before I either miscarried (most pregnancies fail in the first few weeks) or was merely late, I came to understand that there were probably thousands of girls who were so frightened they could barely breathe or eat or sleep, and I could no longer judge them– because I was one. It took me years to understand that one of the reasons why the thought of carrying my abuser’s baby frightened me beyond reason was that he was also my rapist.

And that’s when I understood that being pro-life and advocating for the rape exception was wrong.

Because, if I’d lived in a system where you have to prove you were raped? I wouldn’t have been able to do it. I didn’t even understand that I was raped– and, even if I had, that would have meant going through the excruciating, traumatic process of reporting him. All of that would have had to happen before I could have even called a clinic. And the thought of living in that world . . . it sickens me.  And when I first stumbled into the gray place, one of the first things I discovered was that, in 31 states, rapists can sue for custody of the child– and they frequently do this in order to get the woman to drop criminal charges. If she doesn’t take him to trial for raping her, he’ll surrender all legal rights to the baby.

My eyes were forced open, and the reality I’d been denying all my life came crashing in. None of what I’d been taught to believe was as clear-cut, as black-and-white, as it had been given to me. There were reasons– desperate, horrible reasons– for a woman to need to end her pregnancy. I understood that, had felt it in a way that now, when I try to remember what those weeks were like, I can barely breathe and all I want to do is cry.

I wandered deeper into the gray when I started reading the stories of women who had terminated for medical reasons. I had come into this place believing, with all my heart, that it was all right– even merciful– to terminate a pregnancy if it threatened the mother’s life. It never occurred to me how untenable that position was, or what it revealed about what I believed about unborn life. But these stories brought that piece of me into the harsh light: there was a sliver inside of me that already knew that an unborn fetus was not the same thing as a full-grown human being. I had accepted that, in this worse-case scenario, it is morally acceptable to terminate a pregnancy, and I had made that decision because I believed that a fetus did not have the same rights as a mother.

But I read stories, like this one, and my heart broke. Because these mothers didn’t see it that way. They wanted their precious babies, to cradle them in their arms and smell their skin and touch their fuzzy-soft hair. But they gave them up, valuing them as life unlived, because of a diagnoses that meant their child would live in constant, unending pain. And what I’d always believed– that God is in control, and he created that little baby with all its medical problems — that belief was crushed under their grief. And they didn’t decide to terminate their pregnancies because it would eventually result in their own death: they ended them because they loved their baby, and were trying to do the right thing, the best thing, for their child.

So I stepped further into the gray. I decided that I could no longer accept any of what the pro-life/anti-abortion movement wants to accomplish. They seek to reduce access to contraception– even though that raises the teen pregnancy and abortion rates. They believe that a rape exception would be all right– but living in that world would be heinous and terrifying. They want to ban any abortion after 20 weeks outright, with many laws having no exceptions for any medical reason.

In short, they want Ireland.

Ireland is a pro-life advocate’s dream.

But, Ireland is being forced to come to terms with the real-life consequences of its policies. Tania McCabe, pregnant with twins, died in 2007, because doctors could not legally terminate her pregnancy. Savita Halappanavar died in 2012 from sepsis, because the doctors had to wait until the fetus’ heart had stopped beating in order to perform the procedure. And, today, lawmakers in Texas, Ohio, Nebraska, North Carolina and others are pursuing the same type of legislation that killed these women.

So, I became politically pro-choice.

But, morally, I couldn’t bring myself to embrace it.

That changed when, after years of struggling, I turned to the Bible for answers– and what I found unraveled everything I believed.

Part 1

Comments open below

Read everything by Samantha!

Samantha grew up in the homeschool, patriarchy, quiverfull, and fundamentalist movements, and experienced first-hand the terror and manipulation of spiritual abuse. She is now married to an amazing, gentle man who doesn’t really get what happened to her but loves her anyway. With him by her side and the strength of God’s promises, she is slowly healing.

Samantha blogs at Defeating The Dragons and is a member of The Spiritual Abuse Survivor Blogs Network

NLQ Recommended Reading …

Breaking Their Will: Shedding Light on Religious Child Maltreatment‘ by Janet Heimlich

Quivering Daughters‘ by Hillary McFarland

Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement‘ by Kathryn Joyce


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  • SAO

    I had a miscarriage at 2.5 month and I looked for my “baby” in the mess, not wanting to flush her down the toilet, but the mess looked exactly like a heavy period and nothing in it remotely resembled an embryo.

    So, it’s very hard to view the morning after pill and other emergency post-fact contraception as different from triggering a period.

    I’ve found the laws requiring women to get ultrasounds before an abortion interesting as most abortions are performed in the first trimester, when the embryo looks like a tadpole, if not an amorphous blob, not like the cute, thumb-sucking babies of third trimester ultrasounds.

  • Edie Moore McGee

    Yup. I miscarried at 10 weeks, and I can say exactly the same thing. I miscarried at home and took the whole mess to the hospital with me. I even asked the ER doctor, and he assured me I couldn’t see anything I’d recognize as a baby. One thing about what I did, though: my doctor told me later in no uncertain terms that we should consider “other options” for building a family. We took his advice, and have the most wonderful Chinese kid now.
    I hate the idea of abortion as birth control alone, and I’d have had a hard time justifying one in my own mind had my one pregnancy been an unwanted one (or even knowing that the embryo had serious birth defects), but I’ve never been comfortable with the idea of telling others what to do. At the end of the day, there’s very little black and white, but a lot of gray, in this world.

  • $66283444

    You just wrote what I have been trying to put into words for years. Looking forward to the next one.

  • Dana

    Wow, you made that sound like you went shopping for a product. Congratulations–hope that “Chinese kid” never sees your comment.

    Seriously. Could you think it through next time?

    P.S. Could you also adopt from the U.S. next time? They need you.

  • Edie Moore McGee

    1) I think you read things into my response that weren’t there. And for what it’s worth, it wasn’t a shopping trip. More like an elephant pregnancy of 22 months with lots of hoops to jump through.

    2) We tried domestic adoption first, but things didn’t work out. And for what it’s worth, it’s incredibly poor manners to try to make anyone else’s family-building strategy your business, or even to question it. You are a stranger to boot. No one in my family was that nosy, or rude.

    3) My husband and I will not be adopting again. We have a number of medical problems, most diagnosed post-adoption, between us that raise red flags with both domestic birthmothers and with many countries. For example, I had cancer last year. China was the most liberal country at the time we started the process, and they’d definitely turn us down now.

  • Edie Moore McGee

    One more thing. You don’t know my child and you have NO idea how she would react. I do know her and know what’s appropriate. Seriously. Mind your own business.

  • Suzanne Harper Titkemeyer

    This is the Admin. Knock off the personal attacks or you’ll find yourself unable to comment. Thanks.