The Conversion

by Stacey Spiehler

Look back far enough on this blog  and you’ll see that I have my pro-life bona fides.  Borne of what, I don’t know.  Both my parents were pro-choice and I was raised fairly agnostic.  I just always thought abortion was wrong and had never met anyone who could tell me different.

Fervor of the converted kicked in when I became a Christian at 19 and went all-in with a Southern Baptist church.  When I found out in 2000 that federal money went to pay for abortion, I cried, bless my misinformed heart.  I moved to Los Angeles from New Orleans late that year and being surrounded by “pro-aborts” only strengthened my convictions.

I decided at some point to go full-bore and be against abortion in ALL circumstances.  I thought rape and incest were God’s will.  I thought I would NEVER kill my own baby to save my own life so nobody else should either.  The morning-after pill was evil and, you know, in that case, so were hormonal birth control and IUDs.  I became something of a cheese that stood alone in the pro-life world for my extremist views, but was widely welcomed at the rally at the California State Capitol in 2003 to mourn the 30th anniversary of Roe vs. Wade.  Life was cushy then, black and white, and I wallowed in my bed of upper-middle-class privilege.

I moved to Mississippi from Los Angeles in 2004 and was happy to be in a state with so many abortion restrictions.  October that year came along and I found out I was pregnant for the first time and was happier than I had ever been only to find out two weeks later that it was an ectopic pregnancy.  I sat for a long time thinking about living in the woods until I died with my baby, but ultimately thought of my husband and agreed to the termination by methotrexate.

I found out I was pregnant again in December of 2005.  What a truly awesome pregnancy that was – no morning sickness, no nausea at all in fact, no bad cravings, no complications at all until whoops!  My water broke at 28 weeks 2 days gestation.  When I was admitted to the hospital I was told I could be there up to 6 weeks with broken membranes because I still had a teeny bit of amniotic fluid left for Ace to survive on.  I spent the next 5 days on my back, pooping in a bed pan, taking sponge baths, and suppressing the nagging thought that this would be really, really hard for a woman with a lower income or even just a job to go through.  My son was born 5 days later at 29 weeks gestation and spent 8 weeks in the NICU.  Thankfully our insurance paid most of the combined $250,000 hospital bill, but the nagging thought that when a woman gets pregnant she has to accept that anything is possible stayed with me.

I miscarried in 2008 and decided anything would be better than another pregnancy because each one had torn a big piece of my heart out.  I could not do it anymore.  Amazing how your views on things like birth control change when you’re faced with real life.  I started birth control almost immediately.

Early in 2011, I saw a commercial talking about a petition to put an amendment on the ballot in November to outlaw all abortions.  I was still pretty against “elective” abortions so initially I thought it was a great idea.  I got on their website and read the wording of the initiative and saw that there was absolutely no room for birth control, life-saving pregnancy treatments, IVF, nothing.  Just that a fertilized egg would be given the full rights of a person.  It was called Personhood.  I called their number and asked “what about treatment for ectopic pregnancies?”  The man responded “we’re just trying to get it on the ballot.”  I was not quite as outspoken then and accepted that.

In September of 2011, I saw that a woman named Cristen Hemmins filed a lawsuit to prevent that amendment from going on the ballot and checked the wording of the initiative again.  Still, no provisions for anything.  It went on the ballot and I joined the fight, still maintaining that I was against elective abortions.  I helped form a PAC specifically aiming to protect life-saving pregnancy treatments, birth control, and IVF.  Our PAC held absolutely no position on elective abortions and was solely focused on those things.

I threw myself in the spotlight.  I came out with my story about my ectopic pregnancy and my fight up to that point against Personhood in the Jackson Free Press.  I made sure that my social media was lit up daily about the effects no one was talking about.  I stayed firmly implanted on local news outlets’ Facebook pages begging people to read the entire short initiative for themselves and tell me how birth control, life-saving pregnancy treatment, and IVF would be protected.  I became one of the faces of the cause.

As an effect of that, I got message after message after message from women telling me their heartbreaking abortion stories.  The one that hit me in the face the most was a woman who had gotten raped while in high school in a rural Mississippi town.  The cold reality of facing pregnancy in high school shocked me.  This poor girl would either have to be the whore who got pregnant in high school, tell people she was raped, or just drop out altogether.  And then she’d have a baby to take care of.  She had an abortion.  I couldn’t say I blamed her.

I also had a lot of frank discussions with women who had pregnancy stories like mine.  The complications are ENDLESS.  One friend, who is thankfully a software programmer and can work from home, spent 16 weeks on bedrest because she kept going into labor and must have been in the hospital every week.  I couldn’t imagine a woman of lower means or a woman who had to report to a brick-and-mortar building to bring in an income being able to face that.  Or God forbid, a woman without insurance.  Pregnancy can really be a life ruiner.

I can’t say exactly when I changed my mind on elective abortions.  The initiative was defeated but there were many stories written about me and the other main leaders of the movement and the stories kept pouring in.  Eventually I just realized that abortion was a necessary and shitty part of life.  Nobody is happy that they get an abortion but sometimes there really is no other option.

Sometime in 2012, I just stated plainly on Facebook that I was pro-choice.  I lost a few friends and got quizzed by quite a few more, but I suspect most of the friends I had made during my pro-life days had seen it coming by how fully I threw myself into fighting a pro-life ballot initiative.  The number of pro-choice friends on my friends list had gone up by about a billion percent over the past year so mostly I was just welcomed to the dark side.

Then, this year, after hearing the call from Laurie Roberts 100 times, I decided to volunteer as a patient escort at Jackson Women’s Health Organization, Mississippi’s only abortion clinic.  My son was 6, in 1st grade, gone 7 hours a day, and anything had to be better than cleaning my house and goofing off on Facebook all day.

I had absolutely no idea how rewarding and equally heartbreaking it would be.  Women cling to me as we’re walking in past the protesters yelling terrible things at her.  “Don’t kill your baby!  You’ll have to answer to God one day!  Would you kill your other children too?  Hell is real?”  I ignore them, tell the women that God loves them no matter what, and get them to the door safely.  Many women will ask me to come inside and sit with them and tell me their stories while they’re filling out their paperwork.  One woman wanted to keep her baby and had applied for Medicaid but was denied.  She tore me apart.  Not a one of those protesters standing outside yelling at her would accept a $250,000 hospital bill like I had if she had a pregnancy complication similar to mine unless she was willing to give her baby up for adoption.  I just held her hand until she was called back.  I had to leave before she came out but I think about her every single day.

I know this won’t change your mind if you’re pro-life, but I hope at least you’ll understand why I made this conversion.  Life experiences, both personal and heard, can absolutely change a person.  I feel like a much more compassionate person now that I’ve made this change and understand where people from all different walks of life are coming from.  Sometimes, the worst option is the only option, the women who are faced with that decision are worthy of compassion and help, not judgment and restriction.

If you want more information on becoming an escort at the clinic, please contact me on Facebook.

(original published on House Wife In Flip Flops on 7/23/13)


6 thoughts on “The Conversion

  1. Hi Stacey – I am a clinic escort in Virginia (at a clinic that will probably have to close it’s doors do to the new TRAP regulations now in effect). It is rewarding work. Thank you for being on the front lines. I am a mother and wife of 23 years. I know women and I trust women to know what is best for themselves and their families. I just hope we do not fall back any further. Once the issue becomes personal, it is funny how pro-choice anti’s can become. The story of your journey touched my heart. Thank you!

  2. I wish that there were more converts to compassion. The picture of the clinic is different than I remember, but your description sounds like it is the same one I went to July 17, 1993 to escort during the “Summer of Refuge” protests. I drove with a group from New Orleans in the wee hours of the morning to get to the clinic in Jackson before dawn. We had to park in a grocery store parking lot away from the clinic because the protesters would write down the license plate numbers of the defenders and patients, and use them to get home addresses to direct their ugliness. There were defenders from all over the country because of the publicity surrounding the Summer of Refuge. The week before, some of the organizers of the protesters were arrested in Melbourne, Florida. This was four months after Dr. Gunn was murdered in Pensacola. Whether because of the arrests in Florida or some other reason, in Jackson the defenders outnumbered the protesters by something like 4 to 1. I had never been a regular escort, but I had done it a few times including a similar organized effort in Baton Rouge the summer before. The experience in Jackson was actually fun. The police were lined up along the driveway guarding us. The doctor snuck in without the protesters noticing. There were only one or two patients arriving so we didn’t have much to do besides sing and chant and practice locking arms and feet. The protesters weren’t as mean as the ones I had seen at other clinics. The doctor ordered pizza to be delivered for us. Lots of pizza! When it was reported on the evening news in Jackson there was apparently a close up of my face because a classmate of mine from a catholic high school happened to be living in Jackson and saw it. She was even less impressed with me than she had been in high school. 🙂 If only the men who were also responsible for the pregnancies had to go through the horror that the women have to endure at the hands of the protesters. And if the people concerned for the unborn could show some concern for the women. If.

    Keep up your good work.

  3. This is Laurie even if it’s a different Jackson clinic I bet if you came to visit you would see some of the same faces. I was going through photos of protesters in the office one day from the 90s and it’s THE SAME PEOPLE WITH THE SAME SIGNS!

  4. I was moved by your story. I had an abortion at 19. Had my daughter at 23 and had 2 miscarriages at 32 and 34. The abortion suffocated me emotionally. There were thankfully no protestors. I was raised in a religious household but do not consider myself religious. One can hardly escape one’s upbringing. I prayed in the clinic for probably the first time in a very long time that God take my baby back into His arms and love it. When I found out I was pregnant 4 years later, I was no more in a position to be a mother. I hit my knees again and thanked God and promised I would do a good job. My daughter will be 18 in a few weeks and has been the light of my life. Much later, married and stable, I found myself pregnant again, and was ecstatic. The devastation of miscarrying a child is indescribable. I felt like a failure. I felt like I was being punished. I can’t imagine the pain these protestors cause. It is difficult enough to make the decision. I know for me the feelings of how wrong I was and what a horrible person I was came from within and I rarely spoke of it. It was no one else’s business. It was my cross to bear. It still is. Even educated and healthy, there will always be a part of me that feels like I am damned. This is what these protestors hope to exploit and I don’t care what belief system a person subscribes to…two wrongs will never make a right.
    Thank you for your article.

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