It’s easy to be pro-life until…..

By Laurie Bertram Roberts

The sun was beating down through the car window, my mouth was dry and my legs felt like lead.  I was trying to figure out how I ended up here. In my mind I knew how- I was a bad girl I was stupid and careless. I kept telling myself all those things. How did I let this happen?  I couldn’t be pregnant now. So there I was 22 years old mother of 5 about to do something I thought I would never do. Have an abortion. See I wasn’t like those other women, you know the ones, the irresponsible ones who didn’t “own their life choices”. The reason I had 5 kids is I owned my “mistakes”.

Abortion had never even been an option for me when I found out I was pregnant at 16. In fact the first place I called to go for a pregnancy test wasn’t Planned Parenthood it was Birthright a anti choice organization that offered services much like a Crisis Pregnancy Center. I couldn’t go to Planned Parenthood when I was 16 because everything in my upbringing had told me they were evil and I had believed them.

As a little girl sitting in the dark stained wooden pews of our fundamentalist Baptist church I often had questions. I didn’t understand why I couldn’t wear pants when I was younger and then when we switched churches God magically changed his mind and I could. Only I still had to always wear skirts to church ALWAYS! That always made me wonder what would happen if I didn’t would God come down and smite me? I mean I was only one little girl in Wisconsin -I always figured God had better things to do. I often wondered why women couldn’t be church leaders or speak in church except during “women’s events”. I was always full of questions. It was never ok to question the good book and the teachings of God. So even though I was a questioning type I never really thought twice about my church’s stance on abortion or all the things I learned as a child and adolescent about abortion and sex. I did mention I was raised fundamentalist evangelical Baptist, right? Think Jerry Falwell,  (except oddly my grandmother strongly disliked him) John Hagee and Pat Robinson kinds of ideas.  There were lots of rules about life, especially sex and well women we don’t get a say.

Rule one-was sex is BAAAADDDD I mean it bad! It was dirty and bad, until it magically became good when you found the right God fearing (same race) man and got married. Then sex and babies were great- actually required.  In fact if you couldn’t have babies you weren’t suppose to be too shocked if your husband wanted a woman who could provide him children. (that is a whole other post) Rule two- If you were a girl who was dumb enough to get raped or slutty and tempted some good man to have sex with you or weak enough to let some bad man tempt you and you got knocked up- tough cookies for you. Abortion was NEVER an option. Not for rape, not for incest, and especially not for slutty girls who should have heeded God’s will and kept their lady parts to themselves (By the way NO masturbation either y’all if you’re horny just PRAY). Hormonal birth control is abortion and abortion is murder. I am a child of the 80s. Anti abortion rhetoric was very popular in my church then. I heard often about the holocaust being committed against the unborn. How I should be proud as the mulatto child of a single mom that she owned up to her sin and had me. I really couldn’t thank people enough for calling me a black bastard baby on the sly. I was 12 when my mother experienced a stillbirth it was one more reason to demonize women who get abortions. How dare they throw away the chance she would give anything to have back. What ungrateful people they must be. I heard over and over how only selfish women chose to destroy the life God had blessed them with. This was usually paired with the story of some good Christian family who was just waiting to adopt but couldn’t. Of course it was because of abortion they couldn’t adopt. More than anything I heard how Planned Parenthood injured, maimed, and killed women. That they didn’t provide real health care and were only out to make money. The accusation that always stuck with me was that they would give you an abortion even if you weren’t pregnant.

I grew up hearing those things until I was 14 and they were still with me as my friend and I walked past protesters who called me a murderer, told me to “be responsible” and they would “help me love my baby”  and yelled at me not to “kill my baby”. They didn’t know or understand that I had 5 babies at home to care for-one under a year old-and a doctor who had warned me not to get pregnant for at least two years or it could kill me.  I didn’t want to be there but I NEEDED to be there.  I hadn’t wanted to go through the state mandated 24 hour waiting period, the informed consent lecture by phone, the stupid video of what an abortion is. Not because any of it made me feel guilty it all just seem like an insult to my intellect. It just drew out the inevitable rather. I knew what I was there for.

So I sat in the waiting room looking around at the other women thinking “I wonder what her story is”. They all looked different some were calm, some scared, some tired, none of us looked like we wanted to be there.  Some of them may have been “good girls” who would go back to church on Sunday and act like abortion is evil. I held my friend’s hand and I waited. They finally called me back for my ultrasound. The technician, who had been chatting with me, got strangely quiet and then called the doctor in. The doctor introduced himself and said “Ms. Roberts there is no heartbeat and it seem the embryo stopped progressing several weeks ago- you are going to have a miscarriage. You should go home and contact your regular doctor especially if you don’t start bleeding in a few days. If you don’t have a regular doctor you can follow up with us. We will refund your money on your way out” He smiled at me gently and patted my hand. My mind was blown! They were suppose to be giving me a back alley abortion procedure right then and there according to everything I was ever taught. I had already began to question my views but this meant I had been lied to flat out for years! The morning I got up to go and get an abortion I still considered myself pro-life. I was one of those people that said I would never have an abortion but what you do is your business. That was a big step for me from abortion is always murder and those women are going to hell. Still for me I was not one of them. Those women were irresponsible I had a medical reason that made me different, right?

The truth is, it was that day that I realized I wasn’t different than those women and although I was sent home that day I am no better or worse than the 1 in 3 women who will have an abortion in their lifetime. Had they not sent me home I would have had that abortion and several days later when my body spontaneously aborted I was relieved to no longer be pregnant. I will never apologize for not wanting to be pregnant or willing to take the medical risk at that time to have another child.

I learned far from being crazed money hungry boogie bears abortion providers are compassionate health care providers (not saying there are never bad ones there are bad docs EVERYWHERE).  Planned Parenthood took good care of me. They were kind and patient. The exact same things I see every week at Jackson Women’s Health Organization. They also called and followed up with me everyday until I miscarried. They didn’t have to do that. I wasn’t really their problem anymore. After I had almost died during a miscarriage from lack of care at a Catholic hospital this level of care and concern was refreshing and shocking.

The biggest lesson I learned is it’s easy to be pro life (anti choice) until you are the one who needs or wants an abortion. It’s easy to tell other people what to do when you can never get pregnant. It is easy to project your feelings of wanting a child or having lost a child onto another woman’s pregnancy experience (as I did when my mother experienced a stillbirth) when it’s not you who needs one.  At the end of the day none of that matters for the lives and choices of individual women and families.

Families just like mine.

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The Morning Shift

By Lori Garrott

I’ve known Roy McMillan (a constant feature at the clinic and a member of Operation Rescue–you know, that group who believes they are justified in killing abortion doctors? That one) for about ten years. I used to write a regular “girl about town” column here in Jackson, MS ten years ago. I was very open about my liberal ideals and opinions. When I finally got pregnant, I wrote a column about it. Roy wrote me a letter in care of the paper telling me he was “happy I was keeping my baby.” This was after several pro-choice columns I’d had published. So, this idea that he holds the morality for the world isn’t new to Roy. He’s a regular fixture at The Last Clinic and one of the most zealous protesters.

On this particular morning I was doing our regular routine at the clinic. The day for me (when I do defense–as I do it before I go into my regular employment) starts around 7am. Or rather, that’s when I leave my kid and husband in bed and (during the winter time) wrap up in approximately fourteen scarves and head down the five blocks from my house to the clinic. There’s a coffee shop, Sneaky Beans, one block up from JWHO that is my usual stop before I head to the parking lot at 7:30 to await the women who hold 8am appointments. There’s a ledge along the parking lot where I usually sit.

The first day I ever did clinic defense, it being around 30 degrees outside and me having a scarf wrapped up to the tips of my ears as I cupped my coffee and bounced my butt off the cold concrete, I was told I was “the Devil”, a “baby killer” and several other choice terms by the Early Risers already sitting outside the gates. We sit there and take verbal abuse for about half an hour most mornings. I’ve TRIED to beat the “anti’s” to the clinic but even when I show up at 7:15, I still find at least one. I finally figured out that’s how they know if the clinic is open that day. The clinic is only open three days per week at this point. And those days aren’t publicized to anyone who isn’t escorting or doesn’t have an appointment. So, the only way the anti’s know if its going to be open on certain days is to wait for the early shift of escorts to arrive. They send a “scouter” usually. As soon as he sees me walk up with my coffee, I greet him with a cheerful, “Good Morning” and then he furiously begins tapping on his phone. I take my perch on the cold concrete and wait for the other escort on the shift to show up. After the first day, I learned why iPhone earbuds are a constant accessory of the escorts. It just helps to make it through the “Don’t Kill Your Baby!” when you are listening to Beyonce. When the antis are particularly vocal, or holding “Church” (more about that later), Derenda-one of the escorts-carries a “boom box” behind the patient to drown out the cries of the protesters. Some are so thankful they latch onto us the two hundred feet to the door and ask if these people are going to “hurt” them. We hold a lot of hands and try to make them laugh as much as possible. Sometimes the antis make this easier.

In the beginning of the day I’m a parking attendant. We have precious few spaces at the clinic and they all must be used exactly correctly or the antis will call in a report to the Health Dept stating the clinic is breaking standards. So, I usher cars into spaces as tightly as I can–despite the fact that the women driving them are usually not in their best mental state. When the parking at the clinic gets full, we have no choice but to lead them to another public lot down the hill from the clinic. When this happens, usually one or two escorts run down the hill and walk the patient into the clinic. I affectionately call this “Running The Gauntlet”. Because once we step off clinic property, we are fair game. The antis chase us to the woman’s car and try to get in-between us and her. They will stand outside the car so she cannot open her door. And we cannot do a thing. We are taught to “not engage”. And we keep this rule regularly. But there are days when “not engaging” isn’t something I can do.

This video is of this exact situation. Me and another escort, Sarah Roberts, were attempting to walk a women from her car in the public lot, up the hill and onto the safety of the clinic grounds. Once we get through Roy, we have to get through the throng of protesters that stay at the clinic waiting to yell at her once we step through the gates. And the only point I need to make here is this. In what other place where a human being goes to access medical services are they subjected to this treatment? Because I’d like to remind people some of these women are just here to get birth control pills for a reduced price. And they have to put up with this.

Ready Boots? Start Marching

by Lori Gregory-Garrott

(Originally published in the Jackson Free Press on 2/2/11)

profile_2435582_75sq_1342728749I’m not used to fighting for my rights. A lot of women braver than I crossed those waters years ago and paved the way for my generation to enter the educational and career worlds in whatever field we chose. I think because of this, my generation of women doesn’t really respect the rights afforded us: We never had to fight for them. My boots have seen no marching. I’ve never been involved in a riot, and the closest I ever got to being arrested for “civil disobedience” had a lot more to do with vodka than “rights.”

Two recent events have me thinking that it may be time for all of us to invest in a new pair of boots—the kind that kick ass. The U.S. House of Representatives voted to stop federal funding to Planned Parenthood in a propaganda-led campaign where they told people that federal funds were used for abortions. In fact, last week, standing outside the last Women’s Health Organization in this state, I saw two women protesting—holding signs that stated “No Federal Funds for Abortions.”

I almost pulled the car over and informed them they could stop protesting and go home as federal funds don’t actually pay for abortions, and I was pretty sure there was a chauvinistic man somewhere waiting on them to cook dinner. I wanted to inform these women (and all the rest of the people buying the same FOX News sound bite) that abortions make up approximately 3 percent of the services Planned Parenthood provides. And none of those are paid with federal funds.

The other 97 percent of services are free health care to poor and underprivileged women—care these women cannot normally afford. Want to increase the number of abortions? Want to increase infant mortality? Stop funding Planned Parenthood.

The contraception and testing for sexually transmitted diseases, as well as cervical cancer screenings, yearly PAP tests and prenatal care that Planned Parenthood provides helps prevent unwanted pregnancies and support wanted pregnancies in a population of women who historically have limited access to sexual education and expensive contraception. So please, let’s stop funding this horrible program and go back to women performing abortions in their home, or in back alleys, or in dirty rooms with unlicensed “medical” providers.

History proves that no matter the legality of abortion, someone will perform them. Let me say that one more time for the men sitting in the cheap seats: “No matter the legality of abortion, they will be done.” It truly comes down to people understanding that if they are a woman, love a woman, or came out of a woman’s vagina, they should protect a woman’s access to basic reproductive health care. Otherwise, we are quickly approaching another time in this country where women will die seeking abortions they chose to have. One of these women may be a woman you love.

A representative in Georgia introduced a bill into that state’s legislation that would enforce an “investigation” into every miscarriage a woman experienced. Never mind that one in five pregnancies end in natural miscarriage. Never mind that many of these are devastating to the women who experience them. Never mind that most of these women miscarried because they were attempting to get pregnant with a child they loved; none of that matters to the men introducing the legislation. It only matters that a fetus “died,” and the woman carrying it must have done something criminal for her womb to expel it. It vilifies women during a time of their life that is already tinged with an enormous amount of pain.

I cannot begin to explain to you the anger I felt when I read about this bill. I was angry at the arrogance of the man that introduced it, the arrogance of a country currently embroiled in a culture and class war where this is allowable—a deep and raging anger that caused a 40-minute phone conversation with my mother where I screamed and railed against the present political climate. I became so angry I wanted to march. I became so angry I thought about buying those boots.

A generation of women that enjoyed the fruits of the fights of their mothers and grandmothers is once again called to stand up. We are called to be vocal and to tell people that we will not stand for this. We will fight against this. We will stand up in Congress and tell our stories about abortion. We will tell legislators that they are not allowed to use our uteri to breed hate. We will not be shamed or silenced.

In 20 years, I will not tell my little girl that while the country was stripping her of the rights she deserves, I sat back and allowed it to happen. I will tell her, “I stood up for you,” because I am a mother, a woman, a friend, a wife and the owner of a fabulous uterus.”


And while the House of Representatives may want to poke around in there just to make sure nothing untoward is going on, I’m quite sure I’m not going to let them in. And, if need be, I’ve got a pair of boots that will make that statement a little clearer.. I own a uterus that is loved by my husband, my mother, my grandmother and all my female friends, a uterus that nourished a wanted child for nine months, a uterus that doesn’t belong to anyone else.