9.29.2012

she said let's discuss abortion. i told her to fuck off.

She said she'd pray for me. I said nothing.

She said let's discuss abortion. I told her to fuck off.

* * * *

Long ago, I blogged about receiving a holiday card with a proselytizing message underlined in red. Wmtc readers had a good discussion around it, with responses running the gamut.

The person who left that card for me recently resurfaced on my radar. But she won't be appearing again. I want to share our exchange, to get it off my chest, as well as to hear your reactions.

Former Co-worker and I worked together briefly, one day a week, several years ago. She was a nice person to work with, and we would sometimes chat. We haven't worked together in more than four years, and we do not keep in touch. She sends photos of her children to, apparently, everyone she has ever known. I never respond.

But I guess she keeps in touch with other former co-workers, because she heard I had resigned my position at Evil Corporate Law Firm, and contacted me.
Hey Laura,

I just emailed [former co-worker] at [ECLF] to say hi and she told me your good news! Congratulations on your Masters!!! And, also congratulations on quitting [ECLF], with no notice no less! LOL! Good for you! You go, girl! I remember your heartache there when I worked with you, glad you moved on and that you are pursuing new avenues. I believe you told me you were working towards being a librarian, if I am correct? Have you gotten a job in that field already?

How have you been? I really enjoyed working with you and hope all is well! Congratulations again on your Masters!!

I replied:
Thanks, [FC-W]! I'll be done with my degree in April 2013. It's been a long haul and I can't wait to be finished! Yes, it's a Library degree, technically called Library and Information Science (LIS). I am incredibly happy and relieved to be out of [ECLF]. I was absolutely miserable there for several years. I have a small part-time job with the Mississauga Library System, working in their incredible children's library. It's just an entry-level job, but I'm learning a lot, and it gives me access to internal job postings, so that after I have my degree, I can compete for good librarian jobs.

Things are good, busy and hectic, but chugging along. I hope you and the whole family are all well. Thanks so much thinking of me. All best!!

Laura
I assumed that would be the end of the conversation. But she replied:
Hi Laura,

Good for you for getting out of [ECLF]! What a nasty environment that was! At least now you will have time to clear your mind and focus on what really matters to you. I have not missed it there at all, that's for sure.

I will put you on my prayer list and ask the Lord to open doors for you to get a good job that you are hoping for! I know things must be tough in our economy. I occasionally take the time to read your blogs and I can tell that you and I are on the complete opposite ends of the spectrum on most issues, but that doesn't mean I don't respect you as a person and I really enjoyed working with you. I will always remember the horrific story you shared with me about what happened to you and it just broke my heart. I can never imagine such a nightmare. I hope and pray you will find complete healing in your life regarding this.

It has been a pleasure knowing you and I hope to bump into you again one day!!
It took me a while to figure out what "horrific story" I shared with her. Eventually I realized that, in context of something she disclosed to me, I told her I had been raped when I was 21. I didn't tell her any story, just that I was a rape survivor. I thought it was strange that she would bring this up, considering our complete lack of relationship.

Then, of course, there's the old bugaboo that haunts many atheists: "I'll pray for you". Many people find this extremely offensive. To me, it depends on the context. If someone is praying for me because I'm not Christian and they are praying for me to see the light, I'm likely to tell them to go to hell. But if they mean it more in the sense of "I'll keep you in my thoughts," or "I hope you will be well", because (for some bizarre reason) they think these thoughts can help keep people healthy and safe, I'll nod and smile and make no comment.

In this case, I struggled a bit, because I was irritated, but I said nothing. Still hoping to end the conversation, I replied:
Hi [FC-W],

That's very sweet of you to say. I had forgotten that I shared with you that I am a rape survivor. I can assure you am completely healed and whole again, and have been for a very long time. It's something that changed me, the way any trauma does, and I hope I can always say it's the worst thing that ever happened to me. But it's not something that still affects my life, except in a political way.

Thanks for your very kind words and good perspective. I think it's important that people who are, as you put it, on opposite sides of most issues, can still respect each other and have compassion for each other's lives. We all share the same world, we should know how to co-exist.

I also enjoyed working with you! I hope things are well with you and your family and I wish you all the best.

Laura
Now I was sure that would be the end of the conversation. But to my surprise, she wrote back, and expanded a bit on just how opposite-ends-of-the-spectrum we are.

Hi Laura,

I am so glad to hear that you are completely healed and whole after such a traumatic experience! I also wanted to say what an amazing writer you ar I've read some of your blogs and the way you can carry out your points so articulately just honestly amazes me. The blogs I have read are so carefully thought out and you express things in ways that are clear, concise and honest. You are also very bold in being straight forward about where you stand on the most important topics of our times.

After reading some of your blogs, I can see that you are clearly pro-choice. I am 100% pro-life and during the summer got involved with Bound4Life and stood outside of the [name of hospital] every 2 weeks to pray for an end to abortion. We don't hold signs or protest, we simply line up and pray for one hour. One thing I wanted to ask you was your opinion on sex-selective abortions since that is on a serious increase in our society, as women are going in to abort their babies simply because they are female (and occasionally male). May I ask your thoughts on this as I would really like to know the pro-choice opinion (or perhaps you have already blogged about it!). There are great reasons why each person is either pro-choice or pro-life, and I for one, want to be understanding of everyone, no matter what side they are on. Thanks for any insight you can provide!

[FC-W]
Was the whole email conversation leading up to this? Is her praise for my writing bait for a trap? Or is she genuinely asking my opinion? I wrote my reply very carefully.
Hi [FC-W],

Thanks for saying such nice things about my writing. It's always amazing and wonderful to hear.

I will be writing soon about sex-selected abortion. The short version is that there are no circumstances where I oppose a woman's right to choose whether or not to bear a pregnancy to term. It is not for me - or anyone else, and especially not the government - to tell any woman what to do with her own pregnancy, under any circumstances. If a woman wants to terminate a pregnancy because of the sex of the fetus, that's her business.

I am speaking for myself. I can't say that is "the pro-choice opinion". It is simply *my* opinion.

Since you raised this topic, I'll also share with you that I strongly object to the use of the expression "pro-life" to mean anti-abortion-rights. I do not believe people who oppose abortion are more pro-life than people who support abortion rights. We are certainly not pro-death. I use the expressions pro-choice and anti-choice. I believe that is more accurate.

As you read my blog, at least occasionally, you probably know that I don't debate this issue. I trust you will respect that and make this our last communication on the subject. Thanks for asking, and if you are interested in a more in-depth answer, stay tuned to wmtc.

Best,

Laura

She wrote back.
Hi Laura,

I am not anti-choice either, so I agree that terminology can really bother both sides! I love that women have rights and choices, I just think that if those rights and choices affect what happens to another human life, that's when we must stop and realize that one person's rights should never impede another person's right to live. It is too bad that Motion 312 was defeated since then we could have made this issue very clear either way... is an unborn fetus a human being or not?? And if a fetus is a human being, then do we simply not care that they are being killed all in the name of "Women's Rights"? That is why we call ourselves pro-life, because we believe in the value of life right from conception, not just after birth. Why did pro-choice people not want to find out if a fetus is a human being (Motion 312)??

Anyways, I will certainly respect your wishes regarding debate. I am not here to debate you, but do you really mind even discussing this topic? I don't know how else to clearly understand both sides unless I get answers from people who are pro-choice, which is helpful especially getting an opinion from someone I respect. However, if even discussion is out, then forgive me and I will simply have to just read your blogs for greater understanding! And please, no hard feelings!! As I said, I am certain there are great reasons why all of us hold to the positions we have.
Does she really believe that M-312* would have "made this issue very clear either way"? Can anyone be that naive - or that stupid? I asked her to make it her last communication on the topic, and she didn't respect that - which makes me think this was her intent all along. Recall that this is the person who left me a religious holiday card with instructions to worship underlined in red.

I cannot talk to anti-choice people about abortion. I simply cannot. I cannot be rational, I cannot contain my anger, I cannot be respectful. It strikes too deeply into the core of my beliefs. Their position denies my personhood, denies all women's basic human rights. They are my enemy.

If she were moderately pro-choice, as most people seem to be - understanding the need for safe and legal abortion options, but also wishing to place some restrictions on abortion - I could easily exchange ideas. In those situations, I always listen and offer my own perspective in return. No problem.

I also know women who feel abortion is wrong for themselves under any circumstances, but agree there should be safe and legal abortion services. (One is a rape survivor who was prepared to carry the pregnancy if there was one. The other surrendered a baby to adoption.) I have great respect for both of those women.

But a person who prays in front of hospitals for "an end to abortion", who confuses fetuses with "people"... I cannot. If this is a flaw or a shortcoming, so be it. It's not something I'm trying to change about myself. Why should I play nice with them? What's the point?

Of course I could have said nothing, and ended the conversation myself. But her refusal to respect my request to drop the subject pissed me off. If that was her intention, she accomplished it, and I wasn't about to sit and fume without a reply.

[FC-W], you must have misunderstood me. I have no interest in discussing this topic with you or reading anything you have to say about abortion. There is no such thing as a "discussion" between you and I on this topic that is not actually a debate. There are no arguments you could possibly make that I haven't heard a million times before. There is nothing you could possibly say that could change my point of view, any more than I could change yours. I find your views incredibly offensive. I cannot even stand to read them. Please do not email me again about this or any other subject. Thank you.
Laura

Was the whole email conversation a set-up to bait me about M-312? If she wants to understand the pro-choice position on M-312, a simple Google search would have done the trick. There was no need to contact me.

Your thoughts?






------
* For non-Canadian readers, Motion 312 was a private member's bill (non-government sponsored attempt at legislation) calling for a Parliamentary committee to study when life begins.

FC-W, in case you're reading, life begins at the moment of conception. We all know that. Bacteria is a life form. Celery is a life form. A zygote is a life form. But none of these blobs of cells are human beings.

M-312 was defeated in a vote of 203-90. One-third of Canadian MPs, including one of the most powerful Ministers in the country, want to re-open the abortion debate.

21 comments:

James Redekop said...

Life doesn't even begin "at the moment of conception". Life began about 3.5 billion years ago and has continued in an unbroken flow since then. The gametes which form a zygote are themselves alive, after all. "Life begins at X" is just a red herring.

laura k said...

You're right, of course. Sperm and ova are alive. My point is the same as yours: the "when life begins" question is a trap. It has nothing to do with abortion.

Gordon Cawsey said...

I think you already know my views on this issue, so I won't bother repeating them.

As to your question about being baited into expressing an opinion...I doubt it.

It strikes me that the woman with whom you corresponded, that she's hoping to change your opinion, she knows you're extremely pro-choice.

Religious zealots think that all is possible through faith and prayer, and I don't doubt she still believes that through faith and prayer she can bring you onto what she thinks is god's side....

She's obviously misguided, god isn't that powerful. :-)


laura k said...

I think you already know my views on this issue, so I won't bother repeating them.

I have no idea what your views are on this issue. But if you're not pro-choice, you're right, there's no need to repeat them here. :)

Amy said...

Wow. I read this last night and could not find words to express my reaction (a rarity for me, as you know). I am amazed that you stayed with it as long as you did. I long ago gave up talking to people who are anti-choice about this issue (or at all, usually) because I know they won't change their minds, so why bother? And whenever anyone says they are asking the Lord to do something for me, I get slightly nauseated. I am a somewhat religious person myself, but I don't believe that there is a God who answers prayers. For me prayer is a form of introspection, looking inside myself to find strength to help others as well as myself.
But I digress...My main reactions were (1)wow, Laura is a lot more patient than I am and (2)this FCW really did not know her well at all!

laura k said...

Thanks, Amy. :) Several times, I typed out answers then deleted - and let the email sit in my inbox while I cooled off. I came very close to verbally ripping her head off, then controlled myself.

I could not have been that patient in person! Only by email.

I long ago gave up talking to people who are anti-choice about this issue (or at all, usually) because I know they won't change their minds, so why bother? And whenever anyone says they are asking the Lord to do something for me, I get slightly nauseated.

It is so wonderful to have friends who feel exactly as I do.

Amy said...

I agree!

M@ said...

Reading her messages got more and more difficult as I read this post. I have a hard time myself thinking that the whole thing was just a means of proselytizing to you.

I think you handled it better than I would have.

laura k said...

Oh yeah, I'm so mature. ;) Ha ha.

Maybe I'm reading too much into it. But doesn't the abortion stuff come from out of nowhere? Why did she even bring it up?

johngoldfine said...

It doesn't read to me as if she started out intending to bring up abortion--more like after the first exchange, she decided to check your blog out and then remembered what you stand for.

At that point, once she found something pro-choice on the blog, she stopped thinking and started spouting. Barney Franks said it best: there is a type of Christian who believes that the right to life begins at conception and ends at birth.

Their whole consciousness of the world and all its gigantic problems and their whole understanding of their own religion then seems to dwindle into an obsession with abortion Jesus would no doubt wonder at.

And she slapped you across the face with that obsession, obviously imagining that she was being very subtle in offering discussion rather than debate.

I gave up teaching the argumentation essay 20 years ago because I just could not take the same tired, question-begging arguments any more (and the accusations that the only reason I disliked the essay must be that I was pro-choice [not that I had ever discussed my thoughts on abortion with a writing class, but it's true I don't present as much of a fundamentalist Christian.])


laura k said...

Their whole consciousness of the world and all its gigantic problems and their whole understanding of their own religion then seems to dwindle into an obsession with abortion Jesus would no doubt wonder at.

When you stand back and look at it from a distance, it's completely bizarre. Abortion has existed forever. Midwives knew how to induce abortions, and when they didn't, there was infanticide (and plenty o' orphans).

You'd think the practice started with Roe v Wade.

Yeah, she was real subtle with that discussion. I like how she put quotes around Women's Rights.

laura k said...

* Not condoning infanticide, mind you. But a quick end at birth might have been a mercy, considering the propsects for orphans and other unwanted children throughout most of human history. That is one HUGE reason why we need legal, safe, and accessible abortion.

deang said...

She can be as bubbly and friendly and use as many exclamation points as she wants, but she is still so obsessed with abortion because of the fundamentalist Christians she's chosen to identify herself with, that she refused to respect what she already knew your thinking on this topic was.

I say she contacted you looking for an opportunity to bring up the topic. She probably did hear that you had moved on in your life and saw this as an opportunity to do one of the things her cult requires of her: bring up abortion whenever possible, especially to people who want it safe and legal like you. She didn't have to have a reasoned argument at all. With people like her, just bringing it up in an unwelcome environment is enough of a "witness," as they call it. And from what I remember of my Bible Belt upbringing, she likely couldn't wait to get back to her fundamentalist cohorts and snicker, with a smiling face and bubbly exclamation points of course, that she had indeed brought up abortion with you even though you had requested that people like her not.

And yeah, people like her often do not care about any kind of death but that they believe to occur from the surgical procedure of abortion. At least that's true for many of them I've met. Many of them care fuck all for people killed by bombs, fuck all for people dying because of lack of access to health care, fuck all for any kind of death or suffering that doesn't have a sexual aspect to it.

Of course, I could be wrong; I don't know her. Maybe she's one of the rare, complex anti-abortion people I've met.

You handled it well, maybe better than I'm handling it right now.

M@ said...

I dunno, DeanG, I'm pretty much with you -- it's fine to respond angrily if the situation is appropriate, and her approach made it absolutely appropriate. The whole passive-aggressive "I acknowledge that we are on opposite sides of the issue so I'm going to ignore your side and tell you what I think" does indicate to me that the motivation the entire conversation was to bring up the topic and "win" by confronting Laura on it. (And I totally agree -- you can bet she put it in the "win" column because any time someone tells you to fuck off is a win when you've got a small, diametric view of the topic.)

As for "women's rights", personally, I punctuate it "women's" "rights" -- the first set of quotes to indicate that they aren't actually people, the second to indicate that they don't actually have rights. I've been playing with a new approach, "women" "'s" "rights", to indicate that the idea of women actually possessing something is similarly ridiculous. I do, however, write women's husbands' rights without quotes, as is proper.

laura k said...

I have to say, after reflecting on the whole conversation, and reading these comments, I am inclined to agree with deang. I think she heard I had left and used it as an opening. That's why she prolonged the conversation for so long, that's why she brought up my blog. She was working her way there.

Deang has more experience than most of us with that mindset. Plus he confirms my paranoia, so I'm going with it. :)

Deang's comments about death are really apt. We all say how the anti's don't care about babies once they're born - but another way to see it is they don't care about the very preventable deaths of very real people all around us. This woman said we are opposite ends of the spectrum on just about every issue. The issue I write about most is war and war resisters.

You all are nice to say I handled it well, but I was fuming, and as I mentioned, I deleted several responses that were decidedly less polite. I didn't want to give her ammunition to show what animals we all are. Not that it matters, but that was partly why I controlled my temper.

laura k said...

PS I love blogging.

laura k said...

As for "women's rights", personally, I punctuate it "women's" "rights" -- the first set of quotes to indicate that they aren't actually people, the second to indicate that they don't actually have rights. I've been playing with a new approach, "women" "'s" "rights", to indicate that the idea of women actually possessing something is similarly ridiculous. I do, however, write women's husbands' rights without quotes, as is proper.

I am totally LOLing. Srsly, thank you.

I was typing my comments at the same time as M@, so I didn't know he also confirms my paranoia. Awesome.

M@ said...

I admit I was laughing writing it, thinking that you'd laugh reading it.

impudent strumpet said...

It strikes me that the woman with whom you corresponded, that she's hoping to change your opinion, she knows you're extremely pro-choice.

The weird thing about that is changing Laura's mind isn't going to have any effect on any outcomes.

You aren't going to become pregnant. You aren't going to be otherwise involved in conceiving a baby. You aren't going to have custody or authority over someone who has to make a decision about what to do with a pregnancy. Trying to convince you to oppose abortion is just as useful as trying to convince me of the benefits of montessori school or neonatal circumcision.

James Redekop said...

One important thing to remember about evangelical anti-abortion activism is that, as Fred Clark at the Slacktivist blog put it, it is younger than the Happy Meal.

In 1979, the evangelical magazine Christianity Today published this:

God does not regard the fetus as a soul, no matter how far gestation has progressed. The Law plainly exacts: “If a man kills any human life he will be put to death” (Lev. 24:17). But according to Exodus 21:22-24, the destruction of the fetus is not a capital offense. … Clearly, then, in contrast to the mother, the fetus is not reckoned as a soul.

Protestant opposition to abortion was invented during the Reagan administration.

BTW, for anyone who doesn't read Slacktivist, I highly recommend it. Not just for the weekly walk through the Left Behind novels, which are probably the only way those books could be made entertaining, but for all of his coverage of the sorry state of US evangelical Christianity.

Jere said...

"If someone is praying for me because I'm not Christian and they are praying for me to see the light, I'm likely to tell them to go to hell."

Classic.