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Opinion

Letter to a pro-life bumper sticker

O’Donnell is a junior secondary education major and can be contacted at caitlin.odonnell@drake.edu

I would like to take a moment to acknowledge my favorite bumper sticker I used to see in the Goodwin-Kirk parking lot. I’m talking, of course, about the one that asks me, “Aren’t you glad your mother was pro-life?”

Good call, bumper sticker. Yes, all people who give birth are automatically pro-life. But just for argument’s sake, what might it be like to have one of those crazy, baby-eating, pro-choice mothers?

Bumper sticker, it might interest you to know that I personally have one of those baby-eating mothers. “But that’s impossible,” you might say. “You have not been eaten and surely you were once a baby.”

Well played, bumper sticker. One of the choices offered by being pro-choice is giving birth. My baby-eating mother didn’t decide to keep me out of fear, lack of access to a safe, legal abortion or because she saw a creepy pro-life billboard. In fact, it would seem that she kept me because she wanted me. Sometimes baby-eaters do stuff like that.

Pro-life is an interesting term, actually. The men and women who are truly pro-life are awesome. You can tell they’re awesome because they do such things as help pregnant women access prenatal resources and help parents locate health care, childcare and other support they need. Rather than guilting women or taking away their rights, some pro-life organizations also look at more successful ways of lowering the number of abortions, such as educating people about using birth control and preventing unwanted pregnancies. Avoiding unwanted pregnancies means fewer abortions, which means everyone wins. Go ahead and give the people who fall into this category a high-five. I like them.

Interestingly enough, though, many people who call themselves pro-life would more appropriately fit under the title of anti-choice. I’ve noticed that a solid chunk of the people who claim to be pro-life actually do more to reduce my autonomy than to increase the chance of life or the quality of life of my future children.

If you’re confused about whether you’re pro-life or anti-choice, here’s a litmus test: Are you forcing your religious convictions on me? Then you are anti-choice. Are you harassing a woman entering Planned Parenthood, intentionally and cruelly making a difficult day harder for her? Anti-choice again. Do you feel that cells in my body have more rights than I do? Anti-choice. Are you holding up a sign that confuses the terms “zygote,” “embryo” or “fetus” with an incorrect term like “baby” or “child?” Well, that doesn’t make you anti-choice as much as scientifically inaccurate and rhetorically misleading. But you still don’t qualify as pro-life. Boom. Roasted.

Moreover, when women are no longer able to get abortions for life-endangering pregnancies, it seems less pro-life and more pro-death. Also falling under pro-death: limiting safe and legal abortions for women, causing an increase in illegal “back alley abortions.” According to the Guttmacher Institute, the research arm of Planned Parenthood, 47,000 women worldwide died from unsafe abortions in 2008, not including the women with serious infections and lifelong physical and emotional scars. Don’t limit my right to a safe abortion and tell me you’re pro-life. Just don’t.

I’ll be real with you, pro-life bumper sticker. If I were to have any other kind of medical procedure and you interfered with it, I would judge you hardcore. There is, for instance, no need for you to protest my knee surgery with offensive signs. If you attempted to pass legislature to make knee surgery more difficult to get, then that would be a jerk move. Ditto in trying to ensure that my insurance wouldn’t cover that knee surgery. When it’s all said and done, I feel like you have no business being involved in my knee surgery at all, really. Seeing, you know, as it is a private medical procedure and also not your knee.

So how do we meet in the middle when you think I’m a baby killer and I think you’re laying claim to my uterus? You may be able to tell from aforementioned comments that I have a few opinions on abortion, and I am not free from blame when I say that as students at Drake, we have polarized the issue to the extent that almost all we can do is close our minds. The crosses in Helmick Commons last year signifying “dead babies” was probably not the most persuasive gesture Drake Respect for Life could have imagined (especially since I find it presumptuous that my embryo would have a cross. Are all “dead babies” automatically Christian now?). Likewise, if you’re one of the people who took those crosses or otherwise destroyed that display, you did absolutely nothing but prove your intolerance to other points of view. Good work, kids.

I would like to call a truce of sorts. As pro-choice Drake students, is it possible that we don’t tear down signs that promote Respect for Life and its events? In fact, what if we go to the events and try to understand their members’ perspectives? They had a non-polarizing speaker come to campus last year that said women don’t have access to or knowledge of resources and options besides abortion. What up, compromise? At the same point, it would be nice if the most recent pro-life speaker on campus didn’t lump together homosexuality, abortion, child abuse and the Holocaust. I can’t say those arguments convinced me of anything besides a misunderstanding of every issue, ever.

What if we had conversations around abortion instead of debates? Discussion around the issue of abortion is important, whether it is in classes, in print or in chalk. Perhaps we could see each other as intelligent and opinionated individuals instead of monsters. It would be nice to see collaborative programs educating students about reproductive rights and issues, and it would be great if you stopped assuming things about my mom. I dream of a day when outspoken pro-choice supporters and passionate pro-lifers can walk hand-in-hand and be judged not by their stances on abortion, but by their willingness to open their minds and respect each other’s seriously misguided perspectives.

Boom. Put that on a bumper sticker.

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26 Comments

  1. Stella H October 6, 2011

    This editorial is rad

  2. JM October 6, 2011

    This was an awesome article. I wholeheartedly agree that both sides of the debate should instead become part of one non-polarizing conversation.

    Unfortunately too many people (on both sides, like you said) feel that as soon as I suggest an alternative point of view, I’m trampling on their “right” to believe exactly what they believe and nothing else. Since when did it become impossible for someone to hold two contradictory thoughts in his/her mind at the same time?

  3. Beth Younger October 6, 2011

    What a fantastic, well-written, smart, and beautifully snarky response to what may be the dumbest bumper sticker ever. Way to go, Cate. Well done.

  4. the proud "baby-eating" mom October 6, 2011

    I love the idea of a conversation. That would require listening – and patience. Can we do it? Yes, we can! (to borrow words from a leader of ours)

  5. Cara October 6, 2011

    Cate, you rock. Drake (and the world) is lucky to have you. Thank you for a wonderful article!

  6. Emily October 6, 2011

    I’m pretty sure I don’t know you. I found this on Facebook and I want you to have all of the luck and volume of your voice possible. This is a lovely bit of writing and I hope you continue to use your voice to keep the movement alive.

  7. Pro-Lifer October 6, 2011

    Cate,
    I agree with pretty much everything you said. Both avid pro-lifers and avid pro-choice people annoy me. I am very much pro-life, but I am also planning on waiting until I get married to have kids, and am in a position where if I were to get raped and pregnant now, I could figure out a way to raise that child in a loving home. I have seen plenty of parents who do not have the mental, financial, or physical capacity to raise a child well, and I think that telling them they can’t get a legal abortion is pretty unfair. I just feel like the debate between pro-life and pro-choice is a debate of gray, and for some reason everyone tries to make it black and white.
    Is killing an unborn fetus murder? I don’t know. If it’s my fetus, in my situation, I think it is. But I do know that an abusive parent, an abandoned child, or a death from a botched abortion is wrong… and I’m not going to play God and say that I can judge everyone. It’s hard enough just to judge myself.

    1. Kiki Dailee October 7, 2011

      You’re not pro-life if you think people who don’t have the “capacity” to raise their child should have the right to an abortion. You’re pro-choice.

      I agree with the author that not all people who keep their babies are pro-life. They’re not. But there are some stupid comments in this article. I think the use of the word “baby-eating” in this article is asanine. Pro-lifers don’t think people who get abortions eat their baby. They kill them. And thinking that we pro-lifers are “laying a claim to your uterus” is obnoxious. I don’t give five shits about your uterus. I care about the growing being inside. When I was a child, I learned from Sesame Street that living things eat, breathe, and grow. A fetus does all these things. To say you can abort it is terminating a living thing. You’re stupid if you know what constitutes living things and you don’t respect the unborn.

      1. Nicole October 9, 2011

        You don’t “give five shits” about a living person’s uterus, but you do care about the “living thing growing inside of it”? I suppose you also care about deadly bacteria growing inside someone’s body, and oppose them getting rid of that too? Or you care more about that growing thing that is not yet a being more than the woman who is already alive? Why exactly DO you care about that thing growing inside, if you don’t give a five shits for that woman and her uterus? That makes no logical sense to care for a growing ball of cells, and disregard the body in which those cells are growing. The idea that you somehow respect all living things it utterly obnoxious and I highly doubt you practice that in your everyday life.

  8. Caroline October 7, 2011

    thanks. i agree.

  9. Pro-Life & Love Life October 7, 2011

    Who will talk if not prompted? Not very many. People are intimidated. People are scared. That bumper sticker – do you know what it did? It did its job. It got you to think. It got you to speak. So did the Pro Life chalkings. They got people to speak. They got people to stop and think. Heck, they even got people to go out and write a response. Others still wanted to go out and write responses to these responses – to point out their inaccuracies and to point out their misinterpretations.

    Yes, I agree. I agree that civilized discussion is needed, but this – is this civilized. Who would want to speak to a person yelling at a bumper sticker? I am trying to picture it, and it just looks crazy.

    If you would like to hold a discussion. There are plenty of people around campus who are pro life. I in particular would not mind speaking to you, as long as you aren’t actually.. ya know.. crazy. Also, you are welcome to join us in the up coming weeks as we go an help out at Agape, a local crisis pregnancy center.

    1. Charlotte October 11, 2011

      I am glad that conversation has been started! And I hope both sides continue to not strive for ultimatums of black and white, but for the responses and listening that has been spurred. That is the goal.To make “people like you” become not an anomaly.
      I think we are far to often encouraged to speak, and not often enough encouraged to listen and engage in conversation.
      I am glad for your work in hopefully helping those in crisis make informed and healthy decisions.

  10. Goldmeh October 7, 2011

    ummmm amazing. good work and high fives!

  11. Marla October 8, 2011

    As the crazy, baby-eating, pro-choice mother of a Drake student, thank you for a brilliant piece of writing and a delightful point of view. If a topic is so polarizing that one can’t mention it in public lest someone on “the other side” overhear you and come unhinged, it’s time for all of us to take a breath and, as you suggest, maybe listen for a bit.

  12. your neighbor October 8, 2011

    Hi, Cate:
    I am an educated, liberal woman living in Des Moines. I am an attorney and understand the complex legal arguments that surround the abortion argument. That being said, I find your editorial offensive. Your piece lacked empathy for those that find abortion to be a moral issue and mocked those that might find religious reasons for their convictions.

    Frankly, I find your writing style offensive. Your “just don’t,” “boom,” “good work, kids” and other offensive comments minimize your argument that the issue should even be taken seriously.

    But I can’t be too mad. You’re just a young pup. What do you know? You have so much to learn.

    Oh, and by the way…Cate…..I am pro-choice. I agree with my right to choose. But what I disagree with is self-promoting “journalism.”

    1. Robin October 10, 2011

      With all due respect, Your Neighbor, Cate’s piece was an opinion piece, not a research article. She wrote it to make a point, and sometimes using comments like she did (Boom. Roasted, etc.) help to make that point even better. Sarcasm and satire make arguments like Cate’s more effective and I for one enjoyed those comments.

      Additionally, if you want to talk about abortion as a moral issue, the two sides will never be able to agree on anything because they are talking about two different moral codes. It is simply implausible to think that the two sides could ever agree on the issue of abortion if you are arguing based on your own definition of life because there are two fundamentally opposed viewpoints in the debate. Religion also cannot be a basis for an argument to ban abortion because religion does not mean the same thing to everyone else and if you want everyone to live by your religious rules then you’re simply proselytizing.

  13. drake respect for life October 8, 2011

    First off I would like to note that it probably isn’t even worth my time replying and reading this article due to its major informalities and hasty conclusions. If a bumper sticker and abortion are such great issues that the Times Delphic continuously writes about, then it should be addressed in such a manner. It shouldn’t be belittled to children on the playground or reference people as baby-eating mothers. Nor should it use connotations such as boom, roasted, jerk-move, or ditto. This is a serious matter on our campus and it involves others lives. If someone wants to speak scientifically and say that zygote is a better term than baby, then they should talk scientifically throughout their paper. It’s pretty simple to see your contradictions throughout the article.
    Go beyond the poor quality of writing within the article and examine its content. Examine the hasty conclusions that draw up untrue and negative ___. First off, not every woman who gives birth is pro-life. There are many people who hold pro-choice beliefs and have given birth to one or more children. The author’s mother did indeed choose life because she wanted her baby, but what if her mother would have been 14 at the time and decided she needed to have an abortion? It is unknown what her mother’s circumstances were and is not trying to judge any actions. This is also in no-way, an attempt to put an untrue circumstance upon her family, but as Cate says, “just for arguments sake,” let’s consider it. Would Cate still be here today? She wouldn’t even be able to have a side or opinion on the matter and be writing an article because she wouldn’t have existed.
    Another interesting topic that was discussed concerns the “truly pro-life” people who are “awesome”. I am unaware of a single pro-life believer who neither wants to help pregnant women access prenatal resources nor reduce the number of unintended pregnancies. This is part of Drake’s Respect for Life Group’s mission and the author would know this if she listened to what we say. She would rather judge and draw hasty, invalid conclusions than come to the source. This is a whole other topic of debate at Drake, how people would rather hide in the shadows and attack the group’s ideas, rather than come to the MULTIPLE events and forums we have held. Anyways, the point is that you shouldn’t follow her hasty conclusions that pro-life believers are “anti-choice” just because we don’t “increase the chance of life or the quality of life” of the author’s future children.
    As for the “litmus test” that the author proposed, the unreal results it produces makes it an invalid test. First off, it is assumed that the author is talking about prayer vigils outside Planned Parenthood. If she had ever been to one, she would know that it is completely silent unless the woman comes up to you and requests to pray. No judgment is inflicted on the woman, and the only reason why the decision would be any more difficult is because people are watching her go in, and it is either making her question her decision or feel guilty about it. If she is feeling guilty about the situation then isn’t that saying that she could be doing something wrong? Why is it so difficult for her to terminate her “zygote’s” life, if it is not a wrong action? If it’s such a simple manner that the Times Delphic can resort to childish informalities, then why is it so hard for a mother to do this? If these prayer vigils cause her to feel guilty or question her decision then should she be making it? There is no correct answer to these questions but it’s up to the reader to decide what they think.
    Yet another poor decision on the author’s part was to compare a knee surgery to abortion. Since when does a knee surgery involve two people’s lives, and an abortion involve one life? Since when is deciding to have your knee operated on just as easy as terminating someone’s life? After all, the author does state that having an abortion makes for a “difficult day’, so I see no relevance between the issues. The reason why abortion is difficult to get, is because it involve another’s life; a person who has no voice. I think we are all aware that these two operations are polar-opposite and shouldn’t even be compared.
    I am glad that the author had the guts to include our group’s name in an article for once. As she would say, “High five” because she actually did her job. The crosses did not signify that the “zygotes” that were terminated were Christian. If we would have put up tombstones around campus then the reaction would have been much worse. However, just to prove my point, this year we will do tombstones and test the reaction around campus. I hope those people who love to tear it down are ready for action!
    All in all, I agree that there should be compromise on campus. We need to generate acceptance of each other’s views. However, I have yet to see one of my pro-life members criticize or destroy a pro-choice believer’s ideas or products. I would also like to reiterate the idea that we have held forums and speakers and yet to have a SINGLE person come and debate. It’s only the pro-life believers that are interested in openly acting upon the issue of abortion. The pro-choice believers would rather sit in the shadows and attack our views like in this article. We will be hosting a forum after a day of silence on October 19th, with more details to be posted. So if you would like to actually talk about the issue in person then I hope to see you there.

    1. K. Jane October 9, 2011

      Drake Respect for Life,
      The last time I checked the diction of an article is up to the author. If the author chooses to use words such as boom, roasted, jerk-move, or ditto, that is an expression of their voice. The satire sprinkled throughout is an effective use of a good literary tool. Referring to pro-choice mothers as baby-eaters is a brilliant comparison of the viewpoint and judgement some people hold toward pro-choicers. It may be a serious matter on campus, but for heaven’s sake, this is addressed to a bumper sticker. You shouldn’t get your boxers in a bunch.
      The basis of your whole second paragraph is speculative. Relativity is not logic; sorry, bro. Choosing life and not having an abortion really aren’t the same thing. The author clearly differentiated between pro-life and anti-choice. In regards to abortion that test seems pretty spot on. Regardless of the silence at prayer vigils, that is still an unnecessary religious influence. To say no judgement is conflicted on the women, is simply a false statement. People watch her go in. They sit there and hope she is questioning her decision. They sit there and hope she does not go through with it. That is judgement. There is a double standard for women. Sometimes, either way she is wrong. She can have the baby and be deemed a slut. She can abort the baby and be deemed a murderer. That’s why she questions. And every case is different, but not acknowledging a double standard is pure ignorance.
      The comparison to the knee surgery was good. The whole point was to question: “why does that abortion involve you?” An abortion doesn’t and should never involve two people who are actually alive. An abortion would make for a difficult day knowing that you will probably be judged based on that choice forever. An abortion does not involve another person’s life. A person has a voice (unless they are mute).

    2. Charlotte October 11, 2011

      I am saddened to see you do not think her article was “worth your time” and that she is merely someone “sitting in the shadows”. I do not believe either of these statements is accurate as she publicly published this article (even more publicly than your response comment I might add, though not quite as noticeable as crosses or tombstones) with a purpose of inciting conversation (not just inciting feelings when seeing tombstones/chalkings/etc.). These were also ironic comments to make considering the article itself is about how crude, harsh, mocking language and outlook towards each other is what has caused the break down in the abortion debate. I would hope that before pro-choicers be expected to speak at or even attend pro-life gatherings that pro-life students reconsider being intolerant and allow others to speak there minds or ask new questions.

      I also hope she will be able to attend future forums as will other members of diversity groups. Furthermore, I know that other pro-choice people have indeed attented pro-life events in the past AND were extremely thankful for the oppertunity.

      Respectfully,
      Charlotte

  14. Christine M October 9, 2011

    Thank you Cate for being every woman. For being the broad and intelligent mind and voice we need, not just “as a country” but for all humankind. I plan to keep this email short so I’ll leave my views where they belong for now.. well stated by Cate.

    Thank you Pro-Lifer. I wish you had a name for me to like, so that I could address you properly. While we probably share the acknowledgment that your fortunate circumstances (I fully acknowledge all hard work and whatever has gotten and kept you there) are not shared by many, U.S. or globally. The grand thing is that you’ve chosen to use your voice. I admit that the 1st yr law student in me wants to attack the luxury of your grace in withholding judgement. The “learning to learn” mature part of me is thrilled to hear a voice that acknowledges that your values and opinions are just valuable as any one elses. It has been very hard for me to Practice what I Preach about accepting and valuing any opinion or voice that strays too far from my own. It is not important that we share the exact same values. It is important that we acknowledge that the other has value. As well as celebrating that which we share among our ‘differences’. It is, I am learning, far more than the ‘other’ expects. Your courage allows me and hopefully others to learn, share and embrace. Regardless of opinion 🙂

    Thank you wise, well spoken, and concise Cate. Thank you anonymous Pro life. Thank you both for being FOR THE LIVING.

    Yours,
    Christine

  15. Jarvis Shed October 10, 2011

    Here’s what zygotes look like: http://www.abortionno.com

  16. Annie October 11, 2011

    As per usual, I always am offended by the first parts of your article, you tend to make brash statements in ridiculous, funny, and seemingly insensitive (yes at times), and ummm “Crazy”? ways. (do you really talk to bummer stickers? wow. crazy! me too!)

    However, I commend that this use of diction and structure has been used to mock the ridiculous nature of both sides of the debate. Your style draws attention to this issue in a very appropriate way especially considering your audience; not always swayed on this topic by “logic” or “law” but rather “morals” and “personal tradition”. I say this because it often has included me.

    I hope to educate myself and others about the legal implications surrounding abortion. I hope this well written opinion piece spurs more in depth research to this area for many others as well. Thank you for being brave enough to incite such reaction by putting your self out there to call attention to such mislead campaigns on both sides!

  17. Rick Mons October 13, 2011

    Cate,

    Nice job! Your opinion piece was cogent, well written and used just the right amount of humor and attitude.

    From a Drake alum (Journalism, 1970 and MBA, 1971) who thinks you’ll do splendidly in secondary education or whatever you end up doing.

  18. Megan October 17, 2011

    In a perfect world, everyone would be able to agree to disagree. However, I did notice there was no mention of the employees of Planned Parenthood also shaming women to go forward with abortions. Two employees did their best to convince me to abort my child because there was no way a 19 year old could provide for her child (it was like they were used car salesman..I kept saying no and they kept sending in the “big guys” to convince me). I should abort her is what they told me. Hmmm..that is very unfortunate. So, since I should not force my beliefs on others, why is it acceptable for pro-choicers to do the same? My 8 year old is the most beautiful and intelligent girl I know. I thank God every day for her amazing birth. And not everyone who is pro-life is against helping women make better choices in a positive way.

  19. Andrea Hansen October 17, 2011

    Regardless of the article’s merits, the author is sharing her viewpoint in a traditional form of communication and I find it interesting that the most judgemental remarks come from anonymous names. For this to be a truly civil conversation/debate among our neighbors and in the community, it does no good to hide behind anonymity and throw stones, in fact, it allows people to be the epitomy of uncivil. If your name was listed and you actually were a neighbor, would you choose such harsh words for this conversation?

  20. Pinwheel October 24, 2011

    I had an abortion and no one tried to convince me, like a used car sales person, to have one. It was quite the opposite–I was asked several times whether or not I was sure it was what I wanted to do. I was never pressured or manipulated into it. And to this date I don’t ever regret it.
    Unfortunately, people like Megan still rely on scare tactics to manipulate people into thinking the worst of Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers.
    Megan, maybe you went into the appointment with your “super sensitive” ears on and were looking for any statement said by the employees to justify and validate your position.

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