When I found out that Cecile Richards recorded a video for teen girls – a letter to her 18-year-old self – I knew I needed to watch it. Richards is the president of Planned Parenthood, the organization that “terminated” the lives of 323,999 babies last year. What would Richards say to her teen self about being a woman, about having relationships, about being a mother (she is one), about success in life?
Interestingly enough, Richards makes it clear how grateful she is for her own mother and her own chance at living “the only life you have.” With emotion, she reveals that her mother left her “with so many gifts,” and that in this life, there are “no-do overs.” Sadly, Richards seems to forget that abortion takes the mother-daughter relationship away from countless women. It strips little women of the many gifts their own mothers might impart to them if they were given the chance to live their one earthly life.
Every woman should agree with Richards that “your body is yours.” She said that, from her own experience, fighting to control your body is “super empowering.” Tragically, however, Richards has spent her life extending women’s right to control their own bodies to the “right” to control the bodies of their children. Humanity is connected, and often, we must be willing to experience a little inconvenience (or maybe a lot) to let another person live in harmony beside us. We don’t have the right to take their life because their life touches or even infringes on ours. This is a basic concept we’ve accepted in every sphere of life and law…except when it comes to abortion.
Through her decades of life, Richards has missed an essential truth women must realize: we do not need to climb the ladder of success by treading on the bodies of our children. There is no human being on earth who deserves to die so we can have an education, a career, or so we can more easily reach our goals. What kind of success is it, really, if someone lost their life so we could have it?
I wish Cecile Richards could understand that the civil rights and equal rights she’s so passionate about must extend to every member of the human race – by nature of being human – or they really don’t mean much at all. How “equal” are our rights when they allow us to trample on the most innocent and vulnerable among us?
Richards said that if she could tell her younger self one thing, it would be “to love yourself.” And while having a true sense of self-worth is necessary for women (and all people), if we make ‘loving me’ our focus, we are missing one of the biggest parts of life. Loving myself first is what opens the door to all sorts of injustices. If a man loves himself first, forgetting about the other people he needs to love, he may find a right to sexually assault and abuse women. If a store owner loves himself first, forgetting about the other people that live and breathe next to him, he may find a right to shoot the teenage kid who’s stealing a pack of gum. And if a woman loves herself first, forgetting about the growing child inside her womb who relies on her, she may find a right to abortion.
Loving ourselves is important. But loving ourselves first and only is exactly what causes us to put our rights over the rights of others. It’s exactly what causes us to forget that rights need to be equal. It’s exactly what gives those in a more powerful position the ability to exert their will and preferences over the rights of those who are weaker.
With these and other thoughts spinning through my head, I recorded my own video. If I could go back in time, here’s what I would say to my own 18-year-old self.