Letter-to-the-editor. Name redacted by request.
I am a liberal feminist who chose peace over violence. I’m not going to lie to you and say that it was easy. I will be honest with you though that it was the best decision that I’ve ever made.
Flashback to a decade ago: My boyfriend was a delegate for the Democratic party. He was handsome, charming, and really seemed like he cared about people. He used brilliant rhetoric, pulled at my liberal heartstrings, and I was in love. We were both involved in a civil liberties organization. I really believed in everything they stood for, except for abortion. Everything I have ever believed has been based on science and the belief that everyone should have human rights regardless of their human condition. I viewed myself as personally pro-life because of this, but I chose to ignore that part because I was passionate about their other causes and because the subject of abortion was messy and unpopular to not support. My boyfriend knew my personal beliefs, but while I was active in fighting for the human rights of everyone else, I neglected to help the hundreds of thousands of children that die every year from abortion. Ignorance is bliss… or is it?
Fast forward: We were married. Moments after the wedding ring, I learned a side of my husband that was ruthless and cold-hearted. He became physically, sexually, and emotionally abusive moments after I moved in. I couldn’t believe that I could be a victim of domestic violence; I always viewed myself as so strong. I soon learned that his rhetoric about helping people was more for his own political gain than actually giving a damn about people. He chose me as his wife because I fit his image of a perfect political wife: beautiful, well-spoken, and intelligent. He felt I would make him more electable. While we attended high-brow galas benefiting liberal causes, our home and private life was a devastating and scary place. I feared for my life. I put on a smile in public and sought out help from local domestic violence organizations in secret. I realized I had to get away from this man.
Once I gathered the strength to take steps to leave my batterer, I learned I was pregnant. I was terrified. I finally had a lawyer and was ready to leave my batterer and now I was pregnant with his child! I was so scared my body started to shake. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to be a mother. I always wanted that in my life someday. Just not with this man. Not in this situation. The thought of abortion went through my mind for a second and then I remembered that my child was his own person and though I was legally able to take his life, it was not my life to take. This person inside of me isn’t at fault for who his father is. As soon as fear brought the idea of abortion through my mind, the dedication to protecting his life took that place instead. It was then that I dedicated my life to protecting my child. I wanted my child to have the opportunity to dance in the ocean, to see a sunset, to fall in love, to have … life.
I met with my lawyer and asked what my options were as I wanted to leave my batterer, but was pregnant with his child. She said that as long as the baby is still inside me, then I have the right over that child, but as soon as I give birth, the custody would most likely be joint even with a history of violence. My husband was from a very wealthy and politically tied family and had an excellent track record and I knew that the lawyer was right about what custody would most likely look like. My lawyer recommended that I have an abortion so I could divorce my husband and be free from the abuse for good. I know she made this recommendation out of misguided compassion for me. She wanted to see me safe and out of the abuse. The person she failed to have compassion for though was my son who was growing inside of me. He needed safety too. I told her that abortion wasn’t an option and asked about my options to adopt the child out to a healthy home to protect him from his father. She said I couldn’t make that choice while he was still in the womb, I only had the option of abortion. I was outraged that I had the right to kill my child, but didn’t have the right to protect him by ensuring he had a safe family. I feared that my husband’s tendency towards rage and violence could hurt, possibly kill a newborn. Because the law didn’t give me many options, I chose to stay with my batterer thinking that if I am always with our child, I could protect him from his father’s temper. I didn’t know how long I would stay, but I was dedicated to staying until my son was older, had a voice, and was a bit sturdier to ensure his safety.
The abuse continued while I was pregnant, but I kept strong by focusing on my love for my son. No matter how many times my husband called me ugly, disgusting, or fat, I knew I wasn’t. I knew that I was a beautiful powerhouse. I felt like a superhero as my body was able to create and nurture a child. At four months along, my husband requested I get a test for the baby, and if our child was disabled, my husband told me I had to abort our son. He tried several scare tactics to make me do as I was told, but it was the first time I felt strong enough to stand-up to him regardless of the repercussions. I told him that I would protect our son from anyone, including him.
I gave birth to a healthy and beautiful boy and our public life carried on like always. We were the “perfect couple” in the eyes of our peers. My husband continued to have a double life of service in public and creating devastation in private. Whenever he would go into a rage, I would rush our little one into another room and sing him lullabies. I dedicated myself to being with our son at all times so I could protect him, unless I had a trust-worthy person to care for him such as my parents. I didn’t want anyone to know, beyond my immediate family and a handful of trusted friends, about the abuse because people wouldn’t understand why I would stay. They wouldn’t understand the threat to my son if I wasn’t there to scoop him up every time his father raged over literal spilled milk. I continued to rely on support groups and therapy resources to keep myself mentally sharp. Every time I needed strength to persevere, I thought of the love I have for my son and I could sustain.
I’m grateful to say that through the support of non-profit domestic violence groups, friends, and family I am now free from my former batterer and my son is healthy and thriving. My situation was a classic example of a situation in which one might argue that abortion would be the best choice, but my son is alive and well to prove otherwise. Did I have to sacrifice to make this happen? Yes. Was it worth it? Yes! Making this choice didn’t ruin my life. I have my whole life ahead of me and multiple opportunities at my door, but these opportunities come with a child that is alive. That is much better than moving forward with the death of my child behind me. Abortion would have failed me and my son. Abortion doesn’t empower women. If I would have aborted my son, I would be a domestic violence survivor with a dead child. Now I am a domestic violence survivor with a healthy and beautiful son with unlimited potential for both of us. My son has a beautiful personality, a laugh larger than life, and a curious and inquisitive nature. He is not his father. He is also not his mother. He is his own person and always has been.
Though I have been through hardship, my life is full of hope and promise. Many women are fed a lie that when they have a child in the midst of crisis, they will lose what makes them who they are. I am here to tell those women that this is simply not true. I have a fantastic and dynamic life now and having a son just makes it more wonderful to be able to share it with him. I want women to know that if they are being hurt, there is hope. The number for the National Domestic Violence Hotline is 1.800.799.7233. This hope also includes hope for children, born and preborn. Taking the life of one’s child does not solve problems, it only masks and/or compiles them. I share my intimate and personal journey so others can know that there is a way out while saving the life of your child. Your story may be quite different than mine, but know that abortion is not the answer, that you are not alone, and you are loved.
PS: For those women who have already had an abortion, I want you to know that you are also not alone and you are loved. There is healing and there is hope with Rachel’s Vineyard.