BY JEWELS GREEN
I'm a relative newcomer to the pro-life movement. Despite being forced into an abortion at 17 and surviving my subsequent suicide attempt (and the month-long psychiatric hospital stay), I developed a remarkably strong pro-choice worldview. Less than a year after my abortion I started working at an abortion clinic.
In hindsight, I think I was surrounding myself with people who thought abortion was OK, in the hopes that someday I'd believe that, too. After more than five years working there, I still grieved for my baby. I still knew what I did was wrong -- that I'd never do it again -- but I still ignored the reality of abortion and supported other women aborting their children.
My conversion to respecting life for convicted criminals happened years before my eventual recognition of all life to be worthy of protection and respect. It was through the rock band Pearl Jam's support of The Innocence Project that I first became aware of the staggering number of prisoners incarcerated, some on death row, for crimes they did not commit who were later exonerated by DNA evidence. Three such exonerated men visited the band on stage at a concert and joined in a song. This experience led to a swift and complete reversal of my opinion of capital punishment.
Yet I remained pro-choice. Holding these opposing viewpoints should have been uncomfortable for me. But this is the paradox of -- what can I call it? -- an "inconsistent" life ethic. In some way, I think I adhered even more stubbornly to my incongruous beliefs because they were mismatched. It was a nuanced and sophisticated worldview -- you wouldn’t understand. I didn’t.
It wasn't until many years (and three sons) later that I opened my heart and resolved this incongruity. A friend of a friend was a surrogate mother. In exchange for tens of thousands of dollars, she was carrying a baby conceived via in vitro fertilization. Prenatal tests indicated the baby would be born with Down syndrome. The "parents" exercised their contractual right to pay her in full to abort the baby. And she did. I was struck numb, but not for long, because I finally saw the truth. We live in a world where children are commodities to be manufactured, bought, sold, and discarded for "quality control." I could no longer call myself pro-choice.
What surprises me most about my former opinions is the relative ease with which two diametrically opposed stances can be held within one mind, one heart, and not produce sufficient cognitive dissonance to encourage further examination, if not outright conversion. An astounding level of efficiency in mental gymnastics must have enabled me to tolerate staring into the face of death day after day, year after year.
Once I allowed my previously repressed disquiet to push me into a closer assessment of my positions, I came to realize that I'd been harboring toxic cognitive dissonance for years. Only once I accepted the dignity and right to life of each human person did I feel as though as I was being honest with myself. Only then did I realize what a toll my conflicting positions had taken on my integrity.
Thus, I was completely blindsided upon first hearing the chorus of "pro-life" voices calling for the death of Philadelphia's "House of Horrors" abortion provider Kermit Gosnell. Although he was found guilty of infanticide and murder, surely those who argue loudest for the right to life of the unborn children whose lives he mercilessly ended would not sidestep their position and now rally for his execution. I was wrong.
My surprise and bewilderment at this very vocal, vehement, and public display of inconsistency dissolved into disbelief and profound disappointment. Because life is a fundamental human right of all -- including the unborn, the elderly, the inconvenient, the ill, the imperfect, and the condemned. Consistency matters. Because life matters.
Jewels Green is a pro-life advocate, writer, and mother who blogs infrequently at jewelsgreen.com.