I was there. On that day in herstory. Because for my college graduation in 1992 I asked my parents to send me to Washington D.C. so I could march for abortion rights. Afterwards, I wrote a small Op-Ed piece about it for my college newspaper, SDSU’s The Daily Aztec, and won a “Best Opinion” award for it. I am so proud of who this young woman was. But it fucking sucks that her every word and thought is still relevant, almost 30 years later. I am proud, however, to have fought and to continue to fight for a woman’s right to control what happens to her own body. Our complete and total autonomy is and has always been the only acceptable reality.
Pro-Choice Stand Does Not Mean Pro-Abortion
Guest columnist/Deneene Bell
April 29, 1992
Four weeks ago, I stood behind the White House in the throng of an estimated 600,000 people—women and men of all ages and ethnic backgrounds, Catholics and atheists, gays and heterosexuals, Republicans and Democrats. And I, a 22-year-old college student from San Diego, had something in common with each and every one of them—I came to Washington D.C. to let the government know that “We won’t go back on abortion rights!”
Pro-choice America was represented by groups from Utah to Maine. A myriad of signs waved above the crowd’s heads, buttons decorated hats and T-Shirts, and cheers sounded in chorus — all appealing in different ways to keep abortion safe and legal.
Some of the more unique messages included: A pink, penis-shaped cardboard sign that said, “If men could get pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament”; a poster with George Bush’s picture and the words, “Gag me with a coat hanger”; a sign carried by a man saying, “Real men defend a woman’s right to choose”; a large, black cardboard church asking to “Keep your cross out of my crotch”; and another with the plea, “Congress, I’d like the perk of controlling my own body.”
Whatever the medium and whatever the message, the emotion and feeling of unity that the congregation provoked in me was overwhelming. We were a part of history, there to fight not only for abortion rights, but for the autonomy that all women should be infinitely free to possess as members of this male-dominated “democracy.”
Frustrated with the possibility that abortion may once again become illegal, we were fighting for the past, the present, and the future. It is a past in which countless American women died at the hands of back-alley butchers, a future in which we may regress to that past, and a present in which women have been able to make secure and informed choices about their own bodies.
I, personally, was fighting so that present and future generations will have the opportunity to make individual choices free of legal judgment and restraint when faced with an unplanned pregnancy. Because I have had to make that choice myself.
I was not a product of poor sex education, but of the mentality that “it could never happen to me.” The would-be father of the child I could have borne was the first sexual partner I ever had. We used condoms, though sparingly. As a result, I found myself pregnant within the first two months of our relationship. I was only 16 years old.
My mother, ever-watchful of her teenage daughters, suspected my condition before I did. She approached me about the matter one night after work while my knowing father waited out of sight. We talked. We cried. We hugged. We decided I should get a pregnancy test.
The next day’s positive results form the family doctor confirmed what we both already knew. My mom took me intor her arms and, without imposition but with all her love and support, asked me what I wanted to do. For some unexplainable reason I felt no regret, no guilt, no fear, no shame; I had made my decision long before that moment came.
College was in my future, my boyfriend was not a dependable marriage prospect, I had no job, and I was not at a period in my life where I was prepared to take a lifetime of responsibility seriously. “I want to get an abortion,” I told her.
If I hadn’t had an abortion, today I’d be taking my 5-year-old to kindergarten instead of preparing to graduate from SDSU. However, finding herself in the same situation right out of high school, if my 18-year-old sister had had an abortion, I wouldn’t have a beautiful 1-year-old nephew.
People make choices every day of their lives. It’s called freedom. It’s called individuality. If what was right for one person was right for all persons, then we would be a mindless mass of conformists void of idea and progress. We should be free to be independent beings, separate from the imposed values of society and its consideration when making life choices.
It is expected that Roe v. Wade will be overturned. My country, which boasts of great technological advancement and international superiority, is plagued with politiciains whose policies advocate social regression and minority inferiority.
As a woman, I stand to lose all the privileges and rights that the women who have gone before me have fought for. And all that I stand to accomplish in life means nothing if my body is not even my own. How can I be confident in my life’s decisions and proud of who I am if the only thing that I thought was mine—by right of birth—belongs to the U.S. government?
Pro-choice does not mean pro-abortion. In a society inundated with racism, poverty, violence, abuse, and neglect, it means that I have the right to all options—options which may exempt me from or designate me to a life of one of the latter.
I’ve been called a murderer—by men, by women, by those who have never had to come home from high school at 16 years of age and tell their parents they are pregnant.
I am a woman—an intelligent human being capable of receiving and processing information in order to form my own ideas and opinions—and I made a choice based on those ideas and opinions. A choice that was right for me, not for my sister, not for you, not for the government. I am not a murderer; I am the author of my own destiny. If I and all other women don’t have control over ourselves and our bodies, we have control over nothing.
Deneene Bell is a journalism senior and is a regular contributor to The Daily Aztec.