To say I have a complicated relationship with religion would be an understatement. I moved from my native St. Paul to Wichita, Kansas when I was nine years old. Along with adjusting to new friends, weather, and phone numbers, I made the switch from public to private school. Not just any private school, either — I had entered the fourth grade at a Bible Belt Catholic school. I now had to wear uniforms, take religion class, and attend Mass with my homeroom several times a week.
It was here where I first learned of the concept of “pro-life.” Surely, my teachers told us, you don’t want an innocent baby to die. They constantly invited us to rallies and protesting at the local Planned Parenthood. Looking back, it is obvious that the organizers wanted young children there as props to evoke guilt from women who were likely already in distress. I never participated, though — even at nine years old, I could sense that something was off.
Things began to ramp up in high school, where the presence of organizations such as “[Mascot]s for Life” — a club I initially thought was about school spirit — along with the more politicized views of my teachers brought the topic of abortion into the spotlight. Just like when I was younger, I felt something was off — the ideas of improving publicly funded childcare and medical emergencies rarely, if ever, came up in discussion. Instead, we were told the only good birth control is abstinence and anyone who even takes the pill is a morally corrupt person. (Of course, this moral failing would only apply to girls, as the “boys will be boys” attitude dominates these circles.) We were never even given a health class to learn how to be safe during sex or know how our bodies are supposed to function. As much as I loved the “American Girl Care and Keeping of You” book, it could not prepare me for things like premenstural dysphoric disorder — I thought being suicidal for half the month was standard until I went to college. As this lack of education persisted, it rapidly became clear to me that these people were not pro-life — they were pro-controlling women’s bodies.
All of this is to say that when I see Oles for Life tabling, my blood begins to boil. Under the guise of having a harmless discussion, this group’s goal is to make you forget about the hard facts learned in health class — if you had one. The way they prey on those who are already facing a tough decision is nothing less than emotional manipulation. It was reported in the Mess last semester that the organization unethically collects student information and gives it to an outside organization, but I was unsurprised to discover this — a lot of anti-abortion tactics revolve around withholding information in order to create this ‘gotcha’ moment. Every pregnancy has different stories and contexts, and it is extremely dangerous to create blanket bans from both a medical and mental health standpoint.
If I could tell the pro-life movement was shady at age nine, grown adults should be able to recognize the same. It is unconscionable for the members of Oles for Life to continue to spread misinformation and stoke the flames of emotional panic. It is not worth giving your time and effort to debate them. Going up to their table is exactly what they want from you. Instead, make a donation to your local Planned Parenthood or find an abortion fund in an area threatened by the overturning of Roe v Wade.
Grace Quayle is from Wichita, Kans.
Her major is English.