Editor’s note: This opinion article details a sexual assault and may be triggering for some readers.
His hands covered my mouth. His hands went up my skirt. His hands pushed me back down everytime I tried to sit up onto the dirty concrete. He ripped hair out of my head. I bled. I said no. His friends watched. His friends laughed.
It was an hour before anyone tried to help me.
Yet, I think I’m lucky; I didn’t get pregnant. My baby would have grown through a pregnancy while its mother may have gone through post traumatic stress disorder or crippling anxiety or suicide attempts. I never had to wonder what lengths I would have to go to to pay for check ups or blood work or ultrasounds or my hospital stay when I had to deliver. A delivery, I may add, that would have taken place in the United States, the country with the in the developed world.
Not all women are as lucky as I was.
It’s like the World Health Organization said, “The law does not influence a woman’s decision to have an abortion. If there’s an unplanned pregnancy, it does not matter if the law is restrictive or liberal…. Generally, where abortion is legal it will be provided in a safe manner.... And the opposite is also true: where it is illegal, it is likely to be unsafe, performed under unsafe conditions by poorly trained providers.”
Last week the UP chapel hosted a tribute to the cells that were lost to abortions this year. Posters, books, pamphlets and flyers were posted outside the doors so that any passerby could see.
I stood for five minutes staring at these posters. Women holding children while bold letters read “We Remember, We Pray”. I wondered if the women being depicted were raped, if they were wealthy enough to afford the cost of a pregnancy, if they had the support of their families, if they were battling addictions.
I stared and remembered his hand over my mouth, him forcing my fingers between his lips, his voice telling me I liked it.
A friend and I placed sticky notes around the posters and the tables, notes reminding survivors that they were loved, that God respected their choices, defending the lifesaving services that Planned Parenthood provides, validating every woman's experience. If nothing else, adding a second voice to the conversation.
The notes lasted about 10 minutes until they were ripped off by two female students who had set up the event.
I was told that the university wanted to stop women from turning to abortions as their first option when pregnant. Yet, we should never have to make that decision. UP refuses to give us condoms, refuses to give us birth control, refuses to give us the morning after pill. Not all of us have the financial privilege of purchasing our own or traveling to a Planned Parenthood (which does provide dozens of other services other than abortions, gasp!). Apparently, UP has taken after the Trump administration and has decided that the best way to solve a problem is to pretend it isn’t there; why not call unplanned pregnancy an “alternative fact”?
You can make sure that women are aware of all of their options. You can offer your support for the duration of their pregnancy. You can ask them if they’d like to speak with an adoption agency. You can offer to pay their medical bills. But the second they say no, you have to respect that.
If you claim to advocate for women, treat them like the free thinking adults that they are. Know that if they believe that continuing with the pregnancy is the best option for them, they will chose that. If you care about the women who chose to terminate their pregnancy, make sure that their abortion is safe and doesn’t end in a complication.
If vigils make you feel good, then do it. But put it inside the church so that rape and sexual assault survivors don’t have to be bombarded by it and that women who have had abortions don’t feel attacked in what should be the safest spaces they have: their place of worship and education.
A fetus's right to life is debatable. A woman’s is not.
Hazel Stange is a UP student and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.