College Girl Fighting for the Good of Life! by Elizabeth Andrew
[This article first appeared on the Catholic Online Community website, on August 22nd, 2003]
I entered the University of New Hampshire when the 2000 presidential campaign was well underway. The abortion issue was a huge determining factor in the election and at age 18, even after years of public school sex education, I was ill equipped to intelligently consider the issue.
I turned to the internet. One web site lead to another, then another, and another. Initially I was curious, however, particular bits of information, factual information , pushed me to look into the issue of abortion further and further. I mentioned my interest casually to friends and began to realize that an interest in the topic of abortion did not go over well. Whether you are adamantly pro-choice or pro-life, no one wants to hear about it.
There I was, a college freshman, majoring in music education- the farthest possible thing from the abortion issue. I lived a paradox, with more activities and social connections than ever before, yet ostracized by such a controversial fascination. As I read more and more, I began to realize that “pro-choice” was the result of a fabrication of lies bigger than anything I had ever known.
There was one particularly defining night when thoughts of what I had been reading suddenly became overwhelming. I was lying in bed, staring at my dorm room ceiling when tears began to slip down the sides of my cheeks and pool in my ears. I decided that if I lay very still that sheer exhaustion would force my body to sleep. Seconds later I shoved my face into my pillow to muffle sobs of frustration.
I slipped out my dorm room and sought refuge in a bathroom stall. I felt pathetic. Crying my eyes out over something I had never personally experienced? What was wrong with me?
Around this time I decided that perhaps this issue was a bit too controversial to be interested in. I decided to forget about the whole thing. Certainly there was something else my rebelling young adult mind could become fascinated with- something that even involved activism, like getting people to recycle more. Anything but abortion.
Second semester of my freshman year was ushered in by moans over Bush's presidential win. My school's newspaper published an extremely biased article that stated that since Bush was elected to office, that all “reproductive rights” women had fought for would be lost. The one-sidedness of the article really shook me up. I was devastated that at a research university such bias co-existed alongside my peers' quest for academic integrity and scholarship. No one responded to the article from the pro-life view. Over time, the feeling that I was the only pro-life student on the entire campus seemed to be affirmed. Any glimmer of courage to speak out about my pro-life views was quickly crushed under the fear that teachers would unfairly grade my work, that friends would turn away, and that my college career would be veiled with the stigma of “fanatic.”
I stumbled upon a Celebrate Your Body booth in the student union building. I got a button. I thought, heck yea, I can play any sport, study any subject. No problem, I'm celebratory. The booth was sponsored by NOW (National Organization for Women.) I later discovered that NOW is a pro-abortion organization. Things weren't lining up. I thought, “Well great, so as long as I'm not pregnant, I can celebrate my body.” If I am to truly celebrate my body, why is it that the only real help for me on a college campus is a hormone pill that causes me to hemorrhage the embryo state of my child out, in order to continue to pursue a career (RU-486)? Why is it seen as tragic when a girl that “has everything going for her” becomes pregnant? Imagine the pressure that we put on young girls, and then expect them to have this open-minded “choice.”
If NOW really wanted to help, they would put all of the money into helping women through pregnancies, not the termination of them. Any organization designed to aid women ought to concentrate on providing access to medical care, housing, emotional aid, and opportunities for pregnant students to continue their education. I fear that my female peers and I have become terrified of our own, reproducing bodies. Why must I essentially, become more biologically like a man if I'm celebrating my female body?
I finally decided that there was no way I was going to let thousands of tuition dollars go to a college where I had to forfeit who I was. I decided to shed the inhibitions I had grown to accept in high school and vowed to myself that even if it meant lower grades from begrudged teachers and swimming against every possible tide, I was going to be me . I rationalized that whatever late nights and early mornings would be needed for this group, I would eventually recover from. Four years of some social instability? I'd get over it. For all of the “diversity tolerance” that my generation has shouldered, there certainly was not a place for a pro-lifer to fit in at UNH. I decided that needed to change.
Misgivings and insecurities subjected me to evaluate how much I was willing to trust God. I had grown to lean on a GPA as a pillar of future assurance, yet I began to internalize the fact that it would be a safe exchange if it meant trusting God with my life. I told God that I would start the pro-life group, but only because I knew His hand was behind it. Faith began to take on a whole new dimension.
I realize that some people assume that since I am Catholic that I am somehow brainwashed into being partial to the pro-life ethic. Trust me, I did not wake up one morning, make a mental note that I was born into a Catholic family, and then proceed to be devoted to the pro-life stance. It has been only after much questioning and serious research that I knew that being pro-life was the most compassionate stance to take even if it wasn't the most convenient. The urge to agree with the pro-choice movement is due to many people perceiving it to be the most popular/politically correct viewpoint. This is at the cost of millions of human lives.
Currently, men and women are on the receiving ends of inaccurate reproductive information via public (and parochial!) school sexual education classes, media, university health systems, and Women Studies departments. We must flood the market with pro-life books and articles. As well, celebrities must use their high profiles to promote the culture of life even at the risk their careers. Finally parents must be willing to re-evaluate what they were taught in light of “new” medical understandings. Even if there is a generation of people that did not know how birth control worked when it first became legal, our information age denies us any excuses for not passing on concise, life-affirming information to our youth.
Parents, be careful. Drive home the message that even though premarital sex is not supported, that if your child or child's partner is pregnant, at any age or time in life, that unconditional love and emotional as well as financial support will be provided without question or shame.
As for my college experience? It has been surreal. By the end of my sophomore year, UNH Students for Life…(Compassion Meets Education) finally become a recognized student organization. I've learned more by going through with this than anything I had learned within the walls of a classroom.
One thing that I've learned is that that you never know the time or place you will influence others. At the end of my junior year, a friend and I put up a display in our student union with the title of “Women Deserve Better.” The display had a pro-life quote from Norma McCorvey (“Roe” of Roe v. Wade), flyers from the Feminists for Life website, and prenatal pictures.
My friend ran off to class and I left to give the key to the display case back to the information desk-no more than 20 feet away. When I turned back around, there were fifteen men and women in dark suits surrounding the display! A meeting for the pro-abortion 2004 presidential candidate Joe Lieberman had just finished in the room directly next to the display. Joe Lieberman's wife, Hadassah Lieberman, was the main promoter at this event and she too was standing there! I watched, elated, as they discussed the contents of the case in hushed voices. A potential future first lady's undivided attention! Who would have thought?
I have realized that there are actions worth taking that are greater than any grade on a transcript. Let it be known that in the beginning, I simply did not desire, did not see how it would logistically work out time wise, to start a pro-life group. The fact of the matter is, no one else was stepping forward either. This was my shot at something real. Something bigger than writing papers only one teacher would read, shopping for clothes I didn't need, and having conversations that are controlled by social expectations.
Friends have told me, “Elizabeth, you're really rocking the boat here, I'm scared for you.” To me, this issue is paramount to the fear of rocking any boats. One friend constantly states, “Elizabeth, you're going to get yourself killed! You've got guts, but you're crazy!” I understand that from the outside looking in, working within the pro-life movement seems extremely radical. But being radical in response to our current culture is the point.
Stepping up to defend the defenseless is embracing, not resisting, reality. I am living a ridiculously acute life, punctuated by a desire to use my God given free will to make a bad situation at least a little better. Abortion devalues life and perpetuates the cycle of violence that we all condemn. However, if we truly to condemn the cycle, we must recognize the weakest, most vulnerable members of society.
When frustration sets in, I remind myself that I did not set out to get the entire campus to be pro-life. If on graduation day, as I walk across the stage to claim my diploma I can look back on the four years and know that I had influenced, not convinced necessarily, just influenced at least one person, then it will have all been worth it.
Webmaster ~ Last updated: 10.09.03, All content © their respective owners.