Then he came to one of my classes and pulled me into the hallway to talk. There, he threatened to kill me if I didn’t have an abortion.
Though abortion had been the only thing on my mind, when he said that to me, I suddenly understood that violence and oppression were not the answer. I’d already taken biology, so I guess I knew that human sperm-egg fusion at fertilization creates a new, distinct, living human. I just don’t think I’d cared that abortion intentionally ended that tiny child’s life until I was threatened, too.
In that moment, as a liberal feminist and awkward queer kid, I became a bridge as I comprehended the vulnerability of prenatal children and felt a solidarity with them. I recognized that what my ex was telling me was, “You’re an inconvenience to me and my future, therefore I’m going to kill you.” I recognized that I couldn’t say the same thing to another human being.
And I recognized in that moment that abortion was a tool of the patriarchy, a tool to dispose of inconvenient people the same way that my ex-boyfriend wanted to dispose of me. So then and there, I became committed to a way of nonviolence, a way of rejecting and standing up to oppression, a way of life.
I’d been fairly young when I realized I didn’t “fit in.” Eventually, after experience, that feeling extended to understanding myself as a conscientious objector to the culture war.
This wasn’t about being a moderate, but about passionately standing for human rights for all humans in a culture that was so used to choosing one or the other — pro-immigrant or pro-life, anti-death penalty or anti-euthanasia, and so on. As a young adult, I think I understood that I was going to have to survive in hard spaces, not just building a bridge, but being the bridge between often disparate camps.
In the months and years that followed, I found myself caught up in the tension between stereotypically leftish feminists, atheists, LGBTQ+ advocates, progressives and liberals on one side, and the stereotypically right-leaning pro-lifers on the other. I experienced what a mentor once aptly put into words: “Being a bridge means existing in tension, and sometimes being walked all over without a thought.”
Because in the process of rejecting the tendentious dehumanization and othering of the culture war, I got caught up in the crossfire. I faced countless “No True Scotsman” fallacies, hatred, bigotry and alienation.
When I reverted to Catholicism as a twenty-something, I found myself resonating with the verse from Matthew: “Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head.” In a world so steeped in a culture war that makes casualties left and right, refusing to throw certain humans under the bus is tantamount to treason.
As we face yet another heated, polarizing flashpoint in the culture war with the potential of Roe’s end in the Dobbs decision, I’m reminded that the solution to this tired culture war isn’t going to be for one side to “win,” because none of these “sides” truly embrace the whole picture of human dignity and human rights. The solution is going to be in rehumanization — in authentic, consistent care for each and every human being, beyond the dehumanizing and polarizing partisan rhetoric we’re saturated in daily.
The solution is going to start with people of goodwill existing in a posture of humility, curiosity and compassion, as we endeavor to constantly remember that those “on the other side” ordinarily have good intentions. We need to come together in a meaningful way that flouts the “culture war,” to build solutions that ensure no pregnant person, nor their preborn child, nor their family, falls through the cracks.
So while I celebrate in hope for the possibility of protecting prenatal humans in our laws, I also recognize that many abortion rights supporters who are lashing out in fear have valid concerns.
People of goodwill — on all sides of this issue — must work diligently and urgently to create and enact policies and systems that will reduce the perceived need for abortion and meet the needs of pregnant people: things like ample paid family leave; a child tax credit; restorative justice after abortion; universal childcare and healthcare including culturally competent antenatal, postpartum and lactation care; guaranteed housing, food, water and basic income; and compassionate medicine for ectopic pregnancies and miscarriages, to name a few.
Instead of retreating to our respective silos in fear, we must conscientiously object to culture war dehumanization, reach across seemingly contentious divides to be a bridge, and heal our communities to build a culture of peace.