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An Open Letter to All Those Who Call Themselves Pro-Life

…including my best friend.

By 

I can easily point out the day, date and time when I started calling myself a feminist. Two years ago I read a newspaper article about how a fourteen-year-old girl had been raped and then denied an abortion. This story angered me, it gave me shivers to know that I live in a world where people so casually deny women the right to their own bodies. It was at that moment that I decided I was a feminist, and that I hated people who wanted to take away my rights and give it to a fetus who was using my body to survive without my consent.

An Open Letter to All Those Who Call Themselves Pro-Life

From that point on, I lived under a canopy of my staunch belief that people who are anti-choice do not deserve my respect. It is so easy to fold your arms across your chest and pass judgement in your mind, dividing people into two groups: for/love and against/hate. The people who do not agree with something you passionately believe in go on the side of people you detest and the ones who agree with you become your new best friends.

Then something unexpected happened. I found out that my best friend was against abortions.

She was against women having bodily autonomy and having a right to decide what they wish to do with their own bodies. This news both vexed and confused me. This was the person who always stood by me, even when I made terrible mistakes. The person who was my very first friend on my first day of elementary school. The person who would commiserate with me after each bad date.

An Open Letter to All Those Who Call Themselves Pro-Life

We now stood on the opposite side of one my biggest battlegrounds. How could I simply drop this person into one of the well-divided sides in my mind? I couldn’t.

She called herself ‘pro-life’ for a reason. She was against abortion for a reason. And I hadn’t realized that everyone had a life experience, beyond what I could superficially see, that created the path to their current beliefs. When my best friend’s mother had a miscarriage, she lost her unborn sister, whom she had already started to love. I have never gone through anything like this, but I can see how it could change a person’s opinion about things.

I am feverishly against people dictating what I should do with my life. So how can I expect someone else to do what I want them to and to believe in what I think is right?

We can learn something priceless from everyone if we’re open to it. Because of my best friend’s story, I learned the power of acceptance and respect. I learned to respect the people who held beliefs that did a poor job of aligning with mine — as long as their views aren’t based on fear or hatred. I learned to ask, and learn from, the question: why?

It is because of the existence of contrasting people that the world can paint beautiful, abstract images of life. I know it’s a cliché, but life is truly lived in the gray. I do not want a world where symmetry is the only route to a good life, I do not want a world like Paris under Napoleon III. I want a world where we all can have our opinions heard, and where we all can paint the pictures of our choice.

So here are a few words to my best friend, and all those who call themselves pro-life: I respect your belief and I hope you respect mine too.

Paakhi lives in the United Arab Emirates and is an avid reader of historical fiction. She is a passionate feminist and blogs about politics and feminist issues. She likes to listen to music and document her life in a series of journals she will probably never show to anyone.

Reader Discussion: 33 Comments

  1. Michelle

    People are free to believe as they wish. However, while I think the love for your friend is touching on some level, would she truly be as respectful of your human rights if, say, you were raped, conceived from that rape and chose your to exercise your human right to have an abortion?

    While I respect a person’s human right to their own personal views, I do not respect everyone’s views themselves or the person who has views that violate a person’s human rights. In this case, bodily integrity. You may as well be saying I should respect people who want to reinstitute slavery, as that is precisely what criminalizing abortion would do – force children and women to continue pregnancies against their will, enslaving them to their pregnancies. That is immoral and I cannot respect anyone who would threaten someone with imprisonment or death for terminating a pregnancy acting in their own body.

    • I completely understand how you feel. I used to feel the exact same way (and I guess I still do, to some extent), but I realized that hating on anti-choicers wasn’t really getting me anywhere. It was only making me emotionally exhausted and leading me to make extreme judgments on people.

      I feel since I started trying to accept their belief and understand it, I have started feeling much better about the pro-choice movement as a whole. I no longer feel the need to hate on people who have opinions different from me.

      And I do agree with you that people shouldn’t be exercising their rights if it compromises the rights of others, but at the same time they are allowed to hold their belief. I feel like it’s okay to believe in something just as long as you aren’t forcing your belief onto other people.

      But overall, my choice to accept the “pro-life” side of the movement was based on consideration of my mental health and the status of my relationship with other people.

  2. Hannah S

    I wish more people were writing about how to have compassion, instead of focusing on extreme opinions. People need to be softer if the world is going to get better.

  3. As a catholic, I can’t imagine having an abortion. People who would do that are evil to me — it’s murder!

  4. Meghan Cole

    I don’t think I could budge on my values. I know that I’m on the right side and I’m really driven to change other people. I admire your willingness to see other people’s opinions and respect them. I couldn’t do that.

  5. Michelle Robbins

    I love your writing style, Paakhi — hope you write more! Interested to hear your thoughts on feminism and other women’s issues.

  6. Ariella Louisa

    I totally agree – I hate people telling me what to do, so I never tell others what to do.

    • Meghan Cole

      If you hate it, maybe you should be more open to it. Do you think you’re always right or something??

  7. Lindy Gardner

    I love this article! Such a sweet and thoughtful perspective 🙂

  8. Sara Uibel

    This is a really powerful article. The opening paragraph really hits you. It was nice seeing how her perspective had changed through the interactions with someone she trusted and loved. We all need support to make important changes in our lives…. : )

  9. Lela House

    Woman’s body, woman’s choice. Period!

  10. Ashley Moore

    Thank you so much for this post. You are wise beyond your years! 🙂

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