Standing for Choice.

This day, each year, is so disheartening. When thousands of people march in the streets of my city, shouting obscenities, shaming people, spreading misinformation, lying, all the while using young people’s passion and ignorance to do so, my heart is heavy.

I worked for several years in sexual and reproductive health, providing support to folks making choices around pregnancy, contraception, and sexual readiness. I have spoken to and worked with so many people who had to make heartbreaking choices regarding very wanted pregnancies. I have worked with those who know that this is not the time for them to become a parent, who then have serious difficulty accessing a legal, safe, and time-sensitive medical procedure. I have seen and heard the shame people feel in experiencing unintended pregnancies, and have heard countless times that they fear that no matter the choice, they will be harmed, they will be unloveable, and they will be broken.

The people walking the streets of Ottawa today reinforce those ideas. They reinforce the shame of unintended pregnancy, the idea that people who choose to end a pregnancy are broken, and the idea that society is with them on this issue.

I will spend my life saying that they are wrong.

That if they choose to end a pregnancy, they are not alone.
That grief after any kind of loss is normal and does not necessarily mean that someone made the wrong choice.
That regret is a valid human experience, and if that is what they feel after ending a pregnancy, I feel nothing but compassion for them and will work to find them supports to cope with those feelings.
That the feeling of relief is just as valid, and just as real, and just as normal.

I will spend my life saying that adoption isn’t a fix all.
That we have villanized people who place children in an adoptive family.
That telling people they have “given up” reinforces ideas of shame and failure.
That our culture of assuming parenthood when we see pregnancy makes it very difficult for people to relive their decision for months on end.

I will spend my life saying that parenting is hard.
That even if you feel ready, it changes your whole life.
That even if people say they will be there for you, that isn’t always the case.
That every child should be a wanted child, and every parent a willing parent.

It is disheartening that we are still fighting for people to have autonomy over their bodies and reproductive choices in 2015. This is not the world I want my children to live in. I do not want them to feel shame, or hurt, or unloved. I want them to know that even if they make choices they regret, they will find people in this community that will treat them with compassion and provide support. That relief, grief and loss are normal human experiences. And most of all, that they have the right and capacity to make choices that are best for them, in that moment.

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