With multiple states trying to pass Beta Gilead, I have been lost for words. Along with scores of women across the country, I'm enraged, disgusted, and despondent, but what can I do to change the tide? I live in a state where a woman's right to choose is well-protected and will stay that way for the foreseeable future.
Then I remembered a conversation I had about three years ago with an Uber driver. It was the only time I've ever, at the very least, changed one person’s perception of the pro-choice stance.
He was an older white man and was pleasant enough until we somehow we got to abortion. I don't remember how we got there, but I wound up telling him my story. My wife and I have a… tumultuous history. We met online in 2011, had a fifteen-hour-long first date, and after a whirlwind romance that lasted three months, we found ourselves in limbo and we weren't sure whether we wanted to stay together. Why? Well, along with her realization I had a bad drinking problem, she wasn't sure she wanted kids, and I did. We spent some time apart and both decided, separately, we would move on from each other because we had different life goals. At twenty-six, I wanted to make long-term plans. I didn't want to take a chance that five, or ten years down the line, she would decide not to have children and it would force me to make the impossible decision between someone I loved and the potential family I wanted.
At some point either during or right before our limbo, I made an offhand comment about her boobs getting bigger, and she freaked out and took a pregnancy test. I went over to her place, ready to cut ties, and she was prepared to do the same. The test came back positive. Cue a shared panic attack. Our relationship was pretty much over, and we were facing a possible pregnancy. In a rare episode of sensibility, we talked it through. I voiced my support for an abortion. As much as I wanted a child, I didn't want one with a mother that would resent it. If she was to choose to be a parent, I wanted that decision to have no pressure coming from me. It had to be 100% her own. I laid out all the logical reasons:
1. she had a tiny studio apartment
2. I was living with my mother
3. we were poor
4. she had yet to finish college
5. we had no retirement savings of any kind
6. it would be catastrophic for us
7. Oh yea, and we were about to break up
She agreed, and we made the decision to abort if she was actually pregnant. But first we had to make sure, so we made an appointment to see a doctor.
We get to the clinic and sure enough, when the doctor came back in she says, "Yep you're pregnant. Were you planning on continuing the pregnancy or not?" It was the moment of truth. My then sorta-girlfriend stuttered, hemmed and hawed for a few seconds and I said, "We need to talk about it."
We went to Taphouse Grill for lunch -I still remember what I ate- and we talked. She said that she knew it was smarter for us to abort, but she couldn't go through with it. That when it came down to it, she wanted to be a mother, and even though it wasn't the way she might have wanted it, that was her decision. The subsequent events of our relationship could fill multiple seasons of a telenovela, but we're currently happy, healthy, sober, and have added one more to our family. When I told the Uber driver that story, he paused and said that he had never heard pro-choice from that angle. That most of us choose NOT to abort. I didn't get into the underlying factors that led us to feel comfortable with that decision like Washington State has a lot of programs to help struggling mothers, a strong economy, and we both have stable local familial support structures. He thanked me for sharing my story and dropped me off.
I don't know why that worked. Maybe it's because instead of the ephemeral idea of saying it's about the right to choose, it was a real, live person telling a story that made it more visceral. Maybe he only listened to me because I'm a man, or we were trapped in a car, so he had no choice. Whatever the reason, it worked. I don't know if, in print, it will have the same impact, but I want to add at least the one thing that worked because we need to change minds. I've had multiple, angry arguments about statistics, facts, emotional appeals, and the things that should convince someone who thinks logically but it never has. This story did. Maybe it can again.