I will never forget her face. She was only 13. She had a significant cognitive disability, a result of a brain injury at birth. She found her way to my clinic one late Friday afternoon in July almost two decades ago. Her mother was a nurse and noticed her daughter had not had a period in the last two months. Her pregnancy test came back positive. I wanted to cry.
The questions I had to ask this young girl were agonizing. When asked if she had sex, she looked at me and shook her head back and forth, to say no, she had not had sex. She was telling the truth. Having sex implies consent. When I asked if someone had touched her private area, she nodded her head up and down and said there were two boys. She did not know who they were. She had never seen them before or since. I asked if she could remember their faces. She could not.
The two boys pushed her down on a grassy area next to the high school football field when she was walking home one day. She remembered it was raining because she had been looking up at the sky until they stopped hurting her. She told me about the pain she experienced, down there, and she pointed to her vaginal area. She told me there was some bleeding afterward at home. She did not tell anyone about what had happened, even her mother. I am not sure if she really understood what had been done to her. I tried to put myself in her place to understand how hard it must be to be telling me her story now.
Taking her small hand in mine, I told her she was pregnant. Her shoulders slumped forward and she looked at the floor. “Do you know what that means?” She nodded her head up and down, then said “there is a baby in here” gesturing toward her abdomen. It was more question than answer. She was not capable of understanding how horrifying it was that she never made a choice to become a mother.
She was still a child herself.
For the record, in regard to my uterus, I am pro-life. I believe children are a gift to those of us who are lucky enough to have them, if even for a fleeting moment. As a pediatrician, I have devoted my entire life to taking care of children, from the instant they are born until they go on to have their own children. And then I have the privilege to care for those children as well. There is no greater thing on earth than a child and protecting that child, the one in front of me, will always be my priority.
But how can any civilized society reconcile being pro-life with forcing one child to bear another child — one that the child never consented to produce in the first place?
It is inhumane.
How many other victims can tell this same story? There are far more than the pro-life movement wishes to acknowledge.
In fact, the Alabama Human Life Protection Act is not intended to protect human life; this legislation is a veiled attempt to place value on one life over another. And by exempting victims of rape and incest, Alabama will serve as judge and jury, disrespecting the work already done by the highest court in the land. The question of legalized medical abortion has already been asked and answered by the Supreme Court in 1973.
The Alabama Legislature is sanctioning physicians to be jailed for up to 99 years for performing an abortion, while knowing full well that a first-time rape conviction carries a sentence of 20 years or less. The pro-life movement wants the nation to believe being pro-choice is akin to being anti-life, while obscuring the fact that women and children will be forced to give birth after victimization. Fighting to protect the right of women and children to make decisions about their own bodies is not the same as being pro-abortion.
Alabama is not pro-life. They are trying to legalize morality, which is a dangerous action. For the record, I am pro-life, the kind that believes all human beings are equal. No civilized society should prioritize the life of an unborn child over that of a defenseless child in front of them.
Physicians, especially, must not acquiesce to politicians who want to force vulnerable women and children into back alleyways with coat hangers. The lives we all must protect are those of the innocent women and children who choose not to give birth to children they never consented to make.