Students for Life of America tweeted about a young Swedish nurse-midwife who was offered a job by the Höglandssjukhuset Women’s Center after successfully completing an internship in the spring of 2013. However, once Ellinor Grimmark told the center’s staff that her faith prevented her from committing abortions, she was told that “she was no longer welcome to work with them.” They questioned “whether a person with such views actually can become a midwife.” Grimmark has filed a complaint on the basis of religious discrimination, and Alliance Defending Freedom is assisting with her case.
Unfortunately, this scenario is not unusual. In my experience, professional midwifery training is closely linked with gender studies courses and other breeding grounds for radical feminist thought. One young mom I know, who chose to parent her son after an unexpected pregnancy in high school, decided to become a midwife as a result of her experience. Jennifer* is now an ardent pro-choice advocate. I came across an online discussion forum where she reposted that tired old “Anti-choicers want pregnant women to have fewer rights than corpses.” meme. It contains a grain of truth: in order for anything to be done with one’s remains after death, consent needs to be obtained from the person while she is still alive. Whether or not the sexual activity a woman engages in is consensual, the comparison still falls short. The slogan assumes that the human in-utero is a hostile invader who came into existence and resides in her womb of its own will, rather than as a natural biological consequence of his parents’ actions.
I took a “Politics of Gender & Health” class last fall, and had a much more enjoyable experience than expected. We discussed midwifery and alternative birth procedures quite often, and there were some potential midwives among my classmates. Though the professor was a pro-choice midwife, she was open to hearing from me and graciously allowed me to deviate from the party line. I engaged in frequent dialogues with classmates and was able to speak openly about my experience with a variety of activism projects.
One of my favourite memories will always be the class discussion of the New Abortion Caravan and its predecessor, where a classmate finally figured out why we felt like we already knew each other: we’d been arguing for our opposing stances at the same event. In another lecture, the guest speaker from Planned Parenthood was sure we’d met before but couldn’t recall where. I attended a Canadians for Choice conference where we’d had lunch together. At the end of the term, I was allowed to apply the social movement theories we studied to three Canadian pro-life organizations in a final paper. For the record, I received 28/30 because I should have been clearer that these theories were being examined in a pro-choice class.
My hard work has paid off. Days after finishing the exam, I was approached by a classmate in a coffeeshop. She told me that she admired my confidence and willingness to be different. “You just go in there saying ‘I’m pro-life and I don’t care what anybody thinks…’” Meredith* has no idea how terrifying it was. While I wasn’t expecting the amount of hardship some of my friends have faced, I knew I was taking a huge risk. Sometimes I wonder if I’ve paid too much attention to the horror stories, even if that’s not necessarily my fault.
In June, I received some wonderful news from the gender studies department. When I saw the letter, I assumed I’d been found out. I had caused too much trouble, and could no longer take the reproductive rights course I wanted. (My school’s pro-life women have begun an odd sort of tradition. Most of the activists who came before me have taken this class, and I wish to follow them in my fifth year.) In fact, the letter told me I’d received one of the highest averages in the program for the year, and I was invited to consider a minor. What a shock that was. I felt like I’d done little besides debate. Sadly, I’ve already picked two different subjects to minor in – psychology and communications. The second one was inspired by my experience with The Interim. As I wrote in a fundraising appeal (see the July edition of the paper), my time with the paper has helped me to grow as a writer and activist. I’ve discovered a desire to communicate the truth that I never realized I had.
I’m thankful for the opportunities I’ve had to stand up for the truth, and I would like to encourage other pro-life advocates to defy the feminist orthodoxy found in many institutions. You will be challenged and empowered in ways you’ve never imagined, and you will become a better activist and person for having done so.
*Names have been changed.