It was 1979 and I was working at the Winnipeg Crisis Centre. I received a call from a 14-year-old teenager. She was calling from Detroit, Michigan. She was completely distraught and sobbing so hard that I could barely understand her. But I managed to calm her, and eventually her story was slowly and painfully shared with me.
She was an African American teen, who, on her way home from school, had been grabbed and gang raped by four to six males (she lost count). As if that act of violence was not bad enough, she was horrified to learn she had conceived during that act of violence and now had to not only deal with the trauma of the actual rape itself, she also had to face being pregnant.
She was phoning our crisis line to find out if she could come to Canada and have the pregnancy terminated. She explained that her parents were deeply religious and would not allow her to end the pregnancy. So she was calling any place that she thought could help her. She was feeling desperate, anxious, panicky and was suicidal.
I had to explain to this young woman that it was not possible for her to come to Canada to have an abortion. I will never forget that two-hour phone call.
Of course all these memories returned to me when I saw that the film Unplanned was being shown in Vernon. As you can imagine, I feel strongly about this issue due to the crisis work I have been involved in most of my working life. I am a strong advocate for women and am proud to be feminist. It is my honour to have been privy to the other side of this most difficult decision by hearing the traumatic stories that women in crisis have shared with me over the years. There are many reasons a woman would seek an abortion, with the least of them being birth control.
However, having said that, I do not believe in censorship. My concern lies in the fact that the information must be accurate and even more so at this time in our world. Important information must be looked at critically to make sure it is being presented with integrity, particularly when it involves emotions and difficult decisions. If a film is being presented in a documentary style, then it must adhere to those high standards, and be vetted accordingly. Unplanned is presented as though it is factual documentary film. This type of presentation must be vetted thoroughly to ensure ethical and correct information.
Regardless of the manner in which a woman has become pregnant, there must be a choice for her to seek out medical assistance to keep or end the pregnancy. It not only impacts her physical body, but also her mental health as well.
It really can be a most difficult decision. A new acquaintance of mine recently said, “The truly neutral stance is pro-choice, where each one of us can make our own decisions. Being pro-choice makes no personal statements regarding our own ethical or moral choices. Pro-choice believers will be the first to defend your right to practice your religion and faith.”
That young teenager I spoke with in 1979 would now be 54 years old. I gave her a piece of my heart that day. I often wonder what her life has been like.
Carole Fawcett is a freelance writer, editor, humourist www.wordaffair.com