I needed a plan. I was a teenager with bunny boots and a soon to be big belly, and I needed some help figuring out what to do. Too ashamed to talk to my parents, too young to know what I really wanted in life, and too dumb to ask for help, I went to Planned Parenthood seeking an abortion. It seemed like the only way to make my problem go away.
The only thing I knew about Planned Parenthood was that it was a place I could go to get an abortion. I made the long drive to Anchorage with a friend, who was just as young and dumb as I. I walked into the clinic and told them what I wanted. They had me talk to a counselor who, in one visit, helped me to see that an abortion was not really what I wanted or needed. She helped to put me on the path to becoming a parent. She helped me make a plan.
After that first visit to Planned Parenthood, I became better acquainted with their services. I went back over the years to receive health care and birth control, which I wouldn't have been able to afford otherwise. I received compassionate, professional, empowering support, which helped me to become an informed young woman, and eventually a good parent. They added to my life, and took nothing away.
In the pro-life/pro-choice debate, I would say I'm both. Or maybe neither. I would say that it is like being stuck between two hard choices, and I always believe there is a third, better way. We just haven't evolved there yet. I have talked with many women who have grieved over and regretted their choice to have an abortion. And I have talked to women who felt firm in their decision, but experienced major shaming by others. As if shaming someone will help anything. It's not an easy place to be and, unless a person has been there, I don't think they really know.
What I do know is that an organization called Planned Parenthood took the shame and blame out of the equation, and offered the support I needed. They, in a sense, talked me out of having an abortion. It was clear to the gifted counselor there, that it was not what I really wanted. She asked all the right questions, dropping them like bread crumbs that I followed, hungry to find my own way. And I found it. Thanks to her I have a son about to graduate. I love seeing who he has become. And I love that I had the choice.
Maybe someday we will have a society that supports life. All life. Until then, we do the best we can with what we've got. I'm thankful for organizations that go against the grain and treat women like real human beings, not baby-making machines. That is where real change takes place. I don't waste my time trying to decide who is wrong or right, between pro-choice and pro-life. I spend my time thinking of how to support girls in knowing their own bodies and minds, so they can find that third way. The way to choosing life.
Chantelle Pence is a consultant (Copper River Consulting) and a writer. She lives in Chistochina with her husband and three sons.
By CHANTELLE PENCE