My Body, My Choice

| by Teal Cracraft |

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Hi everyone, my name is Teal Cracraft and I’m the other half of SpeakYourStory, an online community where women are seen and heard and made to feel less alone. Because we believe the experiences that isolate us, can actually unite us in the most powerful ways. I’m here to tell my  story – one I kept hidden for a long time because I didn’t feel safe sharing it.

As I prepared for today, my mind circled around the concept of safety. This concept uniquely affects women because we navigate the world constantly thinking about STAYING safe, BEING SAFE, FEELING safe. Just this weekend, I was walking in my own neighborhood, when a strange man drove by, slowed his car and stared me down. I immediately changed course and went out of my way to avoid crossing paths with him again. I KNOW that I’m not alone, I know that every single one of YOU has experienced FEAR because a MAN has caused all of YOUR mental safety alarms to go off. I know there are SO MANY of us that are tired of feeling unsafe in our personal space.

When I think about feeling SAFE, I think about my 3 year old daughter and the legacy I want to leave her. I want her to feel safe in her BODY, in her ENVIRONMENT and as a citizen of the WORLD. If you’ve PAID attention during this CAMPAIGN, and I’m sure YOU have, you know that Donald Trump has made women feel anything but SAFE. We’ve heard him openly advocate assault and violence against women. We’ve heard him proclaim that Roe v Wade should be overturned, and that women should be PUNISHED for having abortions. We’ve heard him compare compassionate, medically necessary LATE TERM abortions to ‘WOMEN RIPPING BABIES OUT OF THE WOMB.’ We’ve collectively CRIED OUT  in disgust, hurt and anger as he threatened our fundamental right to safely and legally control our bodies. Because what woman could possibly feel safe in a body that is legislated by policies that destroy our autonomy and assume that we couldn’t possibly know what is RIGHT for our bodies?

So here is my story – the secret I kept for ELEVEN years; I HAD AN ABORTION. Just like one in three women WILL HAVE during her lifetime. I don’t regret it and I REFUSE to live in a world where my daughter isn’t afforded the same choice as me. I’m NOT what pro-life activists want people to believe about women that have abortions. I’m not a monster and I didn’t use abortion as a form of birth control. I had an abortion because I wasn’t ready to be a mother and it was the RIGHT decision for me.

But, I’d also like to be VERY clear that having an abortion profoundly impacted me as a person. From the minute I found out I was pregnant to the minute I walked into the abortion clinic, I was an emotional wreck. I cried tears of shame, hopelessness and failure. I cried because I was raised in a conservative, pro-life family and because I thought I would never be able to share this experience, this PAIN with them. In order to process my grief, I wrote a letter to the SOUL I would never meet and asked forgiveness. I’ve carried THIS letter with me for eleven years because, SOMEDAY, I will share it with my daughter. The daughter I CHOSE to have AFTER I was happily married, gainfully employed and had health insurance to cover the cost of bringing a baby into this world. I’m sharing this letter with you because I passionately believe that we need to personalize abortion. We need to overcome the SHAME and STIGMA of abortion in order to FIGHT BACK against legislation that could result in a future where my daughter is NOT given a choice.A future where NO WOMAN would feel safe because her body was not her own. A future that women have LONG fought against; a future where a woman’s worth lies in her WOMB.

I wrote this letter when i was 25 years old. I wrote it because my Catholic upbringing taught me that abortion was a SIN, but my spirit taught me that LIFE is FILLED WITH grace and forgiveness: THIS is an excerpt from the letter I wrote 11 years ago:

“I am writing this letter to apologize for what I am about to do and ask for your forgiveness. I feel like I owe you an explanation and I want you to know that I love you and I want you, but I am not prepared to give you the life that I think, KNOW, that you deserve. I am sorry that I’m not physically, mentally, emotionally or financially prepared to have you in my life yet. If I had you now, we would struggle and I would not be able to provide for you the way I want to. If you come back in a few years, I promise I will be ready to be the mother you deserve. I just want you to know that I am honored that you picked me and I hope that you will want to come back to me when I am ready. Please accept my apology and grant me forgiveness. I am doing this because, right now, I think it’s the best thing to do. I am sorry and I love you.”

I share this with you because after I “came out” with my abortion, women from all over the country shared their own experiences and fears with me. I found that we all shared a common fear perpetuated by the social narrative that a woman who’s had an abortion is damaged, cursed, LESS THAN. I, and so many women I’ve met, feared that ending a pregnancy at the wrong time would prevent a pregnancy at the right time. But, the reality is that when I had my daughter it was the most beautiful pregnancy and birth that I could have imagined. This decision did not curse me, it gave me the freedom to create my family when I was ready, in the safest place and with the safest person.

I’m here with you today to RAISE OUR VOICES against anyone who would legislate away our freedom, our personal autonomy, our SAFETY. I’m here to say NO MORE. I’m here to say that my body IS MY OWN and I will not stop fighting until I’m SURE that my daughter will have a choice. That she will be safe and free to make one of the most intimate, personal and EMOTIONAL decisions a woman will make in her lifetime. Because it IS a choice, it MUST always be a choice.

And, in closing, I would like to echo Katie in saying, “Donald Trump, Mike Pence and the REST OF THE GD GOP, PLEASE get your hands the HELL off me.”

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