Ami Helmer: I was trained my entire life to end Roe (Column)

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Friday, June 24 was supposed to be the beginning of a long weekend I had finally carved out from multiple jobs. I woke to sun streaming in the window — a peaceful start to a promising day. I had just taken a contented breath and rolled over to check my phone for a message when I found my notifications drowning in them instead.

Action was being planned. Statements needed to be released. Resources needed to be shared. The context soon became all too evident: Roe had finally fallen.

As I began to mobilize, I skimmed my social platforms. The biggest feeling seemed to be that of deep and endless shock.

“God, they did it. Somehow they did it.” “How is this possible?” “How could this have happened?”

But I knew how.

I was trained my entire life to end Roe.

In one of my early memories, I am roughly 6 years old. One of my parents has announced that we are going to an after-church function and I am thrilled. Raised in a fundamentalist bubble, we barely socialized, so anything caused my childhood excitement to swell.

We park at a busy street where my parent spreads out a picnic blanket for me. Someone passes them a sign and I look over to see a whole row of people holding them amid the sound of car horns. I don’t grasp the gravity of what is on the signs until years later, but now I realize they read things like “Save The Children,” “Abortion Hurts Women,” “Men Regret Abortion.”

Later, I help my parent hold up their big sign and they are proud. All of the adults are so proud. They exchange words of comfort to each other. “These children will be the generation to turn the tides.”

It’s May 31, 2009. My family is running late to church, but when we arrive, the whole sanctuary is abuzz.

“Did you hear?” Everyone is checking in with their neighbor. People are praising God. I ask what is happening and my parent explains, “Dr. Tiller, a baby murdering doctor, was killed earlier this morning.”

I remember feeling confused. I remember wondering why we, God’s righteous people, were celebrating this doctor’s demise. The answer given was short and inadequate to me: “We don’t support murder … but this man needed to die.”

Two years later, this scene would be replicated when it was announced that Osama bin Laden had been killed: two men of equal evil in my community’s eyes.

Through my teen years I was taught how to start arguments with pro-choicers. My peers sported swag that read “Would it bother us more if they used guns?” Young men were taught how to influence the Legislature. Young women were taught to represent “real women” and speak against abortion. Teens were registered to vote as soon as legally possible. Conferences initiated us in what they called “the fight for their lives.”

I remember a girl once commenting to me that you could always tell who the fundamentalists in a group were, because when gory fetuses were brought up the fundie kids didn’t even blink anymore.

In 2016, after I had gotten out, I remember asking my family members how they could support a politician like Donald Trump who was the opposite of every value I had been taught. The answer I was given was this: “We don’t like him, but he will appoint the next Supreme Court justices. This could overturn Roe.”

Oh, my friends. I wish I could share your shock, but I do share your grief.

How could this happen? The white supremacist “Moral Majority” indoctrinated my peers and I for decades to make it so, and its undoing will require a multitude of people following the lead of Black people, Indigenous people and people of color to change the tide — including the immediate “no” vote on Tuesday, Aug. 2.

— Ami Helmer (they/her), Lawrence, is an administrator and social media coordinator who believes that community is built through stories. When they aren’t organizing or writing, you can find them laying down spoken word poetry at the nearest park.

Cast your ballot in the Aug. 2 election

All registered Kansas voters may vote in the Aug. 2 primary. That includes unaffiliated and Libertarian voters. To see what’s on the ballot, visit this link. For information about voting early in person, visit this link. Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Election Day, Tuesday, Aug. 2.

* We are not election workers *

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