Guest Commentary

Ervin shares his testimony against Senate Bill 1

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I went to the Indiana State House Tuesday hoping to provide testimony to our senators regarding Senate Bill 1, a bill that proposes to make abortion illegal, except in the event of rape, incest, or when the mother’s life will be “substantially and permanently impaired.” Many people gave their testimony, but due to time constraints, mine wasn’t included, so I give it here:

Dear Senators, I am here today to ask you to keep abortion legal. I hope you hear me out, because for a long time I believed differently — I thought it should be illegal. When I was in high school, I even got permission from the principal of my public school to organize a petition to ask our government to make it illegal. I thought that it was a terrible thing in God’s eyes, and I thought it was right and justified to abolish such a terrible thing.

It took years for me to learn that it’s a lot more complicated than that. Eventually, I realized that I was trying to enforce my religious beliefs on others, and in the process, I would be denying women the abilities and benefits that I experience as a man.

Day after day in this country, men turn their backs on pregnancies they helped to cause. They don’t even have to know that it happened. They can deny it. A woman who incurs an accidental pregnancy rarely gets justice from the man who did it, and it’s a difficult fight that many of them don’t want to pursue. To put it another way, a man can abort a baby he conceived just by pretending it’s not his or that it never happened.

When a man gets a women pregnant, he can make the choice to stay in school, go to college, or pursue his career. He is not forced to put life on hold for 18 years, or even nine months, because despite what our laws may say, he is not forced to be a father. So, I realized a woman should not ever be forced to be a mother either.

Pregnancy also treats men and women unequally, because being pregnant is one of the most dangerous times in a woman’s life. Indiana of all places should know that. Compared to other states, Hoosier mothers face a high mortality rate. I know this personally. If my wife gets pregnant again, it may be her life that is sacrificed because of a law like SB1. She nearly died a few days after the birth of our third child due to post-partum cardiomyopathy. A few days after birth, she laid in bed at home, lethargic, until she finally asked me to take her pulse — only 26 beats per minute. After rushing to the hospital, I listened to her gurgling as liquid filled her lungs in the emergency room. The doctors saved her life that day, but we were told it would happen again if she got pregnant again. And it would almost definitely be worse. Another example: a good friend of ours endured a torn placenta after birth and nearly bled to death. These are things that a woman may face because of pregnancy, but a man does not have to worry about such concerns.

So, I realized that it was wrong of me to force a woman to potentially give up her education, her profession, her wealth, her time, her wellbeing, her health, and possibly her life, because these are things that men will never be forced to do because of pregnancy. Forced pregnancies would treat men and women unequally under the law. Even if I could force a man to pay alimony, that’s no substitute for everything else that I’d be forcing a woman to sacrifice. It should be her choice to take these risks upon herself and nobody else’s. A law like SB1 would be nothing short of sexual discrimination.

In thinking this over, I also realized what the meaning and purpose of laws are all about. We don’t make laws to tell people right and wrong or what to believe. Laws are to ensure that society is functioning properly, and that we can cohabitate peacefully. Laws are made to help people and to protect us from inadvertent or purposeful harm or consequences that we may inflict on each other. In realizing this, I had to face the fact that abortion doesn’t pass this test. It is an entirely personal decision that has no effect on anyone else.

But lastly, I had to admit to myself the real reasons why I wanted abortion to be illegal, and they were, in fact, religiously based. I claimed that it was a baby at conception. But now I realized that it’s not a baby, it’s a developing fetus. After having raised three kids of my own, I know that a four month old fetus is nothing at all like a baby.

I used to claim that it was murder, but who is being murdered? The baby has no name, no social security number. It’s not a legally recognized human being. How do you give a fetus an ID when you don’t know even know what it looks like. So, how can a woman who is voluntarily aborting a fetus that entirely depends upon her body be committing murder, especially when the concept of “personhood” is so subjective?

I used to claim that it can feel pain. But then I realized, I don’t even recall my own circumcision. I don’t recall pulling the clothes iron on my head that gave me the scar on my forehead when I was one. I don’t remember having chicken pox when I was two. I frankly don’t remember the first three years of my life? So how could I, in good conscience, claim that a fetus feels pain in any way similar to the conscious, self-aware pain that a woman would have to endure by suffering from an unwanted pregnancy… or the pain and misery that an unwanted child may feel growing up.

All of those things that I used to believe are valid beliefs. But they are only beliefs, and like many of you, my beliefs stemmed from my religious faith. So at the end of my long internal debate, that’s what I really had to admit to myself. I wanted abortion to be illegal because of my religion. And what made that realization worse was that it wasn’t anything in the bible or the scriptures that gave me such instructions. Abortion isn’t discussed in the bible. The point in time when the soul takes residence in the body – if that’s what you believe – is not in the bible. It was the other Christians around me who were telling me that abortion was wrong and should be illegal.

So, with that realization, I understood that I was asking you, our government representatives, to discriminate against people who didn’t believe the same things I did. And that was wrong of me.

The belief that life begins at conception, that God sends a soul down to Earth to inhabit a baby at the first spark that is created in the Mother’s womb, that’s a beautiful idea that shows reverence for life. But it is still a belief. It is a religious belief. And in order to preserve the rights of people to maintain such beliefs or others, that is the very reason why abortion must remain legal. I am asking you not to violate the inalienable rights of people to believe as they will. While some people may see abortion as an abomination in the eyes of God, it is an ugliness that must be left alone by the law in order to preserve the American fundamental belief that freedom of religion is of the highest importance in society.

I ask you to vote “no” to SB1, because religious and sexual discrimination is not who Indiana is.

I didn’t get to give this testimony or ask our senators in person, eye to eye, to avoid legalizing such discrimination. So instead I walked around the massive pro-life crowd and had discussions. I approached people with signs or emblems that indicated their religious beliefs, as well as their support for SB1. While we had meaningful and respectful conversations, it was clear that, despite their statements to the contrary, my religious beliefs were of no concern, and the sexual discrimination inherent in an abortion ban was alright with them. I get it. I used to feel the same way. But I was wrong, and I shouldn’t have put my beliefs above others, at least not through legislation. I only hope that our state senators will feel the same way.

 

Brock Ervin is a Crawfordsville resident.

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