EPISODE 6: MELISSA
Transcribed by Marisa Kennedy
SAMIA VO: This is Make America Relate Again. I’m Samia Mounts.
Thanks for coming back for Episode 6 after listening to me rant for an hour on last week’s show. You guys is the best! I heard from Alley after she listened to her episode, and her response was, “Yes, you did talk a lot…but I should’ve talked more!” Well, I love it when she talks, so next time we visit her, you’re gonna hear a lot more from her, I promise! Even if I have to edit half of what I say out, I’m gonna bring you more Alley!
Also, I’m celebrating this week, because the show now officially has over 25,000 downloads! Thank you! I’ve heard from several of you, via the website Contact form and your iTunes reviews, and I just want to say a giant thank you to all of you who’ve kept supporting the show. Keep telling your friends, leave a review on Apple Podcasts or on iTunes if you haven’t already, and definitely get in touch with me if you have comments, questions, or feedback. You can reach me at email@example.com.
Okay, let’s talk about this week’s episode, Episode 6, which is a total change of tone from anything we’ve heard so far. This week, you’ll hear my conversation with a woman we’ll call Melissa. She grew up and still lives in Northern California, and I interviewed her in a conference room at her place of work in San Jose, on March 1, 2017.
Melissa asked to remain anonymous, because she talks about some pretty deep, personal stuff right from the top of the interview. She was so stunningly brave in how vulnerable she made herself, and she showed up with a stack of printed documents to support the points she made. Most of them are linked to in the Show Notes for this episode.
Even though I disagree with many of the things she believes, I have to tell you how much I like Melissa. Just like Ashley Rollo of Episodes 3 and 4, she’s my age, she’s smart and passionate, and she’s someone I could easily be real friends with. We’ve kept in touch and continued an exchange of ideas since we met to record this interview.
Our conversation focuses primarily on abortion, and it gets pretty heavy, and also pretty graphic, as far as what a surgical abortion actually entails. So there’s your trigger warning.
As a strong feminist and women’s rights advocate, this is a big issue for me, and I strongly encourage all of you to check out the Show Notes for this episode to get the real story on everything we discuss. It’s available on this episode’s page at www.makeamericarelatepodcast.com. Seriously - if you’ve never checked out the Notes for any of the other episodes, this is the one for you to go read from top to bottom. There are too many myths about abortion out there that need to be busted, and the Show Notes for this episode attempt to bust them all. Please check them out.
Alright, let’s get to the interview.
S: Okay. Melissa, thank you so much for agreeing to talk to me today, I’m so excited to get to finally meet you. We’ve spoken on the phone a little bit, but why don’t you just tell the listeners a little background on who you are, where you grew up, how old you are, what your current situation is like.
M: Well, my name is Melissa. I was born and raised in the Bay Area, San Jose, California my whole life. I’ve lived in other places, as Boston, and have been to every summer in Paris. I’m currently married with two little ones. One is eleven months old and the other one is two years old.
S: That’s awesome, congratulations.
M: Thank you.
S: And I’ve seen the pictures of your family on Facebook and they’re really beautiful-
M: [laughs] Thanks.
S: -and you all look really happy. So what were the sort of circumstances and conditions and issues that most affected you and your decision to vote for Donald Trump in the last election?
M: There were actually many issues, but the number one is abortion. That was a number one trigger for me to really vote for him.
S: So I’m very excited to talk to you more about this, because from the information I’ve gotten from you so far, which isn’t much, but it’s, like, enough to compel me to ask a million questions. It sounds like you have a really interesting, unique story surrounding this one particular issue and I’d like to talk about it because it hasn’t come up in any of my conversations with any of the women I’ve spoken to so far. Actually, two of them were very adamant about telling me that they were pro-choice. So abortion hasn’t been an issue that’s come up at all. So I wanna hear your story. So if you don’t mind, if you feel comfortable telling me about why this is such a big issue for you. I mean, it makes sense, you’re a mother, you’re a young mother, but what led you to have such a passionate feeling about this one particular issue?
M: So when I was younger, I got pregnant and my mother, she said that I need to have an abortion, right away. And at the time, we didn’t have the internet, we didn’t have knowledge, we didn’t have anything that pertained to what that meant exactly, besides having the option to not have the baby. So, you know, a person who wants to do what your parents want you to do, you know, so I kind of followed my mother’s advice. I went forward with the procedure and got it done. But days going towards that decision, I was crying uncontrollably in my bed every night before that. [Melissa begins crying]. It was horrible. But, you know, I wanted to do what my mother told me to do and get the abortion done, so that point on I have struggled with nightmares about the abortion, because—
S: How old were you?
M: I was 18.
M: And you know, like I said, I’m 33, so at the time, the internet was not easily access at the time. So, it’s not like I can go and research what that meant, of having an abortion. Um, sorry—
S: No, no, please don’t apologize. [leaning away from microphone to hand tissues to Melissa]
S: It’s obviously a very emotional subject for you and you’re very brave to talk about it.
M: It’s super emotional because I wish that I had known what that meant. Like, I wish that someone would give me information on that. Like, okay well, this is what an abortion is, this is the procedure that takes place of the abortion, but I didn’t have that information. You know, I thought I was doing the right thing. You know, in my mind, I’m like, I’m not ready to have a child, I don’t have a job. I was living at home, obviously, I was 18, I was still in high school. Like, all of these different things, I—you know, I’m thinking, well, this is the right thing, ‘cause my mom said, “Well, you can’t go to college, you can’t do this, you can’t do that,” and I’m thinking, oh jeez, I wanna have a life for myself. So I was thinking in those terms, which I think most people think in those terms. So I did that. I did the whole procedure, the whole doctors thing, you know, the whole thing, and definitely one thing that I’ve learned is that the earliest you can have an abortion is at six weeks. And now that I’ve done my research on what that means, I’ve noticed that a child has brain function, has their limbs intact, has their eyes, they can see, and they can feel everything that happens inside of your stomach [she begins to cry again] and they can feel the doctor poking that needle, and they actually move away from the needle. Like, I can’t believe it. Like, I wish I would have known that, but they don’t tell you this stuff at all. Like, you have no idea what goes on. All they pretty much tell you — and I did this through Planned Parenthood — all they tell you is, “Great we’re gonna go forward with this. This is the anesthesia options that you have.” They actually do check the heartbeat, which—I mean, they don’t let you listen. I’m a hundred percent sure if I heard that heartbeat, I would’ve not gotten the abortion, because I didn’t know what that meant. I thought, you know, it’s a clump of cells, like, it shouldn’t mean anything, right? But, oh man, it was devastating afterwards, and like, the room that I waited in with other women who were going towards that—the same procedure, I mean, that’s all that there was in the room was just other women. It was packed, it was a packed room. And I remember going into this other room, ‘cause they’re getting you ready, they’re giving you medicine to, like, kinda numb you up. And I remember I was sitting in this room with this other patient, and she was telling me how, like, all the anxieties that she was having, knowing that she had to go through this procedure as well. And she said she was crying during the days right before the procedure as well. I—you know, we kinda bonded in that sense, and then we just went through it, and then just the nightmare that happened after the abortion. Knowing, like, what I did. Like, how could I have done this to my unborn fetus? But, you know, like I said, I wasn’t educated. I didn’t know what I was doing when I decided on this decision. You know, as an 18-year-old, you kinda just hope that your parents agree with what—you know, they kind of help you decide things, I think, ‘cause I didn’t have any facts on it. I didn’t know what my rights were, you know, and I knew that I had the right to go towards an abortion, but at the time, I was naïve, I didn’t look up what that meant, and I just wanted to make my mother proud. And now, I mean, I really regret it. And I have mentioned this on Facebook, not about the procedure and that I went through it personally, but I have talked about it with other people going against it, and I remember my sister asked me secretly, like, “How can you be such a hypocrite? You actually had an abortion and now you’re telling people not to have one?” And I told her, I go, “Look Summer, I didn’t know what I was doing. I didn’t have the facts like I do now. You know?” And she said, “Well, you wouldn’t have the people in your life you would have today without that abortion.” And I said, “I would take it back.” I mean, I love the people that are in my life, and I think if they were meant to be in my life, they’d be in my life, anyway, but I would also have saved that other life. I would have had a child today who’s what, 13 years old? And I look at one of my friends who decided not to go forward with the abortion, and I see the child that she had. We would have been pregnant at the same time, and she doesn’t regret it at all. Like, her son is amazing.
S: You know, that’s an interesting point, and it was something that I thought of asking you, too. You know, as a mother of two little ones now, if you had had that baby when you were eighteen it’s highly likely that your life would be completely different. You might not have the husband that you have, you almost certainly wouldn’t have the kids that you have now.
S: And I wanted to ask you, like, would you trade all of that—your family—to go back in time and have that baby?
M: I mean, now, dealing with the consequences of my action, at the time, if I would have had the baby, I wouldn’t know what my life is today.
S: Right, of course, but if you—like, say we were in a magic realm [Melissa laughs] where you could make these decisions to go back in time and change something. I mean, it’s hard for me to believe that anybody would trade in the kids that they have, the husband that they have—
S: —to go back and make a different decision in the past. It’s kinda the caveat when you think about, “Oh, I regret this decision. I wish I’d made another one.” But when things kind of work out and you have wonderful people and circumstances in the—you know, long after that decision, like, would you really go back and change it knowing that a different decision could completely erase what you have now? Would you trade your kids now for that kid that you gave up when you were 18?
M: Knowing what I know now, if I knew then, I would’ve a hundred percent not even think twice about the decision and went forward with the consequences, having sexual relations out of marriage. I wouldn’t be dealing with my mental consequences that I’m dealing with now. With the depression and anxiety that I have now.
S: Was that the only abortion that you had?
M: I’ve had more than one.
S: Tell me about the other times you’ve made that decision, and what led to it. How old were you, why did you go ahead and make the decision again when you’d already, you know, the first time had such a hard time dealing with the emotional consequences?
M: At the time, I was thinking, well, this is what I’m supposed to do. I’m supposed to have an abortion if I have sex and I accidentally get pregnant.
S: Were they pretty close together or was it more spread out? How old were you?
M: I’m trying to remember. Like, I think I tried to block it out of my memory as much as I can, but I can’t quite remember. I remember who I was with, but I can’t remember, like, how far apart they were. I’m guessing maybe, like, two or three years, I’m not really quite—I don’t remember.
S: So, like, early twenties?
M: Yeah, definitely early twenties, for sure.
S: And there—so how many total?
M: There was three.
S: Three. And was it all from, like, say 18 to 25?
M: Yeah, something like that.
S: When you were much younger.
S: And not ready to have a kid.
S: Did you experience similar emotional devastation?
M: Every time.
S: Every time.
M: But I didn’t know any of the research. I didn’t know about any of it. I was just thinking that’s what I’m supposed to do.
M: I’m supposed to have an abortion, because that’s what my mother told me.
S: And you weren’t really given the information or materials to really make it a choice for yourself.
M: No. Right.
M: You know, I was thinking, well, I wasn’t taking contraceptives, so I—abortion’s available, why not just utilize it?
S: Why weren’t you taking advantage of contraceptives?
M: Because I was lazy.
M: I was believing the lie that if they just come out and do it somewhere else, then I’m not gonna get pregnant.
S: Ah. That’s worked for a lot of my friends. [Melissa laughs] I mean, I don’t think you stand alone. [Melissa laughs] I have a friend who was in a relationship for years where she was never on birth control and they used the pull-out method and she never got pregnant. So some people are fertile—more fertile than others.
M: Yeah, exactly.
S: Well, you know, obviously, your body was—your body was, like, “I need to make a baby.” [Melissa laughs] You know, this is an interesting take. As I’ve told you and as I’m sure you would’ve assumed, I’m very much pro-choice. I have the facts and the research on what abortion entails. I’m gonna have to check what you said earlier about that you can’t get an abortion before six weeks, because I’m pretty sure you can. I’m pretty sure there’s a lot of ways to do it right from the moment of knowing you’re pregnant. From the Plan B pill to—
M: Well, I mean, surgically.
S: The surgical procedure, dilation and evacuation, or D and E for short, is used pretty much only in the second trimester, in later abortions. Something like 90% of abortions happen in the first trimester, where you don’t have this sort of gruesome, surgical cutting apart of the fetal tissue and then sucking it out. That’s, like, a scary thing to think about. That method, though, only accounts for about ten or eleven percent of the abortions that are actually done. And most of the time, from what I’ve been reading, the reason that abortions are done so late in the pregnancy, most of the time, is because the women have lived in states that make it harder for them to get an abortion, so there are delays that cause them to get further into the pregnancy than they would’ve liked to be.
S: And that’s legislation, and that’s the work of pro-life groups, or anti-abortion groups, whichever term you’d like to use. You know, there’s a lot of—there’s a lot of sort of sensationalized talk about how gruesome abortion procedures are and how they’re murderous. But if you actually look into the numbers—if contraception was more readily available, if sex education was more readily available, and if women were able to get access to a legal, safe abortion earlier in the pregnancy without these delays, without this legislation saying that they have to, like, see an ultrasound, or they have to see doctors twice before they can get it, or women who live in places where they have to travel far away to get it, or pay more money to get it. If you took all these road blocks out of the way, especially for women who struggle economically and for, you know, younger women, you might be able to get it to a point where the numbers of surgical abortions were so low as to be insignificant. How do you feel about all that? I mean, obviously, you wish that you could go back in time and have more information on the procedure to make a more educated decision, but do you feel like the road blocks that are put in place by ideological anti-abortion groups are doing women any favors, knowing that they kind of create a situation where more late-term abortions end up happening for the women who really, really wanna get it done?
M: So here’s the next question. Did these women know before having sex that they absolutely were gonna have an abortion if they got pregnant?
S: Well, I can’t speak for all women. I personally have never been pregnant, and I probably should have been, ‘cause I’ve definitely been irresponsible, especially when I was younger. I’ve had my share of unprotected sex. The difference is I got on birth control when I was, like, sixteen or seventeen, ‘cause I was like, “I don’t ever want to get pregnant.” I knew that then. I still feel that way now at 33. I don’t want to have children, ever. Not even just like in the short term. I don’t want them. So I got on birth control very early, before I was even sexually active because I knew that that could help in preventing a pregnancy. So I’ve never been pregnant. That being said, you can still get pregnant when you’re on birth control, so I’ve also been quite lucky, ‘cause, like I said, I haven’t been the most responsible. Err. But I’ve never had an abortion, but if I got pregnant, I would. So yeah, I can speak for myself and say that I know for a fact that if I got pregnant, I would get an abortion. The second I found out I was pregnant, I would make that appointment, and I would have no qualms about it, because I’m very very solid that I don’t wanna have kids. And not only do I not want to raise kids, I don’t wanna be pregnant. I don’t want a child growing in my body, the whole idea really freaks me out. Some people are scared of blood, some people are scared of heights, I am scared of pregnancy, I don’t want it. Those are my personal choices. So I would be really upset if I was seeking an abortion, and people were making it hard for me to get one. I would be really, really upset if they made it so hard for me to get one that then I passed the twelve-week mark and had to have a surgical procedure done, because I don’t like the idea of that any more than you do. It is awful. It is awful to think about what if that fetus can feel something, and we don’t scientifically know for sure that they can, but it’s easy to imagine, right?
M: Actually, there is scientific proof.
S: There is?
M: Yes, that they can feel it, because of the nerve stems from the brain. ‘Cause nerves, I mean, they go through your arms and legs, so they can feel.
S: So I’ll cite that source in the show notes, I’ll get that from you. I haven’t seen that evidence. I’ve just seen a lot of people saying, like, “It’s hard to say. We can’t really know for sure.” But I wouldn’t wanna go through that. I would want to, ideally, take the Plan B pill, but I know I would go through with that and I wouldn’t regret it. That’s me. I don’t think anybody on the pro-choice side is like, “I love abortions and I’m for them.” You know? [laughs] Like, nobody’s saying that, nobody, like, wants to kill unborn babies.
M: So that said, if abortion—let’s say—so you’re saying that abortion in some places are illegal in the first, second trimester.
S: In a lot of states, there are restrictions—
M: Okay, restrictions.
S: —there’s time limits, and there’s also legislation that requires the women to basically jump through hoops to try to get the abortion done, and puts them through something that it sounds like you would’ve really appreciated when you got your abortion. Puts them through some education on what they’re doing. To a lot of pro-choice people, though, that kind of—[sighs]—those restrictions, those requirements seem a little bit heartless to the woman, to her feelings. ‘Cause a lot of women who’ve decided that they want to make this move for themselves, that they wanna control their fertility and control their reproductive processes in this way, need support on the other side. Support to help them get through the situation with as little trauma as possible. And when a woman is set on getting an abortion and then you make her listen to the heartbeat, or make her look at the ultrasound, it’s like, “Why are you torturing me like this, it’s already a hard decision. Let me go through with it.” So that’s how a lot of women on that—on the pro-choice side feel. Like, why would you needlessly torture this woman emotionally who’s already going through a hard time, because she’s had to make a hard decision? I can see your side of it, too, but the conversation about, you know, abortion is should women have that choice? Are you willing, as a person who’s had three and now has two beautiful kids and you’re financially stable and you’ve got a great job and a great marriage—you know, your story is going well, in spite of the choices you made when you were younger. Are you prepared to look at other women and say, “I don’t think you should legally be allowed to make the same choice that I made”?
M: Let me first of all say I do not judge anyone that has already gone through an abortion, who has decided to make this really hard choice in their life. I mean, once you get pregnant, no matter what, there’s trauma involved, whether you decide to go through the abortion or not. But I’d like to say, once you have that child and you see that life in your hands, knowing that you made that life, that this person could make a difference in someone else’s world, in our world. Man, I’ve never felt the love—I’ve never felt this love before. It’s like, now I know what my parents felt when they had me, and let me tell you, I was on that chopping block. I was supposed to be aborted. My mother hated me and resented me, knowing that she was pregnant with me. But my father said, “No. I want that child.” And they were both 18 and 21 at the time. But once I was born, that changed everybody’s view. And let me tell you, my mother at the time, like I said, she was 18, never wanted kids. She hated kids. She actually hated kids, but her views and things and our life today was changed once I was born. I was actually raised by my grandparents. My mother left to go to college. I know some people don’t have this, some of these resources, but my grandmother was suffering with certain diseases. When I was born and she had the chance to raise me, she snapped out of it. She became this thriving woman. My mom ended up doing what she wanted to do in life. She ended up getting her degree and going off and doing what she wanted to do. But because I was born, I made a difference in someone else’s life, and they ended up thriving in their own life because of me. So, for a woman, knowing that she’s gonna have sex, there are risks. One of that risk is potentially creating life. I feel that that life has a purpose. I mean, what if that person saves people from cancer? What if they were supposed to be here for those purposes, and then as a woman, you’re saying, “Well, I don’t wanna take care of it. I don’t wanna deal with this. I don’t want to become pregnant. I don’t want the burden of this life that I have to raise.” But because of your, I’m sorry to say, but because of the selfishness, because I honestly can say I was severely selfish with my decision, thinking that I was doing the right thing, but what if that person was supposed to be alive to save someone from a burning house?
S: It’s hard to make that argument though. I mean, when there are needless deaths every day. Like, are we gonna make the same argument for, well, what if that person was supposed to get killed uselessly in that random accident? You know, it’s hard for those arguments to have any real standing. I do understand where you’re coming from. It’s a very—what you said just now about your life made a positive difference in the lives of your family members, that’s beautiful. I’m so glad you’re here. [laughs] And I do have, like, a little bit of a cosmic, spiritual belief in the Universe working in mysterious ways, or God, if you wanna call it God, or whatever you wanna call it. And I do believe that life has meaning. But you can use that argument of “Well what if it was supposed to be this way” about literally anything. So I’d like to go back to my original question which was, you had the right to choose, and I know that you regret your decision, but most women who have-
M: For most people, right. Okay, I had an answer, but then I got sidetracked.
S: That’s okay, it happens. [they laugh] It’s a conversation.
M: So what I was going to say before I got sidetracked was, I feel if women understood that there were all these roadblocks, knowing that they had—okay, this is what I’m gonna do for sure, like, no matter what the consequences, I’m gonna have an abortion. Okay? So I feel if they know that there’s roadblocks, I think that they would take more precaution on making sure that they weren’t gonna get pregnant. And I understand you’re probably gonna say, “Yeah, but accidents happen over contraceptives. Like, they’re not a hundred percent.”
S: It’s true.
M: But at the same time, I think most women would still take more precaution in knowing that there’s more roadblocks than someone that’s saying, like me, who was naïve at the time, thinking, “Oh, I have abortion, screw the contraceptives,” thinking, like, that was their way out no matter what.
S: That’s a—[laughs]—you’re funny. That’s an interesting take on it. I certainly think that more education and easier access to contraceptives is a positive thing. I mean, right now the most recent data we have is showing that abortion is actually at an all-time low. And the best analysis of that data, and I’ll link to this, this is coming from the Guttmacher Institute, which I believe is the research arm of Planned Parenthood. The best analysis of the current data that they have is showing that, from what we know, the most likely cause of the steady decrease in abortion rates has been easier access to better and better forms of birth control, of contraceptives and sex education and more people using condoms. But the birth control for women is really, it seems, the major factor in lowering abortion rates, which I think everybody can agree is a good thing. Let’s stop the pregnancies before they start, so we don’t have to deal with this moral dilemma. We don’t have to deal with all this emotional pain. And I’ve also read that whether you have an abortion or don’t have an abortion, whether you want the baby or don’t want the baby, pregnancy is an emotionally fraught situation, and most women go through some emotional angst, depression, all sorts of feelings that are considered to be negative, in all kinds of pregnancies, whether they’re terminated or not. And then most women typically bounce back. So it’s interesting, because it seems that the resilience of women and the ability of women to adapt to whatever situation that they find themselves in, like your mother, for example, who didn’t want to have a child at 18, but did, and then still got to do what she wanted to do in life. There’s that argument to be made there, and that’s valid. It’s a valid argument. Like, look, it’s gonna work out, just have the baby. But don’t you think it’s a—don’t you think it’s a little bit of an unfair burden placed on women when you’re talking about fertility and pregnancy? You don’t have men going through legislators trying to tell them what they can and can’t do with their bodies. It would be a different thing if there were pro-life people saying, like, “Hey men, stop getting women pregnant. You have to—if you wanna have lots of recreational sex, then you have to do this, you have to take this pill, you have to be under these guidelines, these health procedures. And if she gets pregnant and doesn’t wanna have the baby, you are legally obligated to, you know, pay for half the abortion, go to counseling.” Nobody is trying to make men do that. It’s all on the woman, and that’s where things get really tricky when you’re dealing with suddenly bringing the government and laws into the picture, because it unfairly affects women. And it most unfairly affects poor women and women of color.
M: Okay, here’s one thing I like to add to that-
S: Yeah, I really wanna hear your take on all of this because I—
S: You are a, like, badass, I can tell. [they laugh] No, you’re a total badass. You’ve been through a lot, and you clearly have, like, deep wellsprings of passionate emotion and caring. I was looking at your Facebook. You care about the environment, you care about animals, you care about children. You care. I’m sure you care about other women as much as you care about all of these other things, and I really wanna understand, like, why it’s okay for the government to tell women what they can and can’t do, but men get away scot-free.
M: So I don’t think men get away scot-free. Think about it, they have to pay child support. When that baby comes out, they have to pay child support. Let’s say that a women gets pregnant and she’s like “Ugh, I don’t want it,” but he wants it. So why can’t she have it, so that—I mean, it is his sperm. He fertilized her, pretty much, and thus came a baby, right?. But then, what if she wants the baby, and he’s like, “I want nothing to do with it, get rid of it.” But he still has to pay his child support when she has the baby, but yet he wants nothing to do with it? So I’m for women, but I can see the argument on both sides, and it’s—men don’t really get to choose even though it’s their sperm, right?
S: Well, it’s not their body that’s going through all that trauma and—
M: But it is their baby.
S: Yes, but legally the government is telling them, you know, “You have to support the child,” sure. There’s lots of ways to get out of child support payments, and we hear stories like that all the time, about how if the guy’s not willing, it can be really, really difficult to actually get that money to materialize. And it’s not—
M: I don’t think that’s true.
S: I’ve had a lot of friends go through hell trying to get their child support money and saying, “I haven’t gotten money from him in years and I’m going through legal battles.”
M: You can go to jail for not paying child support.
S: Yeah, absolutely, but at the end of the day, like, you need the money to be coming in. You don’t wanna have to be going through a legal battle, you don’t wanna have to have the guy in jail and then not able to even make any money to send you. There’s a lot of factors in there. It’s not as simple as, you’re gonna go to jail if you don’t give me this money. ‘Cause if a guy doesn’t have the money or doesn’t wanna give the money, he can get away with it. He might go to jail, but you’re still not gonna get the money to support your child. So that’s not a win for the woman you know what I mean?
S: And I guess that’s kind of, like—that’s kind of, like, a central theme in all of this. It’s like, by taking away options and making the potential consequences of an action harsher, you’re not necessarily going to have less people getting pregnant, you might just have more people, you know, cash-strapped and desperate and trying to survive in a situation that they’re not equipped to deal with. To me, it seems like it’s unfair to women. I feel like this is such a personal decision, I don’t think that the government has any business in it. The medical community agrees that abortion is a safe procedure. The earlier you do it, the better. I don’t think that the government should be interfering with the decision that’s personal between a woman and her doctor. That’s my opinion.
S: So like, again, I’m gonna come back to this question. Are you prepared—do you feel so solid in your opinion on this that you’re prepared to look at other women, who might be in completely different circumstances than you, and say, “You shouldn’t have the right to get an abortion if you want one.” Or are you more moderate about it? Do you feel like up to a certain point, abortion should be allowed? How do you feel? You’re shaking your head.
M: I feel a hundred percent there should not be abortion. I’ve looked into research, so here’s some facts. I’ve read the articles that you sent me and I found a ton of research going against those articles. One of them was Romania. Romania at one time, I can look up the name of who was, like, the president at the time, but they abolished abortion. Abortion was a hundred percent illegal. There was no breast cancer. As soon as that person was killed, and they decided to embrace abortion, cancer went up. Like, I have the statistics in here somewhere, but like, a ton. And they were like, where did this come from? So you can actually get breast cancer from abortion due to the hormone elevation and your body not going forward with the procedure it was meant to go forward with.
SAMIA VO: I have to jump in here. This whole story about Romania’s abortion ban bringing their breast cancer rates to zero is wholly unsubstantiated. There is no information anywhere online that confirms this story. Melissa stated this as fact, but the truth is that there is no link between abortion and breast cancer. That’s been proven by multiple credible studies, and the only studies that show a correlation used flawed methods to get to their conclusions. The medical community is in consensus on this. The only people saying there’s a link between abortion and breast cancer are anti-abortion activists, and they have no current, credible science to back it up. None. Check the Show Notes for multiple sources supporting what I’m saying here, as well as some examples of the kinds of groups and media outlets that are pushing this lie.
And as for Romania? Well, first of all, it wasn’t a president who made abortion illegal. It was a communist dictator named Nicolae Ceausescu, and the reason he banned abortions in 1966 was because he dreamed of making Romania this hugely populated, super powerful country by causing the birth rate to explode via an abortion ban. The result was that nine to ten thousand women died from trying to obtain abortions illegally between 1966 and 1989, when Ceausescu’s regime fell. Many other women - countless other women - suffered permanent damage to their reproductive health. Furthermore, by the end of Ceausescu’s regime, Romania’s orphanages were overflowing with children no one wanted.
When Ceausescu’s regime fell and the abortion ban was lifted in 1989, Romania’s maternal death rates returned to the pre-ban levels, after sky-rocketing in that awful twenty-three years. Making abortion a crime doesn’t stop abortions from happening—it just makes them unsafe and results in women dying or being maimed.
It’s also worth noting that abortion rates fall when governments support family planning efforts, like sex education and easy access to contraception. It’s ironic and frightening that in our country, the same people who are adamantly anti-abortion are usually also the people who are against providing sex education in schools and allowing young people easy access to birth control and condoms. If conservatives would change their outlook on that, it would actually cause less abortions to happen in the first place.
Melissa has wonderful intentions—the best intentions. I really believe that she’s coming from a good place. But if she had her way, and abortion was broadly illegal in our country, many, many women would die or suffer grievous injury as a result, and many unwanted children would be abandoned. Her point of view on this breaks my heart. Okay, I’ve said my piece. Let’s get back into it.
S: What about in cases of rape or incest? Do you think there should be any exceptions?
M: So I had this argument with a couple other people, and they made a ton of points on why it’s still not an exception. Because they named several people who have made a world of difference from these people. And I’ve read articles on women who were raped who decided to go forward with having the baby, and they said it was the best thing of their life. I mean, it’s a person, that’s a person inside of you. That is its own separate entity that’s growing in your stomach.
S: But I don’t see it that way.
M: Yeah, but it’s biology. It’s not about what you see. I mean, you could see two plus two equals three, but I see it equals four. I mean, it’s math, right? Two plus two is gonna equal four no matter what. It’s biology.
S: The medical community hasn’t come to a consensus on this, and in general—
M: Wait, what?
S: The medical community hasn’t come to a consensus on whether you can say that a fetus is a separate thing. I mean, this—
M: Actually it does. I have several, like, I can even email them—you the reports. I even looked up, like, atheist websites, like, nothing religious, ‘cause I was trying to get it, like, from a medical standpoint that doesn’t have religious ties to it and I did find stuff. Like, this guy, I’ll have to send you the link to it, but he said, biology says they have DNA. DNA separate from the mother’s, like nothing from the mother’s inside. They have their own blood type sometimes.
S: But—right, right, but the baby, the cells are being built from the mother’s materials.
S: Like that’s part of you. I think this is why people have such an incredible connection with their biological children most of the time. So you don’t think there should ever be an exception made. If a twelve-year old girl is raped by her father, you don’t think she should be able to have an abortion if she becomes pregnant?
M: I don’t think she would even have, would she even have—
S: I think it’s an extreme, I know that’s an extreme situation—
M: But it does happen. I’ve read articles about that, where this ten-year-old girl had stomach cramps, aches. The teacher’s like, “What the heck’s going on?” And took her to the hospital and they found out she was pregnant. So I know it does happen Don’t get me wrong—
S: So should a ten-year-old or a teenager have to go through something like that?
M: Don’t get me wrong, it is disturbing, upsetting. It breaks my heart that people do that. It’s awful.
S: Obviously, yeah, it’s one of the most disgusting crimes I think that anyone can commit. To hurt somebody so young and who doesn’t deserve anything like that. But in my mind, if abuse like that, and I know these are extreme situations, they do not represent the majority of abortions, but I’m just addressing you saying that you don’t think there should be exceptions. I mean, even in an extreme case like that, you don’t think there should be an exception? That that child should be forced to have the baby?
M: I mean, I think, you know, if that person wasn’t supposed to have the child, biologically, I think their body—so if you’re at a certain age and you get pregnant, ‘cause I don’t believe, like, your body and as a child, you’re ready for that, and I’m not talking about mentally. I think your body is not prepared to handle that. And I think, you know, if they weren’t meant to have that child, I think that their body would kind of like have a miscarriage, right? But if in cases it does not happen in that way, I mean, there is adoption, right? That’s an option also.
S: So you’re—so you’re sticking by this. You’re saying like—
M: I’m a hundred percent.
S: —no exceptions. All the babies that are in uterus should be born no matter what.
S: That breaks my heart a little bit. [sighs] It’s very easy to stop women from achieving their potential in life by taking away their ability to control their fertility. Most women who have abortions don’t regret the decision that they made. I have friends who’ve had abortions who now have kids and stand by the decision that they made when they had the abortion and say it was the best thing they could’ve done for themselves at that time, and they wouldn’t have been able to create the life that they’ve created if they’d made another decision.
S: Putting anybody in a position where they are no longer allowed to control their own bodies, to make these major decisions for what their body is gonna do, it’s a trap. It’s one of the reasons women have been held back from being equal in society. I don’t think that there’s any—
M: Being equal? What do you mean?
S: Being equal in society. Being equal breadwinners to being equal in politics, being equal in business.
M: Um,…having fertility, that is our card. Men cannot give birth. We are above that. I mean think about it. We can work, we can go on vacation, we can be the breadwinner—we can do everything a man can do—
M: —and fertility. They will never give birth. That is the one card that makes us above men.
S: Yes, but that also has been used to control us for thousands of years.
M: We can’t allow that.
S: I agree. I think it logically makes sense that the rise of reproductive control, birth control pills, contraceptives, you know, the easy access to these things has coincided with the feminist movement.
M: Do you think that that’s the lie that they give to us women, saying that they can control us because of fertility? Knowing that we’re above them? But they don’t wanna allow us to think that way. They want us to think, “Oh, I have fertility issues. Therefore, I’m below a man, because I have to control it. I have to deal with that as a woman.”
S: It’s—I don’t—I’m not making that argument. What I’m saying is it’s been very easy to keep women occupied with being pregnant and taking care of children rather than going out and contributing to society for most of human existence. The fight for reproductive control, abortion services included, is about saying “no” to that thousands of years of history that has kept women at home. I don’t think anybody can argue that there’s ever been a time in history when women had more freedom and more ability to control their lives and to choose their path than now. I’m trying—I can see where you’re coming from. You’re fighting for the lives of the unborn children, but I’m fighting for the lives of the grown women who wanna be able to say, “No. I choose not to have a baby right now. And it sucks that I got pregnant, but I’m gonna choose to not let this go forward, ‘cause that’s not what I want for my life.” I know life throws you curveballs, and sometimes the thing that you think is terrible is actually the best thing, but this is a personal decision that I think women should be able to make. And I do think that we should do everything we can to limit the number of abortions that happen by making it easier for women to not get pregnant, but I don’t think it’s fair to take the choice away when we have a safe medical procedure that can get it done. And I guess that’s where we’re—you know, where we clash in this conversation. I think it’s really important that women should be able to have the choice to control their bodies, and you think it’s more important to protect the fetus. Is that what it comes down to?
M: So as a woman myself, you know, I do agree that women should take care of themselves and do whatever it takes to have goals, to go towards those goals in life. I do believe that we are above men [Samia laughs] and that’s why men do whatever it takes to make sure that we’re underneath them, because they know that. They play mind games with us to make us think that we’re not better than them, but we have fertility. They can’t make a baby, without us they’re nothing. We’re more than them. We have the cards that no man will ever have in his life. I am a hundred percent for women and we all go through the same things. We all have periods, we all have emotions, we all have hormones that we have to deal with. And at the same time, we all have our own journey. But at the same time, if we decide to have sex knowing our consequences, we know what the risks are. Some people may not. You know, maybe someone, like a teenager in high school, like me, I didn’t know. I mean, yes, I knew that sex made babies, but I didn’t really know what that really meant. I mean, until you go through it, you don’t really know. I mean, we have the facts, but I feel like, with a lot of things, until you go through that experience, you really don’t know, right? But I mean, I think women should take care of their bodies, but I think they should also think twice before they make choices in their life, you know? I think if they know that they’re going to be sexually active that they take the precautions so they don’t have to deal with those consequences.
S: So do you believe there should be better sex education in schools for example?
M: Oh, a hundred percent. I think that they should educate them on what an abortion is, I think they should—
S: Well, what about educating them on safe sex practices and birth control?
M: Oh, definitely.
S: Do you think high school students should be able to get birth control without telling their parents?
M: Um, I mean that depends on the parents, on how they feel, because that’s a hard one.
S: There are a lot of parents who are really religious and don’t believe that birth control is a good thing, and so they’ll make it impossible for their teenage daughter to get it. And then the teenage daughter will get pregnant. [laughs] That happens a lot and that’s a big problem and it’s ironic, because the same people who are anti-abortion are the people typically who wanna make it harder to get contraceptives and harder to get information.
M: Okay, so that said—
S: You don’t seem like you agree with that.
M: You know what, everybody has their own life and everybody can make their own choices in general. Regarding a teenager, if a parent says that they shouldn’t have birth control, that means they don’t know what their child’s doing behind the scenes, right? So I do think that they should be able to get birth control without their parents knowing, because at the same time their parents can still say “no.” But in the end that person, like, in high school, they are making their own journey.
M: Regardless, I mean, the parents can do as much as they can to educate them on things that they should be educating them, but in the end, they are making their own choice.
S: So to bring this back around to the political discussion—the main reason you voted for Trump over Clinton was abortion, because he says he’s pro-life.
S: But did it ever give you pause that the GOP, the Republican Party, which is controlling everything right now, that their stance on women’s reproductive care, for example, easy access to birth control, easy access to sex education, for especially younger people, that their stance on all of that is contradictory to what I think you’re saying you believe? Like, did you ever think, like, “Yeah, I don’t want abortion, but all this other stuff they stand for, they’re making it so there might be more abortions, actually.” Like, did you go through that sort of hamster wheel in your head?
M: You know, when I make a decision, I look at both sides.
M: So let’s say, ‘cause we know the two options by the end of what was going on that you had regarding either Trump or Clinton, correct? So I had to make a calculated choice. So I looked at each party to see what each one stood for and what that meant. And the alternative to Trump was Clinton, and she said, and I’m sure you’ve seen the debates, that she was for third term abortions.
S: I looked that up and—
M: She said that at the debate.
S: What she—
M: I watched them.
S: What she’s actually said over and over again about late term abortions is that she would support a ban on late term abortions if there were exceptions made for rape, incest and the health of the woman. She said that.
M: She said a ban?
S: A ban, over and over and over again, she said.
M: I’ll have to look that up.
S: Now, she voted against late term abortion ban, because it didn’t have an exception for rape, incest, or the health of the woman, and she was public about that. And she said it over and over and over again in lots of interviews, “I would support restrictions on late term abortions if there were exceptions made for those three instances where I feel that perhaps a late term abortion might be the best thing for the woman.” Health of the woman, rape, incest. Those three things—
M: What about the baby?
S: The woman’s existing life, I think, is more important to people on the pro-choice side. I mean, I will say that. I think the life—the existing life of the woman who is in the world, who is an adult, hopefully an adult, but at least, almost an adult human being—I think that life is more important than the fetus.
M: So you’re saying this person that’s growing inside of you, who has not done anything wrong, like, it didn’t say, “Hey, I wanna be, you know, make me.” Like, it didn’t ask to be made. You know, don’t get me wrong, whatever situation that was, that is awful. I completely understand. I’ve had experiences in my life pertaining to that.
S: Sexual violence?
M: Not violence, per se, but I’ve been sexually abused in my past. So I do know and I do understand that argument.
S: I’m so sorry that you went through that.
M: You know, it is what it is. It happened. You know. But going forward, you know, that person didn’t ask to be—to be.
M: You know? And I still think, like, if they don’t want that person, they’re thinking, like, “Oh, it’s gonna be a burden.” Why don’t they give it up for adoption?
S: Are you asking me why I value the woman’s life more than the fetus’s life?
M: Okay, so here’s the question.
M: I understand we both value the woman’s life a hundred percent. Like, I am about the woman, but at the same time, if someone, let’s say, gets raped. They get pregnant. And there’s no complications whatsoever. What about the baby? How does that pertain to the woman’s body or anything if everything’s healthy and that baby—isn’t that a person? What about the female baby inside? Like, don’t they have—why can’t they live their life? They don’t have to live with that woman, they can be adopted, you know, and live an amazing life and do crazy things. Like why—I don’t understand why no one sees that part of the picture.
S: I think that it comes down to wanting to respect the living adult woman’s right to make those decisions for herself. I can understand the arguments that you’re making. I can understand the deep compassion that you feel for the child that’s still in utero. But that’s not my child, and it’s not my body. I can’t tell a woman who finds herself in that situation, “No, you’re not allowed, the law says no.” The legislation concerning abortion and reproductive rights seems really hypocritical, considering that the same people who push that in government are the ones who push to take regulations off of big corporations and banks that are screwing over all the normal people to fill their own pockets. So it ties into everything else. I think for you, it’s more of a moral issue for the fetus. I think for a lot of pro-choice people it’s more like, let people make their health decisions. Let them talk to their doctors, let them figure it out. Give them all the information available, but let them deal with it. Don’t make it harder than it needs to be with legislation on people’s bodies and people’s health decisions, and especially don’t try to do that when you’re the same people who are saying that we shouldn’t have regulations governing what harmful corporations and banks can do to the environment and to the normal working person. It seems so skewed. It seems anti-human. That entire philosophy of how government should work, the Republican philosophy, seems like it’s against people. Nobody is excited about a late-term abortion, and they account for very, very few of the abortions that are done. Again, ninety percent of abortions happen in the first trimester. I mean, and there’s a lot of argument about where you draw the line. Is it when there’s a heartbeat? You know, is it when there’s a discernible humanoid figure there? Like, when does this blob of cells become a person? There’s a lot of argument about the timing of things, but I’m more concerned about not letting the government into people’s vaginas. [laughs] I mean, that doesn’t seem fair. The government isn’t getting involved in guy’s penises, except if you’re gay, and they used get involved in that. Luckily, we’ve made some progress in that arena. But it just doesn’t seem right. Why is the government getting involved in people’s health decisions? Shouldn’t you be allowed to decide if you want to go through with a pregnancy or not?
M: So the government is in lots of decisions. Suicide for instance. The government is in that decision.
S: How is the government involved in the decision to commit suicide?
M: Suicide? Well, it’s illegal to kill yourself, right? Depending on which state you’re in.
S: Is it?
S: Are there states where you can—
S: —be punished—
S: —by the courts if you attempt suicide?
M: Oh, well, you’re dead already, right? I’m talking about actual suicide.
S: Well, plenty of people attempt suicide. I’ve never heard of anyone being charged for a crime for trying to kill themselves and failing.
M: No, there isn’t a charge. I mean, they’ll put you in mental hospital.
S: Yeah, but that’s—but that’s a healthcare thing.
M: Right, so they’re trying to get you help for your decisions on that route, but it is illegal if you commit suicide, but it’s too late ‘cause you already committed suicide, right?
S: There are actually laws on the books?
S: That seems a little bit superfluous. [laughs]
M: Yeah, well, murder in general, right? Why is it that if you get into a car accident, let’s say that someone behind you was texting, and they ran into you, and you were pregnant. Let’s say you were pregnant a month. You died. The fetus in you died. The person that ran into your car is charged with murder for both. If that’s true, and what if the woman wanted to commit, what if she wanted to have an abortion? Why did that guy—if you think it’s a clump of cells, why does that guy get two counts of murder?
S: That is an interesting point, but shouldn’t it be enough just to kill a woman?
M: Well, that’s one count murder, right, there’s two people involved.
S: I mean, isn’t that bad enough?
M: What part? I don’t understand.
S: It doesn’t seem…again, it’s getting into mixing ideology with legislation. That’s all very well and good to be like, “You did a worse thing in this traffic accident, where you killed somebody, because you killed a pregnant somebody, so it’s worse now.” Where, like, my argument—
M: It’s just double because there’s two people involved.
S: Right, but my argument would be—
M: You still get in trouble if it’s one person.
S: That’s bad enough. We don’t have to suddenly get into the ideological abortion argument and the when is a fetus a person argument, ‘cause that is a debate that’s happening and it is ideologically based. We don’t have to get into all that in my mind because it’s bad enough that you fucked up so bad behind the wheel of a car that you killed somebody. Would you agree that this is an ideological debate? That these are, sort of, like—there’s people who think one way and people who think another way, and it’s like stuff that is very much, like, your philosophical, moral view of life that you come up with yourself, with the guidance of culture, with the guidance of whatever your religion may be, but like, at its core, it’s really an ideological debate?
M: I disagree, because biology says that DNA, that’s what encompasses a person. A child has DNA in their bodies.
S: But you can’t reduce humanity to biology.
M: Why not?
S: Because it’s taking the humanity out of humanity. I mean, for example, you said earlier in this conversation that, you know, you made the decision to have sex outside of marriage so you should’ve been prepared to deal with the consequences.
S: But the thing is is that sex happens outside of marriage all the time. Sex outside of marriage is actually the norm. It always has been and human beings are just not a species that only has sex for procreation. We have sex for a lot of reasons. A lot of reasons and they’re good reasons. We have sex for bonding, for intimacy, for trust building, relationship building, for fun, for pleasure. All of these reasons that have nothing to do with making babies but serve a social function. And that kind of behavior has been observed in other species as well. There’re primate species, lots of other species across, you know, the animal kingdom. Sex is not just for procreation, almost ever, if you look at it across an entire species and their behavior patterns. So that’s an ideological thing, to say that sex outside of marriage is something that people shouldn’t do or people should know the consequences of. Yes, people should know the consequences of any action they take, but sex outside of marriage isn’t anything to avoid if you’re talking about human nature. Trying to reduce sex to it’s most basic function of procreation is taking the humanity out of sex. Unfort—
S: Because sex isn’t about procreation. ‘Cause humans don’t use it for that reason. Most of the time, most sex is not meant to result in a baby.
M: That’s what sex does, though.
S: That is one thing that sex does.
S: But there’s a lot of other things that sex does. Sex, like I said, it builds relationships, it builds trust, it’s fun, it’s pleasurable. Those are all valid reasons to have sex, they’re good reasons to have sex, and they’re reasons that humans have sex and have had sex across the history of humanity.
S: If every instance of sex resulted in a baby we’d be real fucked. I mean, we’re already facing an overpopulation problem on this planet.
M: That’s false.
S: That’s actually not.
M: It is. I actually found a ton of research on that too. [laughs]
S: Well, our resources are being stretched. The population keeps growing, and there’s a limit to how many humans can live on this planet comfortably.
M: Actually, that’s not true at all.
S: There’s no limit?
M: No, because actually there is more food today than ever before and more people today than ever before. Here you go. So the myth originated in 1798 with Thomas Mathis. An essay called The Principles of Population. Mathis predicted that food shortage by 1890. So the crisis was predicted several times, and they changed it each time that it actually didn’t happen. Mind you, it was 1890. They thought that we were gonna be overpopulated already. We’re over a hundred years later with highest population of people on earth and the best food production rate in history. Okay, so you’re gonna go, “Well, why are so many people starving?” So—
S: I wasn’t, actually. [Melissa laughs] I was gonna say that food isn’t the issue. Food isn’t the problem. We know that there’s enough food to feed every person on this planet right now.
M: So, why do you think that there’s overpopulation?
S: Food isn’t the issue. The issue is the toll that we’re taking on the earth’s resources. With things like fossil fuel and clean water, polluting the air, polluting the environment, causing climate change with our practices. Those are the issues. The sheer weight of the growing population and the needs of everybody to have their energy needs met, not just food. Food is, like, the smallest of the problems.
S: The problem is the toll we’re taking on the planet, using the planet’s resources to fuel our energy needs.
M: Okay, so fossil fuel, let’s start with that. First of all, we have the sun. There are so many ways to use the sun’s resource. We have wind. There are other things that we can do besides using fossil fuels.
S: I love that. You’re a NorCal girl, and thank you for that, ‘cause that is so true and I’m with you, but Donald Trump represents the party and the people who are looking to increase fossil fuel use.
M: First of all, let me talk about Donald Trump. You know, I don’t agree with everything that he does. I don’t agree with every single person.
S: Yeah, of course.
M: You know, but, for me, voting for him was not because of everything that I agree with. It was just me making the decision between both parties, and he just had more than the other person, that was it. But I don’t agree with everything. I don’t agree with the Keystone Pipeline. I don’t agree with it. There’s a lot of things I don’t agree with.
S: I think that’s a tragedy. That situation.
M: It is.
S: I don’t get why big oil companies don’t just invest in renewable, sustainable energies and, like, dominate that market.
S: Like, be the hero instead of the villain in the story.
M: Why not, you know? And you know—
S: Yeah. I’m glad we share that. That’s nice.
M: Yeah, definitely. And, I mean, they made, I forgot what year it was—I remember talking about this with my friend’s dad a while back—about how they actually found a way that you can use water to be a source of energy, like, you can have watered engines. Like, instead of using oil, they would use water to power their vehicles. But the government went up to that guy who invented this technology and bought him out, and said, “Here, let me give you this money,” and they ripped up the whole process on how to do that. So, you know, I don’t agree with everything. There’s so many other available options for resources, you know, as far as us making the world a worse place, as you’re pretty much trying to say. But I don’t think it has to do with overpopulation. I think it has to do with the evil that’s in this world that is money-hungry. You know? Let’s say that people stopped creating life. Let’s just say that, like, out of nowhere, no one can make babies anymore. There would still be that problem. There would still be that money-hungry, all they see is green, wanting to make the world a worse place.
S: I see Donald Trump as a prime example of that type of person and I see the leaders and the GOP as being those people as well. I don’t understand the appointment of Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State. I don’t understand the fawning over Vladimir Putin. I see those people as those bad guys. When you look at Donald Trump, do you see a decent guy? Do you see a basically good person? Or do you see not a good person, but he happens to stand for the one issue that’s most important to you?
M: Okay, here’s a question for you.
S: Could you answer my question first? ‘Cause I’m curious.
M: This pertains to that question. I’m just curious on your thoughts to this.
S: Okay, great.
M: Okay. So someone brought up to me that made a lot of sense, They said, “Do you believe in evil?” First of all, before I tell you what I’m about to say? Because if—
S: That’s an interesting question. I do believe—
M: That there is evil.
S: That there is evil. I think there’s evil in everybody. I think everybody chooses which path they wanna take.
M: Okay, so there’s lots of things that are evil. That said, on your Facebook, have you read and seen a lot of things pertaining to the witches that wanna curse Donald Trump?
S: [laughs] No! I haven’t seen that.
M: Have you seen that? Oh my gosh, there’s been a ton of stuff on my feed from like—
S: Like, Wiccan people?
M: No, like Satanists.
M: That are having seances and they’re putting it out there. It was, like, on several different news reports, and like, that’s odd, okay.
S: That’s bizarre.
M: Yeah, so—
S:I haven’t seen—that’s not my bubble, [Melissa laughs] that’s not my bubble. [laughs]
M: Well, It’s just, you know, people like to post things and it’s like, what the heck.
M: That said, I mean do you think Satanists are evil? Do you think that they’re, if you look into it more, like, what are your thoughts on that whole group?
S: You know, well they represent a very bizarre sort of religious minority, right?
M: Do you think they’re evil though?
S: I don’t think anybody is one hundred percent evil. I think that good and evil exist in everyone. I think that people make choices that can lead them down one path or another, and I think everyone’s got, you know, grey areas. I think your choices sort of define what kind of person you wanna be. Can I say that all Satanists are evil? No, ‘cause I’ve heard plenty of people say, like, “I’m a Satanist but it’s not about, it’s more like being a humanist, it’s about a rejection of these patriarchal religions and we’re, like, for the humans, so it’s like we’re…“ You know, I’ve heard people say that they’re, like, relating to the idea of the fallen angel, basically being like, “You’re holding me up to a crazy standard and I’m about, like, living my life and finding pleasure and being a cool person to the people I know.” So, no, I don’t think Satanists are evil, but I also think it’s stupid to curse anybody. [they laugh] And, you know, not to get into a larger conversation about religion, but I think organized religion in general and religious rituals are, you know, a lot of times, they can do good, but they can also do a lot of bad. And I think any blind acceptance of a system of faith and belief is a bad thing. I think people should question and should come up with their own interpretation of whatever religion or set of principles they wanna live by. I really think it’s important to do constant reevaluation of those things and, you know, always be looking at yourself, and deciding, “Well, do I still believe this?” You know, like, I’m not mad at Donald Trump, for example, for flip-flopping on abortion. You know, everybody knows that he used to be pro-choice, and then he changed his mind. And he said, like, “I’ve evolved on the issue.” That’s fine.
M: Well, people flip-flops on lots of different stuff.
S: Yeah, I think it’s good.
M: Even homosexuality. People have flip-flopped on that. [inaudible]
S: Right. It’s good to evolve. It’s good to reevaluate periodically and evolve in your positions, and that’s fine. So, I think that’s important when it comes to religious or spiritual beliefs and practices.
M: I agree on half of what you said.
M: I think you should definitely investigate everything that you should— that you wanna do. I think if you do wanna get into religion, I think you should investigate it. I think you should make sure the facts are the facts.
S: Mmhm. Well, it’s hard to talk facts with religion because so much of it is faith-based.
M: Well, as far as I’m saying, “facts” is like, what does this religion even mean? What do they believe? How? You know, that’s the fact of that religion.
S: Yeah, but religions can be interpreted in myriad different ways as we all know. I mean, for example the vast majority of Muslims would say that the people behind ISIS aren’t true Muslims, because they’re misinterpreting the Quran and doing everything wrong. But then we have our President wanting to call it radical Islamic terrorism. I don’t think that’s fair.
M: Wait, is he calling all Muslims radical terrorism? Or just those that wanna get rid of the West?
S: There’s been an argument about whether to call it terrorism or Islamic terrorism, and the GOP insists on calling it Islamic terrorism and the Democrats think that’s wrong, because it puts the word “Islam” on something that Islam doesn’t stand for.
M: I mean, I’ve read some of the Quran and I’ve actually read several books on people’s experience with Islam in general. But it does say to get rid of the infidel, in the Quran.
S: Yeah, and Christian texts were used to justify the Crusades, you know? Christian texts were used to justify burning women at the stake.
M: Where does it say that in the Bible?
S: Where does it say to drive cars into parades of celebrating people in the Quran?
M: Well, it just means that they’re killing. I don’t think it tells them how to.
S: It’s an interpretation. The Bible says that you can, like, stone a person to death for committing a minor infraction in society. The Bible says lots of ridiculously violent things. An eye for an eye comes straight from the Bible, you know. We don’t live that way.
M: No, we don’t, and you’re correct about that. I—the Old Testament does talk about that, which is in Deuteronomy, and it’s hard to talk about the Bible, because there’s so much stuff that pertains to it.
S: Right, and it’s the same thing with the Quran, but when you get down to the facts, the base of things—
S: —Christianity, Islam, Judaism—these three major world religions have more in common than not when you get down to the tenets, basic principles. It’s always, like, you know, treat others the way you wanna be treated, love your neighbor as yourself. It’s not about creating violence and harm in the world; it’s about peace and love. That’s what the major religions are all about,. Those are the principles that lead to happier, more well-adjusted societies. You’re always gonna have crazy, violent, awful, power-hungry people who are going to use whatever they can to manipulate others into joining their crazy, violent, awful movements.
M: I agree with that a hundred percent.
S: But putting the word “Islamic”—
M: I think they mean—
S: —right next to the word “terrorism” is unfair to the vast majority of Muslims who condemn the terrorists and their actions and the way the terrorist are using and twisting this peaceful religion in a really perverted, I mean, you wanna talk about evil—ISIS is evil. The people behind ISIS are evil.
M: I agree.
S: But that’s not because they’re Muslims. Islam’s not evil. The way they’re interpreting it, their actions, that’s evil. And I think there’s a push on the liberal side to separate the two, so that we don’t unfairly target the vast majority of Muslims who are just trying to live their lives.
M: I think they use Islamic connected to the terrorism, because those people that are involved in that whole organization. They use, like, they constantly see—I can’t remember the right words ‘cause I don’t wanna stumble on my words if I say them wrong—
S: It’s okay if you stumble, I stumble all the time.
M: Don’t they say like “Akrabar Allah” every time they make a movement? So that would pertain to Islam, right?
S: Yeah, they’re using the religion—
S: —as a way to justify their evil actions, but that doesn’t mean that the religion itself is evil. It puts a stain on the entire religion when you stick that word in. We can just call it terrorism. We don’t have to suddenly put a blanket of evil on an entire group of people when most of them—most of them to the point of being virtually all Muslims—are peaceful, normal people who are just trying to live their damn lives. It would be the same as if there was a Christian who, like, decided to use parts of the Bible in a crazy way to justify murdering a bunch of people, and then you decided that it was radical Christian terrorism. It’s just not fair.
M: So pretty much what one person did, you’re putting them all in one group.
S: That’s what that phrasing does, and it encourages a scapegoating of Muslims in this country, which is something that should scare everybody because scapegoating a certain group for their beliefs or their way of life when it’s not harming anybody, which the majority of Muslims are not, that’s one of the tactics used by autocratic regimes to control populations. They’re doing it in Russia right now with the LGBTQ community. And what’s happening in Russia really should strike a little fear into all of our hearts, because just before Putin was named president back in 2000, they were the freest they’ve ever been, with more rights, more freedom of the press, more ability to communicate ideas freely, without being put in jail because you disagreed with somebody in power. In the year 2000, when Putin came into power, Russia was on a real solid path, and now look at them. Democracy’s a fragile thing. The reason I’m doing this podcast and I’m talking to people who voted for Donald Trump is because tearing each other down only contributes to the problem. People on my side of things are terrified, and we get called whiny crybabies a lot. But the reason people on the liberal side of things are freaking out so much right now is because it really looks like the groundwork is being laid to cripple American democracy. Steve Bannon is an especially frightening figure, especially with his public announcements of how he wants to basically take all the structure away from society. You know, he wants to get rid of the Department of Education and the Environmental Protection Agency, scrap ‘em, we don’t need those. We don’t need to regulate those things. Less government, right?
M: Isn’t that what you wanted though?
S: I think government serves very important functions. I think making sure that companies and corporations don’t supersede the sanctity of human life is a big responsibility of government. That’s not what the GOP wants. I think that our most vulnerable people do need to be protected and helped.
S: I think we have a lot in common with this. The main difference that we have, you know, that’s dominated this conversation is that I would rather see a woman get to live the life she wants to live, because she had the chance to have an abortion when she wanted one. I think that’s more important than the unborn baby being born, and you disagree. And that’s okay. We’ll disagree forever on that. We don’t have to hate each other. We don’t have to fight.
M: I totally agree with that.
S: Yeah. Most likely, we’re not gonna lose the right to abortion, even if Roe v. Wade is overturned, the second that the political scales shift again, you know, things will turn. But it’s more important, I think, that the American people talk to each other. To my mind, the best thing that all of us can do is force ourselves to see the humanity in everyone, even the people who disagree with us.
M: That’s the one thing, so I go on a lot of different websites and I go and I do debate a lot, but I am as respectful to the other person as I can be. I don’t call them names—
M: —I don’t put them down, I just want them to see my side and the facts.
S: I’m the same way.
M: But it’s really difficult, because majority of the opposing side from my views always go to the route of putting me down, and always find a way to tell me how uneducated I am, when I’ve done my homework.
S: Yeah, the same thing happens to me.
M: And it really upsets me.
S: That same thing happens to me, for the record, on my side. People on both sides are doing and saying the exact same things.
S: And I think—I think there’s a lot of really sincere, heartfelt people like us, who wanna have more respectful conversations, and we have to insist that we have them and carry ourselves with a certain dignity. And set the example, honestly. And back to the witches cursing Donald Trump [Melissa laughs] everything I know about the Wiccan religion is against anything like that, because there’s this concept of when you point a finger at someone you’ve got three pointing back at you. You can’t curse Donald Trump and not have consequences according to the Wiccan religion. That hurts you more than it hurts him.
M: Well, here’s the next question to that. It’s like, why would you want to curse the guy that’s driving the car that you’re in? [Samia laughs] The driver. I want him to be safe so that I’m not in an accident, you know?
S: Yeah, I’ve been—‘cause there’s a lot about him I really dislike, and it’s hard to not feel revulsion for that man. Being the woman that I am, I’d—it would be very hard for me to have a conversation with Donald Trump, because I just don’t like the way he talks about women. It hurts my feelings. It hurts women, I think. But I know that not being able to call up compassion for another human being is a flaw in myself. So I’ve been spending all this time the last few months, like, meditating on, like, sending love to Donald Trump, as hard as that is. [Samia squeals, Melissa laughs] Trying to, like, see him as the little boy he once was, trying to understand where he’s coming from. You know, I think he’s got a really big ego and a lot of insecurities, and I think that he’s screaming on the inside.
M: Well, who doesn’t—
M: —when they’re a businessman that makes as much money as he does? You know, who doesn’t have a big ego?
S: We don’t know how much money he makes, because we haven’t seen his tax returns. But—
M: Well, I mean, it shows for how many buildings have his name on it.
S: But his, you know, financial dealings aren’t as much of a concern for me as the way he’s conducted himself when dealing with other people in his life, and especially with dealing with women. I just don’t like it. I don’t like the way he talks about his daughter. I think it’s weird to say that your daughter has the best body, and that if she wasn’t your daughter, you’d perhaps be dating her. I think that’s weird. (On the View, covered in episode 3 or 4) I’d be pissed if my dad said that about me on television. I’d be like, I’m not related to you, wow.
M: That is pretty weird, I totally agree with that.
S: Yeah, it’s weird. I personally don’t think a man like that—like, let him be a wealthy businessman, let him be a television celebrity. Like, why is he our president? It kills me, but am I sitting here sending hateful vibes to him? No, I try not to. I don’t want to be that kind of person. Anyway, it sounds like we’re sort of winding down the conversation at this point. I wanted to thank you, first of all, for your candor. The stuff you’ve shared…I’m really grateful to you for being willing to be so vulnerable and so open and honest. I’m grateful that you printed out that stack of research material. [Melissa laughs] If you’ll let me take that, I’ll take it.
S: And I’ll reference your sources in my show notes. But this means a lot to me. The point of this podcast was never to have debates where the goal was to change somebody else’s mind. We know that’s not gonna happen. The point was just to be able to have the conversation and build the relationship. I think you’re a beautiful woman, and I’m grateful that I got a chance to spend an hour and a half talking to you.
M: Right back atcha.
S: Thank you. Any final questions or last thoughts that you’d like to send out into the world?
M: [Melissa laughs] I agree, a lot of people are stuck in their ways. We all have our own journey in the end. You know, you will have choices. But I would just firmly just point out, like, do you research, on whatever topic it is. Like, just do your research. Look at both sides. Don’t just do one side. Like, understand both sides of the story, because a lot of people don’t do their research at all. You know, they have no idea, and they kinda just go with whatever society tells them what to do. But you’re your own person, and because we have the choices that we do have today, why not look into them and figure out why they’re there? What is the reasoning? And if there are lies, look into them.
S: I can get on board with that. [Melissa laughs] Melissa, thank you so much.
M: Thank you.
SAMIA VO: I can totally get on board with Melissa’s final comments, and I agree that doing your research is more important now, in this age of alternative facts and partisan propaganda, than ever. I said it at the top of the show, but it bears repeating. David Sokol and I worked really hard on the Show Notes for this particular episode, because this subject is so vitally important to the fight for gender equality and women’s rights. You can read those show notes at www.makeamericarelatepodcast.com. If you identify as pro-life, the info in the Show Notes may really surprise you and up-end your sense of reality, but I promise you, the information is fact-checked and accurate. If you know people close to you who are anti-abortion, this information can maybe help you talk to them about their beliefs—hopefully, in a compassionate, respectful way.
What Melissa went through with her abortions hurts my heart. I feel for her intensely. If I’d had those experiences—if I felt like I’d been forced into having an abortion by my mother or my culture—I don’t know how I’d feel about abortion now, years later. Her stance on the issue draws from her own experience with it. I can understand that.
The hard thing with the pro-life/pro-choice debate is that the people on the pro-life side are often like Melissa—caring, compassionate, loving, empathetic people who believe deep in their hearts that abortion is equal to killing another human being—that it’s murder. Their position is so genuinely principled that it’s difficult to argue with. But the main takeaway here is that restricting access to a legal, safe abortion does not stop abortions from happening—it just puts women and children in danger. That’s the number one fact that we have to get out to as many people as possible. Making abortion illegal and/or restricting access to a legal, safe abortion hurts and kills women and does nothing to stop abortions from happening. There is no upside to it.
Alright, that’s enough of the heavy shit. Thanks again for coming back for Episode 6. Next week, you’ll hear my conversation with a self-proclaimed “gun-totin’ Texan” who lives about an hour south of Austin, Texas. We’ll call her Anne—she also asked to remain anonymous. Our conversation was really interesting for me. It made me understand for the first time ever why so many Americans are so attached to their guns. I mean, I grew up in Seoul, Korea, where guns are illegal, and even police officers don’t carry them. I never felt any need or desire to own a gun, and I’ve never understood Second Amendment rights advocates who insisted that guns are vital for keeping oneself and one’s family safe. I’ve read all the statistics showing that more guns leads to more gun violence, whether accidental or on purpose, and I just couldn’t wrap my mind around how anyone could still want a gun in their home in light of all the data we have showing that it makes you and your family less safe.
Anne, in her chill, friendly way, helped me understand what might be driving that attachment to guns in many Americans, and she was super cool to talk to. I think you’ll really dig our conversation.
This week’s #TryPod is Hidden Brain, hosted by the brilliant Shankar Vedantam. Hidden Brain explores the intangible aspects of human psychology and culture that affect everything in our lives, from how we view each other to how we view ourselves. The information they present is invaluable. For example, a recent episode goes deep into how much more the media covers acts of terror when they are perpetrated by Muslims, as opposed to any other group. The answer is shocking, and helps to explain why so many Americans view Muslims with fear and suspicion. Why wouldn’t you, when your news media gives four and a half times more coverage to violent acts committed by Muslims than by people of any other group, and often won’t even refer to acts of terror committing by non-Muslims as terrorism? It’s fascinating. Go subscribe to Hidden Brain wherever you get your podcasts now, and start learning how many things affect the way we think and feel.
Wellsprings of heartfelt gratitude to Marisa Kennedy for transcribing this episode, Andrew Guastella for making the interview audio sound sweet, Douglass Records in Brooklyn for letting me use their beautiful studio to record my intro and outro segments, Christopher Gilroy for editing it all together and mixing it down, and David Sokol for compiling and synthesizing the Show Notes with the passion and drive of a true feminist. I couldn’t make this show without this amazing team of people.
Lastly, if you are getting something out of this show, please pretty please take a moment to leave us a five-star review on iTunes or Apple Podcasts. Your reviews are everything when it comes to getting the show out to a wider audience. You can also support the show by following us on Twitter and Facebook @relatepodcast.
Thanks again for tuning in! This has been Make America Relate Again. See you next week.