My Abortion, Gaslighting, and YES! Abstinence Pledge Cards!

Art by Waganetka

By Helle Bent

Hello again sizzling Satanists!

Well isn’t 2020 turning out to be the 45th Presidency of years? Full of insufferable creatures hostile towards life and any display of sensibility. Holy motherforking shirtballs what I wouldn’t give for some good news. I’m so close to giving up that I’ve exhumed my oversized Genesee Cream Ale t-shirt from 1997, made from 100% abrasive cotton, pet hair, and ice cream stains, so that I can at least do my giving up in appropriate dress.

So. In 1999 I had an abortion. (Forgive me, did you need a segue?) In 1999 I became pregnant, I did not want to be pregnant, so I had an abortion. In 1999 I began the moral transition from my “Christian” anti-abortion (anti-everything) upbringing to my more exploratory phase, since life may have proven a bit more complex than I was originally taught. 1999 was a notable year (still no 2020 though, seriously Holy Hell what is going ON??).

For the unindoctrinated: Making god angry is very very bad. Obey the rules: eternal bliss. Ask questions and it’s straight to Hell with you … Not in this life, no… uh, next one, after this one. Honestly, it’s brilliant. Ensure obedience by preying on people’s fears and senses of entitlement and elitism, and promise rewards impossible to redeem. Speaking of brilliantly conceived stories, um hey Joseph? What exactly happened with your wife again?

To briefly set the scene: 1990s, I fell into the cult of Jesus because I found out churchy things were the only activities that didn’t elicit Murder She Wrote type scrutiny from my mother, and my life goal was to be left alone for like a minute. The youth group at my best (okay, only) friend’s church offered escape via opportunities like volunteering, field trips, and overnight retreats – all places my parents weren’t, but other cool teens were! Turns out my elation over my newfound independence made me an enthusiastic disciple, furloughing my naturally curious spirit for the time being. Of my two choices, Jesus was where the party was at, and this happiness was evidence enough for me that the holy spirit was doing its thing. Freaks and Geeks fans – I was half Lindsey half Millie.

For those of you familiar with addiction, it’s no surprise that I conflated coincidence with actual cause and effect, attributing this joy and sense of belonging to Jesus himself, seeking out more of him when I needed comfort or escape. Our group once attended a days-long Jesus rally at a convention center in DC where thousands of teens rocked out to Creed-wannabes, signed abstinence pledge cards (really! True Love Waits!) and watched skits – SKITS! – about pre-marital sex and the catastrophes that befell the sexually active (pregnancy disease emotional turmoil death and eternal damnation, obvs). And that, darling demons, is the crooked foundation on which my moral and religious fundamentals were built. I share this with you so that you may imagine my terror in the bathroom where I stared in blurry disbelief at that fucking pregnancy test, in 1999.

The motives behind the anti-abortion pro-birth movement (please don’t call them pro-life) may vary, but the rationale they taught us is as follows: as soon as their god decides a pregnancy should take place, the body no longer belongs to the person who is pregnant, and their right to autonomy is off the table. It’s god’s now! Anyone who thinks otherwise is wretched and disobeying god’s will. And of course if it’s not in line with the work of god, it’s the work of Satan (can I get a Hail Satan?) and this might be the only time these people have ever judged a person for what’s on the inside.  

The “Christian” enthusiasm for their so-called sanctity of life turns a bit toxic when a hierarchy is established, prioritizing unconditionally these new cells “god has willed into being” over the existing human in whom these cells have implanted. This priority now allows for any means necessary to further this “holy” agenda in the name of their god and the greater good. We already know that rational thought does not work on the self-righteous folks who believe they’re doing the work of their lord, while arguing that forced birth is simultaneously a blessing and a punishment. As a young, impressionable, religious idiot, this was me (I’m so so sorry and I atone for this daily). I didn’t have to worry, though, because I wasn’t going to have sex until I was married! I signed a pledge card!!

So yeah, in 1999 I had an abortion. I am not sorry. For me, it was my only choice, and it wasn’t nearly as traumatic as I was told it would be (I speak for myself only). That feeling of sweet relief exists in my bones to this very day and I happily, proudly, hold on to it with gratitude. It’s my amulet, my solid reminder that I am the architect of my own life.

Now. One would think this experience was enough for me to begin questioning what I was taught. Enter the art of cherry-picking! The perfectly acceptable practice in the organized Christian religions wherein one may pick which rules apply to oneself, and with unironic fervor persecute folks who break the other worse ones. YES! Mark me down for pre-marital sex and abortion (and drugs and heavy metal). But hey, at least I wasn’t one of those devil-worshipping queers. (Spoiler: LOL!! Hey youguyz guess what!!!)

It’s tough to unlearn years of conditioning. In 1999, I wanted in on whatever school of Christian moral philosophy allowed for personal exemptions like infidelity and divorce. Ignorance and delusion were necessary to my happiness. How else could I make sense of everything? If Jesus is the only truth, and my instincts contradict Jesus, then my instincts are wrong. Yikes. But if they don’t know me, how do they know what’s in my best interest? I’d put in so many happy years making it work, I was ignoring the signs that I was being gaslit.

For over 15 years I didn’t tell anyone I’d had an abortion. I didn’t feel guilt or regret, but I felt shame like I’d done something horribly embarrassing, like a failed attempt at birth control was a character flaw I needed to hide. This feeling was more traumatic than my actual abortion. Silence and shame are tools of oppression and they build upon each other exponentially. The removal of either is the death of the other. (Look what happened to racism.) As soon as I came out of the abortion closet, others were eager to come out to me too, they just wanted permission to feel ok about it. Why have we not been talking about this? Because of the shame. So I ended my silence. Following their rules would have ruined my life and they could not have cared less. Fuck them. There is nothing compassionate, healthy, or rational about mandatory pregnancy and forced birth.

Theists take great pride in their blind faith as a measure of their strength and loyalty to their god and religion. Questions are disrespectful and imply doubt. In 1999 I was running gravely low on blind faith, so my inquisitive and exploratory side woke up and took charge.

I soared off a cliff and just hovered there, stiff, until I looked down and fell. There was nothing below and little did I know I’d be plummeting straight to Hell.

ACT II

Greetings from below! I landed just fine, please don’t worry. Satanists are a supportive bunch. My eternal gratitude for welcoming me with infernal arms. It’s delightful down here!

Looking back with Satanic eyes, I see clearly the struggles caused by not yet belonging to myself. The toughest hurdle for me to clear was giving myself permission to ask questions. “It’s god’s will” was no longer reason enough. It was lazy deflection, and it was not a real answer. How is knowledge ever a bad thing? What reasons could institutions possibly have to punish free thought? I wish I’d asked myself this earlier.

I don’t believe everything happens for a reason. I believe in chaos and coincidence, and that it’s up to each individual to make sense of their world in a way that suits them. “Everything happens for a reason” is no different from “it’s god’s will” – it’s dismissive, it minimizes the work I put into my life, and I find it insulting and tantamount to gaslighting.

With experience came wisdom and the realization I’d been brainwashed. The world is full of evil that no god should ever allow. Only humans are capable of such vulgarities. I decided that if there is a supernatural being, it’s not their Christian one and it neither fears nor takes credit for my use of the brain and the free will it gave me. My accomplishments are mine. My faults are mine. The responsibility to make sense of my life is mine alone. Thanking someone for the harm they chose to inflict so that I may learn a lesson is sick. It’s a major red flag in any unhealthy and abusive relationship. Even if it teaches me to swim, I will not owe anyone thanks for throwing me off a cruise ship. I doubt my swimming was their intention but if it was, then fuck them with an even pointier stick.

Though how convenient, that entry into their heaven is not based on measurable deeds but rather a simple magic apology capable of wiping away all accountability. I cannot let myself forget what I’ve seen. Those who make the rules have something to gain from them. If the powers that be want to ban abortion, start asking why. Who is in charge? Who generally needs access to abortion and how has our government and society historically viewed this population? Who suffers most without access to care and why, and who remains comfortably ignorant and largely unaffected? Who is threatened by a potential change in any power dynamic? What are the benefits to universal reproductive freedom and why would anyone possibly object? When you use your god as the reason for my oppression, I reject you and your entire system. This is just one spoke in the gruesome execution wheel of fascism. When a government bases legislation on the unfounded beliefs of any religion, no one is safe.

The Satanic Temple, forever in my heart, has entered this fight and I could not be more thrilled. The battles chosen by TST are why I joined. They make sense. They are fair and logical and promote justice without omission or hypocrisy. (To learn more about TST’s Reproductive Rights Campaign click here.) Satanic abortions are legal folks!! Maybe I can put my old Genesee Cream Ale t-shirt away after all.

Abortion is a human right regardless of morality and I don’t intend to exhaust myself repeating the same old arguments on which we all (hopefully) agree. Because those arguments are irrelevant here. If it’s even up for debate what is growing in my uterus and I want it removed, I’m getting it fucking removed. My uterus is not a bed and breakfast. It is no one else’s place to determine if my reasons are valid. My body is inviolable, subject to my own will, alone. If their god is mad at me for that, that’s cute, I’ll add it to today’s list after I pick up some more ice cream and Baphomet candles for my alter but it is no one’s concern because I do not legally or morally report into their god in the first place. I belong to me and I decide how my life goes, and I’d like to be respectfully given at least the same rights and considerations as their mistresses.

Lastly, being pregnant is a feeling no cis-male will ever know, yet they love to tell me how to feel about it. They need to shut their wordholes and get the fuck out of my uterus. Unaffected people have no legitimate authority to be anything other than supportive. You are not me. You will not live my life for me every goddamn day. My life is mine.

Thyself is thy master.

HAIL LILITH! Hail Satan. Hail thyselves.

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