By Joleigh Little, Region Coordinator and Teens for Life Director at Wisconsin Right to Life
I get so terribly weary of hearing about this manufactured “war on women” that our side of the aisle is allegedly waging. I can speak to this issue as both a woman and a single mom with a daughter, so I consider myself somewhat qualified to address the matter.
I’m hardly what anyone would call a doormat. In fact, I consider myself to be a feminist on all the right levels. And as such, there is nowhere in the WORLD I’d rather be raising a little girl by myself than smack dab in the middle of the right-to-life movement. While the media and certain others might try to tell you that our movement is made up of misogynistic, judgmental octogenarians, I know differently because I have lived here for nearly three decades.
Where those intent on stereotyping us might imagine crusty old codgers bent on” keeping women in their place,” I see a wonderfully diverse and incredible group of people from all walks of life who embrace my spunky, outspoken daughter and encourage her to be whoever and whatever she wants to be. They see her as I do – with unlimited potential — just like they see every child who is conceived.
My daughter came to me via international adoption. I went into this parenting thing very intentionally, knowing that I was absolutely ready to take on the challenge of raising a human being. (As much as anyone can be, anyway…)
In my closest circle of friends is another single mom whose son came to her via the traditional biological route. The courage it took for her to choose life in her circumstances absolutely blows my mind. Whereas I pursued adoption at nearly 40 and had plenty of time to prepare for motherhood, she was surprised with a positive pregnancy test at a time in her life that was far less than ideal.
If one follows the line of thought laid out by abortion apologists, my friend would be a casualty of our “war on women.” In reality, she has been embraced by the single most life-affirming group of people I have ever known. Just as Clara and I have. Her son, like my daughter, has been absorbed into an extended family that is unmatched anywhere in society, with more aunts, uncles and cousins than any child could ever possibly need.
I was pondering this recently at a retreat for our Wisconsin Right to Life camp team. I was cooking and listening to the happy voices floating in from the yard. Teenage voices, young adult voices, and the delighted shrieks of an almost five-year-old girl who was having the time of her life.
Let me backtrack a bit. When I first submitted paperwork to adopt Clara, I was asked why I thought I could provide a happy home for her. One of the first things I shared was how I envisioned her growing up surrounded by amazing “big kid” role models. I was later told by the foundation in her country that this grabbed their attention and was one of the deciding factors in helping them choose me to be Clara’s mom.
Fast forward just over three years and there in front of my eyes (and ears) was that vision in living color. Clara and her friend Rumen (who was adopted at the same time she was, from the same country) getting horseback rides on their trusty steed, Marly, who normally walks upright, but was indulging them.
Clara chasing TJ around the yard screaming “catch me” while giggling so hard you could barely understand her. Evita teaching Clara a new game that will have her chattering excitedly for weeks and saying “Mavita taught me dat,” with more than a little pride in her voice. Eileen, Marly, and Rumen trying to teach Clara to catch the ball with her hands instead of her face. Clara with a look of intense bliss as she sits next to Sarah eating watermelon, which is her “vewy, vewy fwavit” food. Clara snuggled in a chair with Kacie, exhausted from all the crazy fun she was having. And so, so much more.
Later that night as we sat down to watch videos of our trip to pick up Clara and Rumen in Bulgaria, I was transported back two years – to a time when I was uncertain about whether or not I was up to the task of parenting this ridiculously spunky, outspoken, lively child. I remembered being nervous that I, as a single parent, wouldn’t be enough. Then I looked over at my child, sitting in the midst of all of these amazing young people who adore her as much as she adores them and something struck me.
Every child should be this blessed. Every child should be welcomed into such a loving extended family. Clara has some physical special needs. These incredible kids find ways to teach her to do things that take her needs into account, and help her figure out a way to make it work. She learned to hop – a life skill very necessary to a child born with one leg missing below the knee – at a Wisconsin Right to Life conference. One of our camp team girls taught her. (Thanks, Rachel.)
Everywhere we go – from state conference to national convention with region meetings, camps and retreats in between, my daughter is welcomed by people who love life.
Our opponents have long charged us with “only caring about children before they’re born.” I have always known this to be a baseless charge as I have watched pro-lifers adopt children of all ages, from all parts of the world and with all levels of ability. But having Clara has reinforced what I have always known.
The right-to-life movement is a gigantic, vast, loving and incredibly diverse family. You can literally be anywhere in the world and have a problem, and someone back here in the movement will know another pro-lifer in that part of the world who will come to your aid, as one of my friends experienced when her sister and teenage daughter were traveling abroad on September 11, 2001.
I literally cannot think of anywhere I would rather be raising a child. There is no “war on women” being waged by those of us who value and cherish life in all its stages. There most definitely is a solid campaign to love and encourage every single child. It doesn’t matter how they are conceived. It doesn’t matter where they are born. Their level of ability isn’t taken into account. They are just loved and treasured — as every child should be.
This environment is already shaping my daughter’s character and I know that it will shape my friend’s little boy in many crucial ways, as well. I don’t know if it takes a village to raise a child, but I can firmly attest that having an entire movement in your corner doesn’t hurt!