Opinions are like…

As you may find, there will be times in your life when you’ve made the decision that’s best for you and suddenly people are coming out of the woodwork to tell you their take on it. They might mean well, but ultimately, you probably didn’t ask for their opinion in the first place.

There are a couple competing factors in my life right now, and that’s where this all stems from. First-law school. Second-the move associated with it. Third-my new artwork. There are a couple more, but this is probably a solid start.

I told my parents about law school, told several people at the university, told my in-laws. And each of them had a thought. Some of them were quite welcome, some not so much. Naturally, as news does, my upcoming decision spread. Through the course of that spread, an acquaintance told my mom that I shouldn’t move to one of the schools because they were moving there and it would be awkward. One person told me that I was mistaken to have applied to one of the schools. Several people didn’t even say congratulations before telling me that I was moving too far away. I had a lot of people tell me I was moving too far actually.

And my artwork, well, that would be my tattoo. The one I got so I could look at it everyday and remind myself that I control my future, and that if I’m unhappy I have the power to change it. That one. Most people have been very supportive. And yet, there have been those who immediately cracked down on the “regret”, “mistake” and “you shouldn’t have”. I expected that when  I got it, I’ll be honest. Did I roll my eyes? Of course I did. But here’s why.

I make the decisions in my life. I account for my husband and our dog. I know better than outsiders about my finances, my life choices and my motives for doing things. If you don’t sit down with me and do my budget, research schools, spend countless hours looking at statistics for our new home-then you have really no business telling me how to run my life. I choose what I do because it fulfills one of two requirements. One: it makes me happy. Two: it’s the best option for my family. And that’s that.

This whole month has been an experience in brushing things off. And although I can’t say that I’ve succeeded in letting nothing get to me, I’m much more capable of it than before. So naturally, I have some things that helped me.

  1. Sort out the message from the words. Maybe that advice giver had a great point about your decision that you want to consider further. But maybe it’s lost in their opinion. Chuck the opinion out and work on the “good stuff”.
  2. Check yourself. Leave your sensitivities at the door. If you let every single thing get under your skin, it’s gonna be a long day. Are there some things you should be frustrated about? Sure! But not everything-or you’ll go mad.
  3. Choose wisely. As I said, I knew there would be naysayers about my tattoo-so I was prepared. I should have been prepared for the people who did that to my law school choices, but I wasn’t. So I spent longer than I should have working through it.
  4. Work through it. Forgiveness, as I learned from a trusted “advisor” isn’t a one-and-done event. It’s constantly choosing to forgive them over being hurt. Holding on to that anger hurts you more than it hurts them. Really.
  5. Self care. Seriously. Making big life decisions is hard enough without adding in unwanted opinions. Make sure that you’re caring for yourself on all levels-including taking time to just do nice things for yourself. It can make all the difference and you’ll be better off.

One last unsolicited piece of advice (hah-get it? Because this post is…nevermind): don’t sink. I know how easy and tempting it is to smear people with little passive aggressive messages. I do. But you made the choices because they were best for you. Don’t jeopardize that by stooping. You do you!

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The List of Buckets

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(Image from Google, Karen Boyes. I don’t own it-it was just cute.)

I have a hundred things on my mind right now, but that means that the best thing I could do is write down my bucket list. Not only had I mentioned I would earlier, but I most of the stuff on my mind has to do with that, so why not!

Now, I’m not sure any of you need the definition of a bucket list, but for sanity’s sake-A bucket list is a list of things that the individual would like to accomplish before they “kick the bucket” (die). And here’s mine.

  1. Whale watching
  2. Cliff Diving
  3. Learn to ice skate
  4. Learn to surf
  5. Swim in a waterfall
  6. Slow dance in the rain
  7. Witness a miracle
  8. Visit Canada
  9. Save a life
  10. Visit Ireland
  11. Visit England
  12. Visit Scotland
  13. Help turtles hatch and reach the ocean
  14. Be the starfish girl
  15. Eat pasta in Italy
  16. Eat bread in France
  17. See the Great Barrier Reef
  18. See Stonehenge
  19. Venetian gondola ride
  20. Get published
  21. Learn guitar
  22. Stand in the Sistine Chapel
  23. See the Mona Lisa in person
  24. Have lunch with a famous person
  25. See the Northern Lights
  26. Stand in a phone booth
  27. See Platform 9 ¾
  28. Visit Forks, WA
  29. Ride in Hot Air Balloon
  30. Zorbing
  31. Kiss under Mistletoe
  32. Live by the ocean
  33. Learn to scuba
  34. Make the perfect cup of coffee
  35. Learn how to make latte art
  36. Be fearless
  37. Own a 1967 Chevy Impala
  38. Make epic, award worthy cosplay
  39. Perfect cat eye
  40. Go fire walking
  41. Read a book in something other than English
  42. Visit every museum and zoo in the state I live in
  43. Visit Cueva de los Manos
  44. Leave a note in Juliet’s Wall
  45. Make someone smile more often than cry
  46. Be invited to a PowWow
  47. Stop worrying
  48. Stop micromanaging
  49. New Orleans Mardi Gras
  50. Swim with dolphins
  51. See Heaven’s Trail
  52. Give Christmas to a children’s hospital
  53. Replace my wardrobe with clothes I actually like
  54. Repay all the kindnesses
  55. Change the world

I know there are more-I’m just not entirely sure I could remember anything else. (Clearly haven’t mastered that perfect coffee haha!) But I think this is a pretty solid list-and I’m going to get started on it right away.

I’ll let you in on a secret.

I’m tired of people telling me what I do and do not know, what I need to do to know things, how much I’m allowed to know. I’ve spent the last two decades being told I can never know everything, but being held accountable for everything regardless, only to find that every year or so, what I know is obsolete information. I may never meet the standards of knowing. But I’m ready for something else. If after 20 years knowing things doesn’t make me happy, I’ve got to change things. So these next twenty years aren’t going to be “knowing” years-they’re going to be “experience” years. I’m gonna do things, see things, live things. So that when I get to the next fork in the road, the only thing I’ll know is myself.

Cupcakes, Castaways and Conundrums

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I make jokes about being an old lady because I read the news so much.When we tuned our TV, I got excited at the prospect of watching news reports (even though they’re biased). I scan Facebook news for ideas then go off in search of the actual articles. It’s become both a frustration and a fascination.

I came across this article (which you can read here) about a 16 year old girl who set herself on fire in order to stop herself from further being raped by ISIL. TW: rape. I could hardly make it through this article myself. It is not something I recommend for casual readers.

And while I read it (because I can’t fight my battles if I live in ignorance) I didn’t struggle to understand the girl. I remember there was a class a few semesters ago where we had to read The Joys of Motherhood and the main character attempted suicide (I’m working on an article about suicide-it’s coming soon) because her child died. The woman later fought with a fellow wife about the way she was living. The second wife left the household and became a prostitute so that her daughter would have a better life than she did. Anyway, long story short, I had to “argue” a class full of people who were quick to judge the second wife.

I sat there, red faced and somewhat surprised at myself as I defended her choice to be a prostitute. “She’s doing what she thinks is best”, I said, “I can’t think of a single parent who wouldn’t whatever it took to ensure that their child’s needs were completely met. She knew that her daughter wouldn’t get an education if she stayed, and she wasn’t making enough money pawning wares so she decided that her life would be spent making the most out of the only thing she had to her name: herself. You don’t have to agree with her choices, you just have to understand that she chose unselfishly for the love of her daughter.”

The class looked at me like a was an alien-and trust me, I almost felt like one. My face was red because I was passionate-not because I was embarrassed. And something similar happened when I was reading about this poor girl (and there are others in the article). I certainly felt upset-how could you not? But I wasn’t upset at the girl’s choice. There is one sentence I’d like to highlight-just in case the article is too much for readers.

“So she doused herself in gasoline and lit a match, knowing that if she survived that the militants would no longer find her desirable.”

I look back at the posts I made on Facebook years ago (thanks to the timeline feature) and shake my head sometimes. I was raised in the church, according to the idea that because of the fact that I was born a woman I was to remain silent and completely ashamed of my body-because it was a source of sin just because it was biologically female. Now obviously not all churches are like that, and my parents are much more awesome than that line of thinking. But to have my identity wrapped up in a religious doctrine that shamed me for existing gave me a worldview that was very close minded and very enslaving.

I used to be very pro-life, for example, because a human being is a human being. I used to be under the understanding that I was influenced by the devil for dating other girls. I used to think that there was something wrong with me because I hated myself.

And then I woke up.

I no longer believe that modesty is something that happens because a woman shouldn’t be seen or heard. I believe that modesty is a choice-and empowerment isn’t linked to it.

I no longer believe that one person can force another into decisions without their consent-because each person should have the right to do to their body what they want-and that means having sex, not having sex, tattoos or no, piercings or no, abortions or no. I believe that it’s not my place to take control of someone else’s body-that’s metaphorical and psychological assault-and that’s NEVER okay.

I no longer believe that there’s anything wrong with love, as long as all involved are there because of the same reasons and have respect for the other people-and consent is a vital part of that. Gender isn’t. I believe that love is love-and if you’re lucky enough to find someone you love and who loves you back, you can change the world.

I no longer believe that there’s anything innately wrong with anyone. It is the choices we make that make us who we are-not the choices of our ancestors or progeny. And we were not born as mistakes because of our sexes, our abilities (or disabilities), our skin colors, our orientations, our differences. I believe that life is precious-and that most DEFINITELY includes people who are different than I am, because we are all different, but we are all human.

You don’t have to agree with someone’s decisions. You don’t even have to like them. But before you judge them, you need to understand why they were made in the first place.

Bi-Squared

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Look at all those labels. And all for just one person. Each one a reminder of my place, of the fact that I belong in a category. Each one fitting me neatly, each one coming with a list of things that are expected of me. Some require more than others, some come with some extra baggage that doesn’t quite meet my personal hopes. (I’m looking at you, little “millennial” label!)

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Uh-oh. It’s like trying to put a star in the circle hole. It’s “okay” if you’re one or the other, but be a part of too many minorities and suddenly it can feel like everyone has an issue with your existence.

I’ve “been” bipolar for the better part of a decade. The same, I suppose, could be said for being bisexual. I like to think I’m more of a sapiosexual, someone attracted to intelligence, but I love anyone who loves me-irrespective of gender. I got married comparatively young (I was 21) and up popped the naysayers. “If you were really bisexual, you wouldn’t have married hetero. You’d have married a woman.” and “You probably just said you were bisexual for attention. You’re either straight or gay. No in-between.”

That’s pretty close to the same thing people said to me when I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. I got the usual “cry for attention” argument, the “making it up” comments and the “you need to just get over it” statements. It begins to feel pretty oppressive if you add both of those together, like no one wants to look at you like a complex person but a complex problem.

Looking back at my dating history, I realized that a lot of the reasons I sabotaged my relationships had more to do with the way my disorder made me than it did who I was, or who I was with. I would start a relationship with someone in a manic state and the world would come crashing down as I slipped into depression. Each relationship came with the hope that whoever I was with-regardless of gender-would be able to help me when I couldn’t help myself. I married my husband because he was the one person who looked at me and saw more than a list of symptoms and problems. He saw me as a person worthy of love and respect. It didn’t matter what category I placed myself in (or how many), but that I chose to love him for him, and not for reasons my disorder placed at the top of the list.

No matter how I (or anyone, for that matter) choose to live my life, I will always be met with criticisms. Choosing to go “off meds”, back to counseling, not have kids, and more have all come with a slew of questions that came with good intentions, but were ultimately incredibly condescending and a little rude. As someone used to it by now, I just shrug it off with a respectful attempt to educate, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have anything heartfelt to say about it!

I watch the way the world seems to come at people who are different with fear and contempt. Being bipolar is hard for a plethora of reasons, but I’ve never felt scared of the way other people would view me. Being bisexual isn’t hard (unless you make it that way), but it’s definitely easy to feel judged or inferior with things like religious freedom laws and anti-LGBT protests. Being bi-squared (what I call myself for being both bi-polar and bi-sexual), puts me in an awkwardly precarious place because a lot of people just assume that I’m messed up in the head, so my orientation is just the product of my brain being defective.

The thing is, I’m a human being-the same as you. And I wasn’t meant to fit neatly into a category, or even several of them. I’m pretty sure the only way to live life to the fullest is to just be myself-the messy, zany, passionate me that means I may fit into some categories neatly, some not so much and some not at all. Most of all though, I get to pick those categories for myself, same as you. When we learn to respect those choices, and even value someone for having the ability to choose, that’s what makes the metaphorical world go round.

On Settling

I had a conversation with my sister recently about college and about passion and careers. I tried my best to be a guiding voice, as much as I could be, but I also am very conscious that everyone must make their own mistakes. I know I would not be the same person if I hadn’t “wasted” my time or made the choices I did. So I try to keep that in mind every time I give someone advice. Usually, I end up giving myself advice and they just listen.

But talking with her really was like talking to a younger version of myself. She hasn’t decided quite where she wants to go to college, what her passion is, what she wants out of life specifically. And I can appreciate that on so many levels. (Most of which come from making those mistakes I was talking about.)

I told her that it didn’t matter what she chose to do, as long as she chose it with her whole heart. Because settling for anything less than your passion is killing everything unique and creative about you. That applying to college as a high school senior was doing something insane that would work out in your favor later. And with that in mind, I told her if she wanted to go out of state, do it. If she wanted to stay at home and commute, do it. If she wanted to major in underwater basket weaving, do it. And it doesn’t matter how long it takes you to get there, so long as you get there.

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I remember being a senior in high school and thinking that I had everything figured out. I would go into medicine, wear the white coat and then devote my life to saving kids (I wanted to be a Pediatric Oncologist-aka children’s cancer doctor). I thought I could do that, have time for hobbies and maybe, just maybe do something great with my life. I looked into all girl colleges, co-ed ones out of state, universities in Ireland. I literally wanted to run away from Ohio and never come back.

I never left Ohio. And I don’t really regret that as much as I thought I might. Mind you, Ben and I are looking for law schools out of state, but if we stay here, it isn’t the end of the world. High school doesn’t really give you the sense of “everything will work out”. Instead it gives you unrealistic ideas about college, and incomparably ridiculous amounts of unnecessary stress.

I couldn’t find a way to convince my sister of this, and that’s okay. She’s got to find her own path. But in the end, I think that what I said was the only thing I could have said. Because I didn’t know it then, and I wish I would have.

You have to commit to an entire lifestyle when you pick a career. And if you want to live to the fullest, you’re going to need to find out what drives you enough to make that easier. Anything less than your passion isn’t living-it’s torture.

I’ve decided on a few proto-ideas about what makes a person passionate, that I will be honing throughout my life, so maybe if I have kids, I will be able to help them more than I could do for my sister, but for now, that is what I will leave her with.

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What do you want out of life?

What do you want your typical day to be like?

What things can you not do without?

What things do you not want to do without?

What are your hobbies? Favorite classes?

Who are your role models? Why?

Who are your favorite teachers? Why?

What do you want out of your career?

What will it take to make you happy?

What would you do first if you were given a super-power?

What kind of super power would it be?

The Start to a Great Day

This past week was a brutal week for human beings. Earthquakes, bigotry, hatred, fear and on my own campus there was a display of some very xenophobic graffiti. But there were also some wonderful things which happened. The grafiti was covered over by messages of acceptance and love. The bigotry and hatred was combatted with hope and kindness. Aid was given to those who needed it.

Yesterday was one of those weird days when I missed something from my old life: routine. Not the kind that I’d expected, but I missed having songs to sing to my deity. I had seen a video of someone singing “It Is Well With My Soul” and vividly recalled all the times I spent in church singing that song (and playing it on the piano) and then all the times I didn’t believe it. I didn’t want to go to church, I didn’t even want to sing the song. I wanted to revisit a time when there was a routine in my life that made everything seem simple. That is the way it is because is is that way. You know?

It was a weird feeling, but I think the point of it wasn’t that I found a hole in my belief system, it was that in those days, everything was simple (for me at least). I lived in a small town of people I knew and who knew me. I could walk all over the county by myself without fear. I could stop by people’s houses if I needed to call my parents or get a drink or hang out with people roughly my age. I missed the simplicity.

And yet, there are things I would not change about today. I braided my hair for the first time successfully all by myself. I got up on time, I dressed up today (I’m channeling my inner Snow White-red lips, blue top, yellow skirt) and I even managed to get rid a bunch of homework done. I didn’t panic when my husband drove us in this morning, even though I’ve grown accustomed to driving by myself. I got in to work early and successfully set up for the day. I’m a stronger, more independent person than I was six months ago. And what’s more, I accept myself for who I am more so than I did when I moved here. That’s not to say that I wouldn’t love to be a little different, but it means that I am not ashamed of who I am now.

  We are all products of our pasts. For me, that past means walking barefoot through grassy fields on the way to a raspberry patch to get my fingers completely covered in red dye. It means traveling downs dirt roads covered in arching trees and watching baby rabbits run across your yard right before a huge buck comes sniffing for roots and tulips. It’s picking apples off the trees while waiting for the bus to take me to school and bonfires with burnt marshmallows (which my parents had to eat). It’s dressing up on Sunday’s because that’s what respectable people did and then going home to pick garden produce.

  And we choose what becomes our future. Coffee dates with friends, and making time for people. It’s proving to yourself over and over again that you’re not the mistake you thought you were. It means taking the time to capture life’s little moments, watching a sunrise even when you’d rather be sleeping, making the best sandwich you’ve ever eaten and then being surprised that it tasted that good.  

  It means choosing to feel good about yourself and “I’ll be damned if I let other people shame me out of my own life”. It means giving up every reason you have for not being happy and just taking chances anyway-because you’ve finally decided that it’s in your best interest to believe in yourself.

  At the end of the day, we’re not always going to listen to the naysayers. And doing so will only hold us back. We’ve got to start living with love and passion, or else we don’t stand a chance of living at all.

(All photos today were taken by me and as you can see, are on my Instagram. Ya’ll can hop on over and browse about if you feel so inclined, but this is basically what I take pictures of. Only now it’s my dog and campus, but hey.)

Words like Vomit

Hi everyone! Thank you to all of you who tuned in for Metamorphosis Monday, and for looking at my analysis of the Kesha case. Today I want to get a little preachy, a little personal. So why did I title my blog “Words like Vomit”? I’m going to be blogging today about bodily autonomy. First, we need to get a couple definitions out of the way though. (This is where the title comes in. You all have ideals about their meaning, and the opposite belief is like bile in your mouth.)

  • Pro-Life: opposing abortion and euthanasia
  • Pro-Choice: believing that a pregnant woman has the right to have an abortion if she chooses
  • Pro-Abortion: in favor of the availability of medically induced abortion
  • Autonomy: freedom from external control or influence
  • Super Tuesday:  a day on which several US states hold primary elections.

A little note from me: I’ve done my best to keep myself respectful and neutral. But if I’m going to be honest with myself, I have to look at my biases, be sure to examine pitfalls in my argument and speak from my heart. Therefore, I will talk to you all as equals, and not as children (or AS a child). My beliefs are my own, and may not be yours. That doesn’t make them invalid, it just makes them different. Until the age of 19, I was extremely pro-life. And then I realized that I could be pro-life about my own actions without needing to be choosing the destiny of someone else. From the definitions above, you can see that you can be pro-choice without being pro-abortion. And that’s my stance. I cannot pick the life for someone else, and no one else can pick my life for me. So let’s get down to bodily autonomy: the living versus the dead. Also, my future blogs will feature other things, not just political ones, but you know what they say about passion: it’ll consume you.

As always:

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What happens when a person dies? Apart from the very biological parts of what really happens, there is a lot that people often do not think about until they are forced to. Burial or cremation? If burial, what kind? Were they an organ donor? Did they have any religious beliefs which might determine their final wishes? What were their final wishes? How would they feel if someone from a different religion, different geographic location, different socioeconomic standpoint came in and told the family members what they could and could not do with the body of their loved one? How would the loved ones feel?

Let’s start someplace different. How do you know someone is alive? Is it what they do? A certain age? Or is it something else? According to the Encylopaedia Britannica, life is defined as matter that shows certain attributes such as responsiveness, growth, metabolism, energy transformation and reproduction. The Catholic Church defines life at conception (when sperm meets egg).

So already, we have an issue with science v. religion. Which is right? I’m not the one to tell you. Sorry. But while we’re on the subject, I’ll tell you about a class I once had, over that very thing. It was a philosophy of science and religion class, and in it the professor handed us a picture of the world’s leading religions. I’ll pass it on to you all, but I’ll also add in the numbers.

Religion_distribution

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Do you want to know what those numbers mean? It means that no matter what religion ends up to be “right”, a majority of the people will be “wrong”. Think about that for a minute. Suppose you are a religion which preaches “eternal hell” for all non-believers. You are not only NOT the majority, but you have just sentenced millions (billions?) of people to die. Interesting, no?

So for the sake of morals, let’s say I choose science. That means that until much later in the cycle, an abortion is just a cleaning out of cells.(Michelle, that’s harsh! Don’t you know fetuses can feel and hear and stuff?) Lets break down this one, shall we? Most abortions happen before week 13 of pregnancy. What happens to fetal growth and development by week 13? Let’s look. It’s all just implantation and cell division until about week 6. Do you wanna know how big that fetus is? The size of a lentil. How big is that? It’s this big:

lentil (That’s a quarter.)

By week 10, the fetus has skin, has lost its tail and can move it’s little limbs around. By week 12, “brain” development has reached a point where reflexes are possible. The fetus is the size of a lime. How big is that? It’s this big:

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Okay, so now that that’s taken care of, let’s return to the dead. Three (or more!) states have what is called “Death with Dignity” laws. That means that, providing an individual meets the correct criteria, that individual may choose to die on their own terms with medical help.

The court case of McFall v. Shrimp ruled that while you may not agree with someone’s actions over their own body, it is legally within that person’s rights to do with their own body what they choose-even at the expense of saving someone else’s life.

Medical doctors are not allowed to remove perfectly good organs from deceased people to use in patients who need transplants if the deceased did not agree (before dying) to be an organ donor. That means that a dead person has more legal rights to the organs the no longer need than the 4 year old who needs a heart, or the 30 year old dad with 3 kids who needs a set of kidneys. A living person must choose to lose their organs when they die, or they cannot be taken from them. A dead person’s wishes must also be acknowledged as far as “disposal”. If they state in writing that they wished to be cremated, then those among the living must comply.

So what does this have to do with women and pregnancy and abortion? (And more importantly, Michelle, I thought you said you weren’t pro-abortion!) It has everything to do with women and pregnancy and abortion, and yes, I am pro-choice.

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If we afford protection to the members of our society who choose to keep the fully functioning, completely healthy organs the have with them when they die, and we cannot force someone to do something with their body that they do not want, then that has to be universal. THAT’S my point. It doesn’t matter if you are pro-anything. If you do not afford the right to have the choice to make decisions about your own body, then you cannot reasonably argue that a dead person should be allowed to keep their organs when they would be better used with those who are fighting to live.

And that also means that if a patient with a terminal illness, in a lot of pain, simply wants to be at ease, to die before they can no longer keep themselves alive, they would not be able to do so, because their choices would be stripped away.

Interesting how life and death have so much in common. And I’m not saying that religious people have everything wrong. What I am saying is that if people cared so much about life, perhaps they should try a little harder to protect and foster the life that is already fighting to hold on instead of being preoccupied trying to run the lives of women that they haven’t even met.

And for those of you on the fence about all this, let me provide some facts about the types of women who get abortions, to put to bed the stereotypes you have in your heads.

Half of all pregnancies are unplanned, and half of those end in abortion.

  • 57% had some college education;
  • 88% were from metropolitan areas; and
  • 57% percent were low-income

Women who obtain abortions represent every religious affiliation. 13% of abortion patients describe themselves as born-again or Evangelical Christians; while 22% of U.S. women are Catholic, 27% of abortion patients say they are Catholics.

Half of all women getting abortions report that contraception was used during the month they became pregnant.

Research indicates that relief is the most common emotional response following abortion, and that psychological distress appears to be greatest before, rather than after, an abortion.

Source: http://prochoice.org/education-and-advocacy/about-abortion/abortion-facts/

Here’s a chorus from the song “What It’s Like” by Everclear

God forbid you ever had to walk a mile in her shoes
‘Cause then you really might know what it’s like to have to choose.

And why did I bring up Super Tuesday? Because the only way to change the course of the country is to vote.