“I’m going to Disneyland!” You won the Super Bowl? You sailed around the world? Now what are you going to do? Go to Disneyland, that’s what. Or so the catchphrase goes.
Maybe it’s because I’m the mother of a soon to be four-year-old, who, like so many little girls her age, is mesmerized by all things Disney—the princesses, the castles, even the mere scrawling of the word, Disney, on merchandise and on the movie screen, invokes a shriek of joy from Olivia. Maybe it’s because I’ve spent far too many visits recently with members of my biological family that involved an outpouring of tears from them over the abortion that was meant to end my life 34 years ago. But for the last couple of months, I have kept thinking over and over again about how my life hasn’t been “normal” in the past 20 years since I found out that I was an abortion survivor, how I can never turn off the reality in my heart and in my head about not only about what happened to me, but about what happens to children in our world everyday and how women, men, families, and entire communities are affected by abortion.
“Look Mom, it’s Stitch!” Olivia shouted from her stadium chair as we watched Disney on Ice a couple of weeks ago. As we watched Lilo, Stitch, Lilo’s sister, Nani, and others skate gracefully across the ice, depicting for us the meaning of ‘ohana, or family, I was reduced to a sobbing mess. For those that may not know Lilo and Stitch, the backstory involves Lilo and Nani losing their parents in a car accident. Stitch, a cute, albeit, historically dangerous alien life form, who looks more like a big mouse than an alien, is adopted by Lilo. That’s the short version of the story. The long version involves Dr. Jumba trying to recapture this alien life form on Earth and Lilo fighting to save and keep Stitch.
‘Ohana. Family. Grief and loss. Fighting to keep the family that you have. Yep, I was a sobbing mess. Even when the pace of the segment changed and Stitch was strumming a ukulele and singing Elvis tunes, I couldn’t get my mind off of it. Abortion. “I must be the only woman in this place watching a harmless show with her daughter and thinking about abortion,” I thought to myself. I glanced around the arena filled with happy, joyful families, trying to shake the thought from my consciousness. But as I watched Lilo and Stitch that Saturday with Olivia, I felt the deep pain that comes with experiencing loss and I sensed the powerful love that adoption had brought into Lilo and Stitch’s lives.
“Why can’t I just go to a show with Olivia and enjoy myself?” I questioned. “Why can’t my life just ever be normal?” Why? Because after an abortion, there is no “going to Disneyland,” like the old catchphrase goes. As I’ve been telling students in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada this week, where I am speaking at seven different high schools, abortion changes everything. It not only ends a life, but it transforms others, forever. And not just a woman’s life, but a man’s life, grandparent’s lives, aunts and uncles, siblings, cousins, friends, communities. Relationships are altered; many are damaged or ended.
For so long now, women have been told not only that it’s their right to have an abortion, but so, too, they have been told that it is a simple procedure from which they can easily move on with their lives. After an abortion, they can “go to Disneyland,” as the adage goes. Men, too, have been guided to believe that an abortion meant that they could “go to Disneyland,” too, since their responsibility to a child no longer existed, and they could go on with their lives like nothing significant had happened. Yet the experiences of post-abortive men and women reflect that life doesn’t just magically get better or simply and easily go on. I encourage you to check out the new videos by Silent No More (www.silentnomore.com) for stories that illustrate this first-hand.
What is the allure of Disney and what is the significance of “going to Disneyland?” I’ve been pondering over the past few weeks. Watching and listening to Olivia, I believe that it’s not only the flawless beauty of princesses or the storybook ideologies of love and valor, but the concept of ‘Happily Ever After’ that most attracts young and old alike. No matter the depth of evil implored by Snow White’s wicked stepmother, the Queen, no matter how many difficulties or obstacles Cinderella faced at the hands of her Stepmother and Stepsisters, in the end, the heroines of Disney live happily ever after. And we love that, don’t we?! It warms our hearts to see good triumph over evil, for love to win over hate, for life to triumph over death. And we desperately want our lives to be the same.
Yes, there are days that I wish I didn’t think about abortion the moment that I look at myself in the mirror in the morning as I wipe the sleep out of my eyes. Yes, there are days that I wish that my last thought, my final prayers for the night, didn’t involve abortion. Yes, there are days that I wish that I could take Olivia to a show like Disney on Ice and not think about abortion, but the truth is that there is no ‘Happily Ever After’ when it comes to abortion. Abortion will always be a part of my life, the lives of my biological family, of my adoptive family, of Ryan and Olivia’s lives, of my friends’ lives. We are forever touched and forever changed by that one decision that was made 34 years ago for my biological mother to have an abortion.
No, there is no “going to Disneyland” for me when it comes to abortion. I am forever impacted and forever changed. But God-willing, more children will be blessed with life because I understand this and I am not afraid to speak out about it. And maybe, just maybe, Miss Olivia Ohden, you will be going to Disneyland this year. Not because we are looking for a ‘Happily Ever After,’ but because after four years, we are due for a family vacation.
Although there is a level of laughter and even nostalgia for some around the “I’m going to Disneyland” phenomena, the reality is that it says a