Why I Support Abortion Access and AASN

Our newest board member shares her story and why she supports abortion access and AASN.

By Leeann Bennett, AASN Director of Membership

 "I've been holding this sign since 1973. My arms are tired." This was a sign I spotted at the Women's March in Little Rock in January, 2017. And in this new millennium, I am appalled that we have to continue the fight for reproductive justice.

I was ten in January of 1973 when the Roe v. Wade decision came out, and one of nine unintended and mostly unwanted pregnancies my mother had. Birth control was difficult to come by back when my siblings and I were born, or in one case stillborn and in two others (post-1973) aborted. And when Roe v. Wade became law of the land, I had been living in my second children's home for over two years. If you've never lived in a children's home, I promise you, it is no place for any child to grow up.

Ever consider the horrors of growing up unwanted? My story is disturbing. Still, I beg your thoughtful consideration of it.

My parents were utterly incompetent parents. My father was neglectful and mostly absent. My mother was a sadistic child abuser. The fallout devastated my six siblings and me, leaving scars both physical and psychological that persist to this day.

When I was seven, my siblings and I were sent to live in scattered locations. I lived with both parents together, each separately, an aunt, my grandparents, four different foster homes, and three different children’s homes. Twelve different homes in fourteen years! Continual instability and the inability to make deep, abiding bonds with those adults charged with our care affected us deeply.

Some homes were decent. Too many harbored abusers and sexual predators. We hunkered down in survival mode until we could escape.

Being unwanted is a life sentence. It shackles you to a world of what-ifs.  It leads to numerous health problems as well.  My youngest brother committed suicide at 37. Another brother is currently dying from liver cancer. Among some of us alcoholism rages. Some have also passed on our father’s neglect to their own children.

Abuse is generational. It is also stoppable.

Some find it weird that I advocate for abortion rights given my history, as if to suggest that I would be better off if I'd never been born. That's not the issue. I would never have BEEN at all if I'd not been born. I mean, no one has memories good or bad of time in the womb, so it's not like I would have missed out on anything there. My point is that if I had never been born, I would never have suffered the abuse. I would never have questioned my right to be. I would never have struggled with addiction. I would never have felt like an intruder in other people's homes. I would never have mourned the passing of my baby brother to suicide. I would never have required the years of therapy it took for me to break free of my tendencies toward self-harm.

Fortunately, I love my life now and am happy to be alive. Yet I am a statistical anomaly. I see my siblings continue to suffer, continue to pass along their sickness to their offspring. It is only the very few who are lucky enough to be able to break the cycle. Statistically, I should either be in jail; addicted; or dead from violence, suicide, drug overdose, or health issues. Too many of my siblings have suffered or continue to suffer these fates, and they are awful.

Let's kick around a few facts: --Most adults have sex.
--Birth control is necessary.
--Birth control sometimes fails.
--Some adults make lousy parents.
--Not every conception should result in birth.

Conclusion: Reproductive rights are essential to raising wanted children, and AASN works hard to ensure that every child is a wanted child. This is, in part, why I do this important work as an escort, a donor, and an AASN board member.

Why I Am A Member of AASN

Continuing our introduction series, we are pleased to present AASN board member and secretary, Sarah Frith Coleman. Sarah tells us what drew her to AASN and what she enjoys about the work.

"You are worth more than being considered as only an incubator."  - my mother
I am a member of AASN for many reasons.  Despite our country's current political climate, I strongly believe that all Americans deserve access to high-quality health care, and that includes abortion.  ABORTION IS HEALTH CARE, and we owe it to women to preserve access to it.  We also owe it to ourselves and future generations of women to not be afraid to say "abortion" out loud and discuss our stories.  One of the things that really attracted me to AASN is the use of "abortion" and its clear focus on abortion access. 
I joined AASN as its mission corresponded with my values, and I remain an active member because AASN makes real differences in women's lives. As a clinic escort, it has been a humbling experience meeting women and families and hearing their stories.   The common thread is that all are trying to do their best.  It hurts my heart to see the pain on their faces as judgmental protesters yell at them, and I try in some small way to make their clinic experiences better.
An unexpected pleasure as an AASN member has been meeting like-minded people.   Sometimes it's easy to feel isolated in the Bible Belt, but I have met many wonderful people with the common goal of preserving abortion access.  Having this community keeps me energized for the battles we continue to face against reproductive rights.
AASN is also extremely accommodating in terms of one's schedule and level of comfort when it comes to engagement.  Not everyone is comfortable with clinic escorting, and AASN is very understanding and provides other ways for members and volunteers to stay involved in its activities.   That may seem small, but that is very important to me in terms of AASN sustainability.

Why I Am Part of AASN

Welcome to Arkansas Abortion Support Network's blog! To kick off our official website and blog, our founders and board members will share their reasons and passion for working with AASN. For our inaugural post, we introduce our co-founder, treasurer, and fund administrator, Roz Creed.

I am part of AASN because I am a passionate advocate of reproductive freedom and choice.  I feel if we lose our ability to plan when we will have children and lose access to abortion for unintentional or dangerous pregnancies, we are, in effect, endorsing slavery of mothers. If we become a forced birth nation we relegate pregnant people to second class citizenship.  They become people who are not considered capable of making their own life decisions.  Forcing someone to do something that is absolutely against their will is an unconscionable and reprehensible way to govern.
I feel we must do everything in our power to support Arkansans seeking abortion.  As a member of AASN I do this by escorting at Little Rock Family Planning Services, by administering our fund that provides financial support for procedures, travel, lodging and childcare, and reaching out to Arkansas communities to educate on the facts of abortion.  I am very proud of my roles as Co-founder, Director, Treasurer and Fund Administrator.