When Roe v. Wade was overturned in June, many rushed to social media to declare their protest over the decision — which took away the constitutional right to abortion — and the devastating effects it would have on the future of reproductive healthcare in America.
But Dr. Jennifer Lincoln, a Portland based obstetrician/gynecologist with over 2 million followers on TikTok, took a trip down memory lane to her anti-abortion past as a way to encourage the progression of beliefs at a time when, she says, it is needed most.
"I used to be anti-abortion — until I learned the whole story," was the caption of the video in which she contrasted her life at 15, when she was writing essays against abortion and believing it to be wholly immoral, to now, and being a vocal pro-choice ally.
OB/GYNs are a foundational rung on the ladder of reproductive infrastructure, ensuring that those seeking abortions, for any reason, can do so safely.
The TikTok, which has received more than 29,500 likes, was her example of a common societal conundrum: challenging lifelong beliefs once presented with new information, especially in the case of religious indoctrination.
"I grew up in Catholic schools and being taught that sex before marriage was wrong, abortion was wrong, that it was a sin, and I sort of just internalized all that without question, because there was no other perspective given," Lincoln tells Yahoo Life.
She grew up in Long Island, New York, and quickly adopted the beliefs presented to her as irrefutable truths, something she took with her to college — where an era of slow-burn metacognition would change how she viewed life, and abortions, forever.
"There were condoms in the bathroom and I remember thinking 'that's so ridiculous, I'm never going to need those. I'm never going to have sex and nobody should have sex,'" she says, admitting it took some time for the unlearning process to begin
Like many who identify as "pro-life," Lincoln grew up thinking abstinence was the best way to prevent unwanted pregnancies, but slowly began to change her tune once those around her — and Lincoln herself — began having sex.
"When I saw that there were other sides to the story that I just hadn't been given, I was not given the information I needed to make really good, informed, safe choices, I started to think maybe things weren't as they had been … taught to me," she says.
She graduated college in 2003 and went on to medical school, where she entered a deeper, anatomical level of understanding that allowed her to see just how necessary safe abortion access is.
"Seeing really what happens to people who are pregnant, have issues, are not prepared, or having mistimed or unplanned pregnancies, and just how medically harmful and dangerous pregnancy can be. But also emotionally and psychologically, if it's not something that we were prepared for, really opened my eyes," she says.
Lincoln's previous beliefs about the immoralities of premarital sex are not exclusive to her upbringing.
According to Planned Parenthood, 37 states have laws demanding abstinence inclusion in the sex education curriculum, but only 18 states require information about birth control.
Sex stigmatization is deeply enmeshed in anti-abortion culture, says Lincoln. But she doesn't think an ethics deep dive is necessary to get people to understand why their religious inflictions have no place in a courtroom.
"It's absolutely fine if you yourself don't agree with abortion. I'm not here to convince anybody that they should — [only] that their opinions are for themselves, and they shouldn't project those onto other people," she says, despite the fact that she was taught to do just that while growing up. "I was taught when I was younger that, because of a religious belief, that this was true for everyone, and there were really no gray zones. And that's the farthest thing from the truth in life."
Arguing with others about their religious affiliations is not at the top of Lincoln's to-do list by any means, but she does stress the importance of encouraging conversations that support rational socio-political perspectives.
"The point is to make them aware that personal beliefs should not be the basis of legislation — especially personal beliefs that are rooted in religion, when we are a country that is allegedly not a theocracy, and allegedly values separation of church and state," she says.
"So whenever I'm talking to people who say, 'Well, I think that's horrible, and I would never have an abortion,' I always say, 'That's great that you know that about yourself, and I'm not here to change your mind. What I'm asking you to do is to understand that you don't have the right to make that choice for somebody else,'" she says.
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