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Monday, February 23, 2015

Conceived in Rape-Incest, I Was Bullied After Testifying Before the NM Legislature, by Rowena Slusser

On Friday, February 20, 2015, I went to the New Mexico Roundhouse to speak out in support of HB 390 Late-term Abortion Ban -- without the rape exception.  My family and I got there early, and I was excited, but nervous! This was a big step for me on so many levels.  While I have shared my story with more people than I can count, I had never spoken in front of a legislative committee with opposition around me.  Why would I go before the committee and share how I was conceived in incest/rape?  Because the lives of the rape/incest-conceived matter, and as a follower of Christ, I must stand for what is right!  A bill with the rape exception IS NOT RIGHT, NO MATTER WHAT ANYONE SAYS!  Before I go into the details of that comment, I want to share what my day was like.

The House Regulatory and Public Affairs Committee allowed those who were against the ban to speak first.  Their testimonies went for 2 or 3 hours.  Listening to the pro-abortion statements was difficult, to say the least. Some of the comments were almost comical because the facts presented seemed staged.  I had to cough a few times to clear my throat so I could stifle the chuckle.  It was heartbreaking to watch soon-to-be physicians and MD’s spout the lies they believe about abortion. Some of these women were so young!  Even as I listened to them, I was praying for God to reveal the truth to them.  There were women who were virtually shouting at the committee that it was their body, their lives and that the legislators had no right!  I sat in my chair beside my husband and children, thinking how selfish those comments were.  I saw hatred spewing from these women’s mouths onto our legislators.  It was sad.
After the opposing side had its turn, the line of speakers for HB 390 started to line up.  Since I am in a power chair, moving around this crowded room was a chore.  When I got to the line of those who wanted to testify in support of the bill, I started to navigate through the stream of people.  I was treated with kindness and allowed to be second to speak.  Oh man, I was conflicted!  I was relieved that my task would soon be over, but I was also so nervous!  What if I forget to properly address the committee?  What if I freeze up completely?  What if I just cry?  What if I make a fool of myself?  What if the committee or anyone else hates me and I am mistreated?  Those are just a few of the thoughts which I was fighting against.
Though I knew for days before that I was to speak, yet every time I would sit to write out what I was to say, the paper stayed blank. I sought the Father for His guidance.  What did He want me to tell this committee?
I finally wrote down a few words on a piece of paper, while I waited to testify. Here is what I wrote” “Madam and Mr. Chair and Committee, My name is Rowena Slusser and I am in support of HB 390 with an amendment to remove the rape/incest and sexual abuse exception.”  I still didn’t know what else I was to tell this legislative body.  Finally, it was my turn to the microphone.  I vaguely remember reading the introduction off the paper.  I remember saying something about the exception being a civil rights issue.  The rest of my testimony is a fog.  I have seen my video, so I know that I said what was needed, but it was the Lord who put those words in my mouth!  
I told my story of having been conceived when my biological father raped his own daughter, and how at 5 months pregnant, doctors tried to pressure my mom into a late-term abortion. I also shared how I later became pregnant  at the age of 13 when my step-father raped me, but I tragically miscarried.  I explained to them that he would have forced an abortion upon me, which would have only protected and enabled him.  As I testified, I remember seeing the committee through what I can only describe as a wall of water because I was so full of emotion.
I can only imagine how Moses felt going before Pharaoh, knowing that Pharaoh’s heart would be hardened!  What of Esther?  She becomes queen, only to go before the king, unannounced (which is punishable by death), to speak up for the life of her people!  But my own life certainly wasn’t on the line -- I was not in any physical danger. The bravery of these two biblical heroes is astounding to me, while yet inspiring me. I felt as though I was pleading for the lives of my people!  Who are my people?  They are men and women who were conceived in rape or incest! They are the pre-born babies conceived in rape or incest! They are the women who are marginalized and mistreated for wanting to keep their children!  They are the parents who have adopted a rape or incest-conceived child!  We are the first to be offered up as a sacrifice upon the altar of the politics of compromise.  When our lives are extinguished, so many suffer.
Out of all the “pro-life” speakers who testified, only four of us took a stand, asking for the rape and incest exception to be removed.  Not one Albuquerque pro-life leader stood against the exception!  One of the “pro-life” leaders recently called me a “good friend” on Facebook, but good friends have each other’s backs.
The line of speakers dwindled down, and I was so relieved because we had been in the hearing for over 4 hours at that point. Then I was surprised when my husband said that he wanted to testify!  He got up there, introduced himself, and said that he supported the bill with an amendment to remove the rape, incest and sexual abuse exception. Whoa -- my husband, my hero is standing up!  He has been my biggest support and encouragement -- I have always known that he has my back when it came to my past and my conception, but now he was speaking out, telling the committee that he was thankful to my mom for saying no to an abortion!  He said that this exception was wrong, telling them how much he valued me, and how much he loves me -- I was beyond words!  That was MY MAN and my man was bold!!!  I am so thankful for him!  (Casey, I love you and respect you!)
Finally, the last speaker testified, then the committee asked questions of the presenters of the bill, and the vote was taken. The bill passed committee with the exceptions in it. The vote was 4-3, along party lines.  My heart broke, but I wasn’t surprised.
I was ready to go to the hotel.  My children sat through the entire hearing and were tired.  I had completed the mission set for me, and was ready for some rest and relaxation.  But that isn’t what happened.
As we were preparing to leave, I was approached by New Mexico House of Representative Rod Montoya (R-San Juan County, District 1). He positioned himself in a way which made it difficult for me to remove myself.  I felt trapped as he whispered with a firm voice in very low tones.  He told us that he had other people get up to speak for the bill because he didn’t want the Committee to recall what the previous speaker had said -- someone else at the end who had urged that the rape exception be removed!  He warned that we had to be careful with what we say, telling me that if I continue to show that I do not fully support the bill, I could cause it to not go through.  I told him that I understood what he was saying, but that I had to speak my conscience!  He said that in the House, it wasn’t as big of a deal, but that in the state Senate, there were two Democratic senators who won’t vote for the bill’s passage if they heard the slightest opposition.  
With much fervor, he tried explaining to me that “at least some babies would be saved.” To this comment, I replied that it was the babies’ lives left out of the bill which is the problem.  So then he “assured” me that if the bill passed with the exceptions, that they would later revisit it, and cover all lives. Despite a rape exception with no reporting requirements, and despite a gaping “health of the mother” exception with no standards other than the abortionist’s “opinion,” he maintained that this bill would save 95% of the babies being aborted late-term.  I told him again that the 5% is why I am fighting, assuring him that I wouldn’t purposely try to kill the bill, but that I will not back down from defending babies conceived the same way I was!  To this, he actually eluded to me being selfish.
I then told Representative Montoya that the only possibility of me not speaking out was if he would email me “proof” of other abortion bills which had exceptions, where legislators later removed the exceptions. (Mind you, I know that he cannot do this because it hasn’t happened!)  He changed the subject and again scolded me to stay quiet!  I firmly told him that I would do what I thought was right.  He again accused me that it would be my fault if the bill didn’t pass the Senate.
At this point, my husband saw what was going on and engaged him in conversation.  I told Representative Montoya that I’ve already considered what he was saying, but that I must not back down.  My husband then asked him questions which completely stumped him, and I was finally able to remove myself from this “silencing” session.  I have seen movies where a politician tries to manipulate someone to change their stance, but experiencing this in person, on such a critical matter, was surreal, and disturbing to my spirit.
This adventure reminds me of a clip from the novel Divergent.  Tris has chosen Dauntless. She has to jump into the unknown to finalize her choice.  She has to have courage and bravery!  All she has known is how to be invisible as Abnegation. Selfless, now she has to be daring -- take risk!  I see myself a lot in the character of Tris.  I have been sheltered in my world, raising my children, being a stay-at-home wife and mom, serving others – all of which I love, but it is a sort of comfort zone for me.  Now I am being asked to jump out of my comfort zone and into battle.  My voice -- my risk has been minimal.  Now the Lord is calling me to scale mountaintops with Him. Take risks.
Testifying in the hearing was a risk, a big risk.  This risk has consequences.  Some consequences have already presented themselves.  I have had painful comments from people close to me.  I have been bullied by legislative and pro-life leaders.  My heart is broken!  Do I regret standing up, taking the risk?  No, I do not!  My Savior reminds me that He gives me His peace.  I am loved by Him so I do not have to be afraid.  This is His working!  He will continue to lead me and give me what to say, and I am certain that my day at the Roundhouse was the first of many advocating for the lives of women who conceive in rape, incest, sexual abuse, and sex trafficking, along with the lives of innocent pre-born babies who were conceived in rape, incest, sexual abuse and sex trafficking.
BIO:  Rowena Slusser is a wife, mother of 2, and blogger for Save The 1.  Read more of her story here.  Conceived in rape/incest, she advocates for the protection of all human life.  Her personal blog is “Treasure of Life.” 

1 comments:

Maureen Sullivan said...

Don't back down Rowena------You are absolutely right in fighting for those little ones conceived in rape or incest. I am pro life and I support you!!!! God bless and stay strong >3