January 25, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) - I was pro-choice. Although I probably wouldn’t have had an abortion, I didn’t feel it was my place – or my right – to dictate to another woman what she should do with her body or her life. So I voted for laws and policymakers that supported abortion. Always.

I dismissed any thought of what was being aborted. Then I started having children of my own. No, I didn’t experience an epiphany after my first baby was born. Over a 10-year period, it gradually dawned on me that I could have chosen to end the life of any one of the children I held in my arms. And I wouldn’t go to jail. I decided if they lived or died. Whether the act was legal or illegal was determined by which side of my skin the baby resided.

When the controversy over late-term, or partial-birth, third-trimester abortions erupted in the late 1990s, I started to pay attention to what really takes place during the termination of pregnancies. “Post-viability” abortions, the pro-choice preference for the name of the procedure, weren’t the most common performed at that time, but the fact that babies were killed by having their brains sucked out while their squirming legs poked from the birth canal made me pause.

I asked myself if partial-birth abortions were any worse than dilation and extraction (D&E) procedures in the second trimester, where forceps are used to pull apart the babies arms, legs and head with no fetal anesthesia, as if that would make it palatable. Was a D&E more abhorrent than violently vacuuming out the baby or chemically inducing its demise in a first-trimester abortion?

In the 1980s, I was a San Diego State student with almost enough credits to minor in Women’s Studies. These classes formed my staunchly feminist ideology, and I saw the right to abortion as advancing the equality of women. If abortion laws were reversed in any way, my right to equal pay and the enjoyment of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness could be compromised.

As years passed, I came to realize that outlawing abortion had nothing to do with denying rights to the women who carried the babies. I’m not a misogynist because I believe that every life should be given the same opportunity to be born. I value women enough to know that they are being used to line the pockets of abortion providers. If facilities truly felt the right to abortion must be protected because it’s best for women, why don’t these philanthropic-appearing organizations use their government funding and private donations to terminate pregnancies for free?

According to statistics compiled in 2011 by the Guttmacher Institute, the research branch of Planned Parenthood, women obtained abortions because of concern for being responsible for another person, for financial reasons, fear the baby would interfere with work or school or because they didn’t want to be a single parent. Instead of denying a baby the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, adoption is an answer to these challenges that pregnant women face.

Twelve years ago, I trained to be a speaker for the pro-life movement. Ironically, I was unable to fulfill engagements because of the birth of my fourth son. I wanted to stand before crowds and tell them that an embryo has his or her own DNA, different from the mother’s; that the heart starts beating 18 days after the baby is conceived, before most women even know they’re pregnant; and by 21 days, this “clump of cells” has a circulatory system with an individual blood type.

I can no longer sit on the sidelines and expect other people (more intelligent and eloquent, no doubt) to fight the battle to protect the lives of tiny human beings. I may not know exactly what to do, but I can stand and be counted among those who refuse to be convinced by politicians and moneymaking corporations that what is wrong is actually right. And now I vote for pro-life candidates and legislation. Always.

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Carol Maxwell and her husband Scott have been married for 27 years and have seven children. Scott is the Executive Director of Culture of Life Family Services, a San Diego-based full-service medical office that provides free care to women in need with unplanned pregnancies.