As a seventeen-year-old high school student, I have had many influences around me to help shape my thoughts on abortion and my generation’s sex culture. I have come to a realization that when someone has an abortion or sex, it’s nobody’s damn business.

My life has always been influenced by the world around me, whether I like it or not. I don’t know if that can be said for everyone, but I have found that being open-minded doesn’t have to change what I already believe. As a seventeen-year-old senior in high school, I allow myself to listen to different perspectives because it brings me more knowledge of the people and world around me, and this often times allows me to share my truths. When I open up the conversation about abortion to friends, family, or even strangers, I often face a lot of harsh criticism, but I’ve learned that all I can do when I talk to someone with different opinions is listen.

I identify as extremely pro-choice, and that can mean different things to different people. For me, at least, pro-choice means having an option or say in motherhood, and having the opportunity to discuss options with medical professionals without government interference. From speaking to anti-choicers, I have come to realize that many of them don’t agree with abortions because they view them as putting an end to an innocent human life. Two sides with two very different opinions, and this is mine. Abortions should always be an option, and no one should be forced to carry a pregnancy they don’t want.

I often hear anti-choicers say things like “Take responsibility for your actions,” and it infuriates me because I translate it as “Don’t have sex if you don’t want to have a baby.” I’m surprised when I have to explain to people that birth control isn’t always 100 percent effective, and it isn’t always an option for women who are negatively affected by the hormonal changes to their bodies. Add to that the fact that some people have latex allergies and condoms aren’t always an option, and adding lube to them can make them break down and ineffective. It’s hard for me to imagine a time when sex was only a subject for married couples, or when virginity was sacred. Sex is just a thing that people do, not to have a baby, but for pleasure.

People have sex, it’s just human nature. I haven’t encountered many parents who don’t want their children to be taught sex-ed in school, but those I have met, in my personal opinion, are causing more harm than good to their children. Sex-ed is a valuable subject to learn. It doesn’t advocate for young people to have sex, but teaches them how they can protect themselves from illnesses and understand what consent means. It was a very useful class for me as a woman, as I learned all the different types of birth control I could potentially take. Yes, it’s a sex-ed class, but it’s not just about sex, it’s about preparing yourself so you feel safe when that moment arises. We need more of these classes to be taught, because they teach people how to prevent becoming pregnant. But they don’t teach about the options a woman has once she’s become pregnant, especially in high school.

Most girls don’t know about what Plan B is, and if they do they can confuse it to be an abortion pill. This can also be said about the knowledge about their state’s abortion laws — many girls believe abortion is illegal in their state, so they won’t even bother calling clinics for help, or are too afraid to ask their parents for consent to an abortion procedure. These girls are left stuck in a position in which they have no other choice but to try to attempt an unsafe abortion or carry out the pregnancy. We have failed the countless women who have been left in that position when they should have been given options in the first place.

Abortion is a personal decision, not a governmental debate. I’ve had numerous conversations with people who oppose abortion, and I always find that in their response they always try to protect the “baby” or “innocent life” without any regard to the woman who is already alive, living, and breathing. I would like to think that if I ever found myself in that position, I would have control over my body and my decisions, but currently, that’s being more and more restricted. It’s actually very simple — I should get to control what comes in and out of my uterus without anyone interfering with my personal liberty.

I support women and their choice to control their lives how they see fit, and if that means they need an abortion, I support that. Abortion has been continuously shamed by society, and it needs to change. Not everyone might agree with it, but it should be respected.

The laws being implemented today in order to restrict abortion rights are going to hurt women who seek out help, especially minorities and low-income women. We need to advocate for our human right to choose when and how we want to start motherhood. We need to start destigmatizing abortion and understanding the culture of younger generations around us. That starts with talking to the people around you, being informed, and getting involved. Throughout the last couple of weeks in my life, I was open to hearing new perspectives, even those opposing abortion. I found that, in doing so, my views got stronger, and I felt more confident talking about the subject. I simply came to the conclusion that it’s easy to speak on a topic on which one has absolutely no personal experience with. Even I, as a pro-choice advocate, have never been faced with dealing with an abortion. However, if I was ever in that circumstance, I would like to know I’d be given my simple human right to choose.

Jimena Becerra is an intern with ProgressNow Colorado’s Keep Abortion Safe project.