Caitlyn Dixson graduated from college a year early with a double major. For the past six months, she has served as the executive director of Iowa Right to Life where she has utilized her political experience to lobby at the capitol for pro-life laws. These would be impressive feats for anyone, but for Dixson, she has accomplished all this and more even though there was a time in her life when everyone told her she wouldn’t.
At 16, Dixson discovered she was pregnant. A junior in high school, active in the show choir, Dixson says when her family found out they were worried about how becoming a teen mom would affect her life plans. One parent was focused solely on Dixson’s future and assumed ending the pregnancy was the best option and scheduled an abortion as soon as possible. The other, although politically active and conservative, was quiet and wanted her to make her own decision. Dixson says, at the time, “I wanted to be told, ‘You can do it, and it’s all going to be okay.’”
Facing an uncertain future, Dixson traveled with her parents on a four-hour drive to the Omaha, Nebraska, Planned Parenthood for an abortion appointment.
At Planned Parenthood, Dixson received an ultrasound. The ultrasound image, which Dixson has to this day, shows the top of her son’s head in order to measure the circumference for pregnancy-dating purposes. She couldn’t see her baby’s beating heart and rapidly forming limbs, his face or his fingers or toes. The fuzzy ultrasound image of the top of her son’s head does not even appear to be of a baby.
Even so, after the ultrasound, Dixson knew that she would walk out of the abortion clinic with her child. She says that was the moment that her mind was made up, and from that time there was nothing that anyone could say to dissuade her from protecting her son.
She was too far along in the pregnancy for a medication abortion, so she told the Planned Parenthood worker that she did not need to schedule a surgical abortion. She was then pressured to discuss birth control options from Planned Parenthood for after the birth of her baby. When Dixson declined to discuss this, the Planned Parenthood employee told her, “Well, if you don’t want an abortion and you don’t want to discuss birth control, then the only thing I can tell you is to keep your legs closed.”
That comment has stayed with Dixson. She told Save the Storks, “Whenever someone asks me if Planned Parenthood does more than just abortions or says that Planned Parenthood is so supportive of women, I think of that comment. Planned Parenthood doesn’t support women.”
At 17, just before beginning her senior year and graduating a semester early, Dixson gave birth to her son, and she named him Caden. Now four, Caden is the love of Dixson’s life. Going to school full-time and working nights, Dixson was motivated by her son. Dixson says, today, “He’s probably the most well behaved, polite little boy I’ve ever met. He’s concerned about everyone.” She hopes that he continues to develop into a compassionate person and hopes to teach him to have a giving heart. She explained to Save the Storks, “At the beginning of his life, we both required so much assistance that he won’t remember or realize. I hope that he learns to help others no matter what it takes.”
Reflecting on her experience, Dixson says, “I was told by so many people that choosing life for him would be the end of mine, but it was the beginning.” For other young women facing a crisis pregnancy, Dixson wants them to know, “It will be okay; you are strong enough, and you are not alone.”
Dixson did not know about pro-life pregnancy centers in her area when she was pregnant with Caden, but she sees how important they are, explaining, “Pregnancy centers are not as biased toward the immediate, permanent decision that is abortion. They are more likely to discuss your options and walk with you. You’re a person and not just a number.”
Dixson is thankful that she has a job where she can use her passion for protecting life. Every day, she works to protect babies like her son from the injustice of abortion and to help girls whose shoes she was in, facing an unplanned pregnancy and looking for support to choose life.
In her role as executive director of Iowa Right to Life, Dixson has had a busy year. The group helped to successfully defend pro-life Governor Kim Reynolds in her race against Fred Hubbell, who spent years on the Board of Directors for Planned Parenthood in Iowa. Iowa Right to Life’s legislative priorities include continuing to defend Iowa’s Heartbeat Law, protecting preborn babies from abortion as soon as they have a detectable heartbeat. Earlier in the year, the Iowa Supreme Court ruled the 72-hour waiting period, another priority of Iowa Right to Life, was unconstitutional. Both laws were challenged by Planned Parenthood. The Heartbeat law was ruled unconstitutional by a District Court Judge. Iowa Right to Life will be encouraging the governor’s office to appeal to the Supreme Court and moving forward with a constitutional amendment.
In the meantime, Dixson says, Iowa Right to Life is also working with legislators to possibly introduce a constitutional amendment that would recognize that there is no right to abortion in the Iowa Constitution, leaving the decision up to legislators and the people of Iowa. They will also focus more on end of life issues and protecting vulnerable patients from assisted suicide. No matter what she is doing, all of Dixon’s work in the pro-life movement is informed by what she has learned through her son: how precious the gift of life is.