It doesn’t take too long in life before we have acquaintance with women and girls having pregnancies both desired and feared. Roe v. Wade was decided when I was just starting high school, and so, for all intents and purposes, I grew up with abortion being a legal option.
Some time in 2014 I read a book called unPLANNED by Abby Johnson (2010). This is the story of a young woman who was recruited in college to work for Planned Parenthood, who rose through the ranks to be director of a Planned Parenthood clinic in Texas and who then left there and went to work for the Pro-life movement. It is a fascinating narrative for people on both sides of the abortion issue and if you haven’t read it, I would urge you to do so. She makes it quite clear that there are people of good will on every side of such issues and that you change hearts and minds by offering a positive alternative, not by strident attacks.
In a note at the beginning of the book she says this:
. . . my thinking and choices are not unlike those of so many people I have encountered. And until we each set aside our own preferences for how we wish others would think and behave, or how we assume others think and behave, we won’t be able to understand those with whom we differ in order to engage in real dialogue and discover truth.
She goes on to say:
Oh, how we love to vilify our opponents–from both sides. How easy to assume that those on “our” side are right and wise and good; how those on “their” side are treacherous and foolish and deceptive. I have found right and good and wisdom on both sides. I have found foolishness and treachery and deception on both sides as well. I have experienced how good intentions can be warped into poor choices no matter what the side.
Those comments are helpful to remember, not only on this issue, but on all the many issues that divide us. In fact, it was this book which got me thinking about all the issues that get talked about in the news, around the dinner table, among friends with whom we agree and disagree on the pages of Facebook, etc. It was this book which made me reexamine how I think, how I argue, how I present my opinions, how welcoming or off-putting I am to others. It was this book which made me consider starting my blog.
My parents liked to say there is no such thing as being a little pregnant. Just like being a little dead. You either are or you aren’t. So true. Yet I remember well the young woman I worked with years ago who when she found that she was pregnant, chose to pursue an abortion, but who would only speak of it as a procedure. A procedure to remove a clump of cells. She was afraid to continue the pregnancy, she found a solution in the procedure which took place in a wonderful university hospital. On the other hand, when she uses the pregnancy test from the drug store, ask any woman who has longed for a child what is inside her and there is no hesitation: A Baby! Joy and gladness! In my own life after years of longing for a child I had finally given up hope that I would ever conceive and bear a child. The whole world seemed to change when that early morning pregnancy test showed that I was pregnant. It never occurred to me to describe this as a clump of cells. This was the answer to prayers, the ending of monthly tears, the beginning of new life, and the blessing I had longed and prayed for in my life.
The people who parade signs saying that women who have abortions are baby killers no doubt believe that to be true. But how does this help anything? I have never personally known someone who aborted a child because of a frivolous reason. I have known of quite a few people who wrestled with the issue because their own situation was perilous, or because they were terrified to have to tell their parents that they were pregnant, or because they knew their boyfriend or husband, or some other woman’s husband would be angry and they couldn’t face the fall out from that encounter.
I am thankful that there are people in the world, who, instead of shouting slogans, are willing to be caring and loving toward people faced with difficult decisions. I am thankful when I get the opportunity to walk with someone who needs care and assistance and I can be helpful to them. If we care about women, and care about children, I believe that we need to be people who don’t set up barriers, but open our minds, hearts, and ears – to listen, to help, to walk with them during what might be a very frightening time in their lives.
I would urge you, if you haven’t read this book, regardless of your views on abortion, the right to choose, or the pro-life movement, to take a little time and read this book. In my own life it helped clarify a lot of things including many things far outside of the realm of the subject matter presented. The way difficult things are solved is not by being politically correct bullies, or by being pro-life bullies. The way to solve difficult things is to temper our speech and be the sort of person that others, even those with whom we disagree, feel welcomed to turn to and confide in. Without fear of vilification. Without fear of attack or slander.
Step up to the plate and be that kind of person. You may be the only person who can do that, and be that, for someone struggling and very much afraid.