This blog post will be somewhat controversial, and for that I do not make any apologies. At the same time, it is important to know that the opinions expressed in this blog are simply my own and do not reflect in anyway the opinions of my undergraduate or seminary institutions, those of my church or denomination as a whole, or those of the pregnancy center where I did my college internship. I welcome dialogue and debate publicly or privately (firstname.lastname@example.org) so long as the debates are addressed personally rather than in generalizations about what Mennonites or other Christian traditions believe on the topic.
Today, Dr. Henry Morgentaler, a famous abortion doctor passed away. It has created quite a buzz in my college’s pro-life Facebook group as well as among several of my pro-life friends. I have long wanted to write a blog expressing my views on the pro-life movement but was waiting for the opportune time. It seems to me that with Dr. Morgentaler’s death, now would be a good time to write on such a topic.
Abortion is a heart-wrenching decision. I do not think that most women who undergo abortion really want to do so – many of them feel that they don’t have a choice. They are young, they aren’t ready to give up their “dreams” or their “education”, their parents are upset with them and say they will not take care of their child, and their boyfriend is threatening to break up with them. When they come from an abusive home life, the boyfriend might be the only support network they have. Many young women would love to keep their child, but do not know how. For whatever reason, adoption is stigmatized. People feel they could never give their baby away – what kind of mother would that make them? I am a young woman who sincerely hopes to one day adopt a child – I have found that even among my most devout Protestant friends this is discouraged. “Well, good for you if you want to adopt, but I don’t.” They would rather have no children than adopt a child – I have always found this to be very interesting.
Abortion is definitely a very difficult choice and I do not think it is one which is made lightly. Sometimes abortion seems to be the only alternative if, for example, both the mother’s and the baby’s health are in danger. Other times, it is sneered at as being “the easy way out.” I do not think abortion is ever truly the easy way out. It may seem to some that it is a way of encouraging a promiscuous lifestyle, but I don’t think it is. Young women and young men both make mistakes. Sometimes the mistakes are ones which can easily be fixed, other times, the consequences are long lasting. Having sex before marriage is no worse than any other “mistake” someone could make – and yet the effects of it are more obvious than other “bad lifestyle choice.” Some people say, “with all of the precautions for safe sex that are now available – no one really needs to become pregnant. It’s their fault for not wearing a condom or taking the pill” – but I feel this type of attitude is rather judgemental. There is no precaution that is 100% except for abstinence. While ideally one might wish that every teenager is abstinent, it is not taking into account the pressures that they are facing from their boyfriend and peers at school.
The woman who decides to make the decision to get an abortion is truly the one who lives with the consequences, not us, and yet, so often we are the ones who judge her without ever walking in her shoes. There are sometimes complications in the process of abortion, there are also sometimes complications after the abortion. The woman may have to live for the rest of her life with guilt, she may not be able to have other children and may have to come to grips with the fact that the only child she would ever have is no longer alive, she may have to come to terms with the fact that the boyfriend who pressured her to get the abortion in the first place has still ditched her after all.
Many secular (and even some Christian) people believe that there is no such thing as post-abortive syndrome, yet increasingly we find that women who get an abortion (and even occasionally men) regret this decision terribly – some of them entering into a deep depression or facing extreme anxiety. Abortion is never easy for anyone – not for the mother, not for the family, possibly not even for the doctor who may truly believe he or she is giving the young woman a “needed service.”
I share all of this because I think it is important to understand how truly difficult it is for a mother to “give up her child” in that way. I do not like abortion myself. As a pacifist, I feel as strongly about abortion as I do about the death penalty – except in different ways. I see how the church spends so much time against the death penalty but hardly any time talking about abortion (the foetus being the most vulnerable being). I believe that life begins at conception and truthfully I side with the Catholics in being against birth control. Even though I know enough about birth control to know that it is a lot safer than many people believe it to be, and even though from a medical point of view I have no problem with people taking it, I believe that it is up to God to decide if we are to have children. It is so interesting that women have this unique duty about them to give someone life and yet also the ability to take it away.
As much as I believe that we should not take a life, I do not agree with the pro-life movement** as it stands today. I do not think it does anyone any good to show pictures of mangled foetuses or to have picket signs outside of abortion clinics saying that they are all a bunch of murderers. I do not think this is what Christ would do if He were here today. When these pro-lifers do such things, I do not think they understand the pressures these young women are under. I also do not think they realize that women who grow up in Christian homes are more likely to seek an abortion. Those who aren’t Christian find this natural – everyone’s getting pregnant, why not them? Yet a woman who is a Christian is expected to know better – she faces guilt and intense fear of being rejected by her family and church. Abortion seems to be a perfect way to “hide” her “sin”, either that or she waits until she can no longer hide her pregnancy (which is not healthy for either her or her baby).
Over the past few years as I have been reading much literature on abortion and being pro-life, as I have had an increasingly interest in midwifery and read pregnancy books for fun and interned at a pregnancy center, as I have joined the pro-life group at my college, and as I have discussed abortion with liberal and conservative Christians alike, I have adopted a new viewpoint. I still think abortion is a terrible thing for any woman or her family to undergo, but today I consider myself “pro-informed”.
While I was interning at the pregnancy center, I learned that many women truly do not feel they have a choice. Imagine their excitement when many of them discover that there are ways to raise their baby and to still finish their education and pursue other dreams. I think it takes a lot of courage for them to get to that place. The problem is, many doctors do not tell teenage women this. In fact, one day at the center, our director called a “hotline” number that was given by the doctor and pretended to be a 17 year old pregnant woman. She was faced with what she found to be “coercion” to give up her child.
Our center believes in empowering women to make their own decisions. We educate them in all their options and then leave it up to them to decide what is best for them. We are a prolife organization, but we do not let this impact their decision. If they decide that they wish to get an abortion even after the information for adoption and raising a child are presented we walk with them in this decision. We allow them to grieve during and after the process, we are there with them when they face fear and regret. We provide a support system even if they have aborted a foetus before and wish to do it again. It is not our place to tell them what to do, but it is our place to provide compassion, hope, and healing.
This is how I feel about abortion. I believe in being pro-informed. I believe that many women need information to decide what is best for them. Once information is given, several of them will decide to keep the baby or to give the baby to a loving family which will take care of him or her. Many young mothers worry that they will never see the baby again, we are able to assure them that many will be able to engage in open-adoption and will have some level of contact. Some mothers are even able to visit their babies periodically and to watch them grow. Many young mothers do not know how they will financially support their child if they wish to keep him or her – we are able to get them in touch with organizations which will help them secure a house and food. We also gift each mother with a small gift basket which provides some of the bare necessities.
I have never been in a situation before where I had to decide my intentions for a life that is growing inside of me, so I don’t judge others because I have never walked in their shoes before. I have learned never to look down upon teenage girls who get pregnant because when we view what they are doing as a “sin” we unintentionally end up viewing the child that they bare forth as “illegitimate”. We may not think we are doing this, but truly, our views of the mother do impact our views of the child and how we treat him or her.
That’s not to say that I agree with premarital sex, I do not. That’s not to say I agree with abortion, I do not. But it is to say that I believe in giving everyone multiple chances, in mentoring, and in walking with them in what will likely be the most painful decision they will ever make. It is my hope that churches and individuals can begin to see each mother as a daughter of God – a princess in God’s eyes and that they will work towards not condemning her but making the pro-life choices they wish to see possible for her to make. Not just saying abortion is a sin, but rather making it known to her that she has other possibilities and walking with her throughout the process.
Here are some resources: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/abortion-rights-crusader-henry-morgentaler-revered-and-hated-dead-at-90/article12221564/ (Article on Morgentaler’s death)
Song about men experiencing post-abortive syndrome: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7NJMTmz7pkg
Shade of Blue (Novel by: Karen Kingsbury)
The Morning After: (Dominc Balli) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3EfmttrZau8 (This song is somewhat contrary to what I have said in this blog, however, I do think it does give a sobering image as to the effects abortion has)
Why Prolife (By: Randy Alcorn)
http://www.theglobeandmail.com/commentary/morgentalers-legacy-is-a-diminished-liberty-in-canada/article12258407/?utm_source=facebook.com&utm_medium=Referrer%3A+Social+Network+%2F+Media&utm_campaign=Shared+Web+Article+Links (Opinion Piece: The Globe and Mail)
I am open to continuing this dialogue publically or privately. I am not the most qualified person to talk about this however, I do have some experience in this field.
** When I say pro-life, I realize that the pro-life movement has been somewhat vilianzed in recent years. There are various degrees of pro-lifers and not all of them engage in negative behaviour. Some pro-lifers truly do step in and make a difference to pregnant teenagers by opening their homes and providing resources. I am thankful for these types of pro-lifers. The only pro-life movement I am against are the graphic ones that protest which I have described here. They get a lot of press and hype, but really are in the minority. Please do not allow this image of pro-life to negatively impact what truly being pro-life is really all about.**