It happens regularly. I'll be in the middle of a discussion with a pro-choice person about abortion and the conversation takes a turn from productive dialogue to slogan slinging. It makes sense. We all want a way to powerfully communicate our passionate views in 10 words or less and these slogans are clever and are reasonable to us in the context of our beliefs and our lives. They may have a place on a protest sign (maybe), but regardless of what side of the issue you're on, they're a dialogue killer when there is a real soul on the other side of the conversation.
"I'll bet you one unplanned pregnancy that you're secretly pro-choice."
I'll bet you nine that I'm not.
And the slogan slinging works both ways. I've done it many times...
"In a crisis pregnancy, we need to get rid of the crisis, not the child."
But the eyes that look back (and my own experience) have taught me... you can't always get rid of the crisis. Sometimes life is excruciatingly painful, whether or not we have a great slogan to apply or not. The hardest part of motherhood is not the single yes that we give in moments of courage but every individual suffering minute that we must walk through after that. The person who helps us through that first frightening yes will most likely not be there during the long days and nights that challenge to the depths of mind, body, and soul.
This particular truth hits me hard every time I am pregnant with one of my own beloved children. Sometimes, there is no way to remove the suffering that accompanies a yes to life... when even the most pro-life heart finds itself on it's knees begging the Lord to ease the pain.
"You're a white middle class woman with a husband. You don't know what crisis is."
Or maybe my crisis is just different. The unrelenting sickness and fatigue... like a perpetual flu... that requires all of my attention for months. That physically keeps me from even the Eucharist. That drives me to my miserable knees and turns my waking thought into an endless prayer... "Please Jesus, have mercy. Help me, Jesus, help me. Please Lord, please, please, please..."
Non-hispanic white women account for 36% of abortions.
28% of women seeking abortions identify as Catholic.
I know my blessings well. I'm not sure how I would get by if I didn't have a husband to support me and the grace of being able to stay home and cling to my couch. This knowledge has brought me very close to a real understanding of what drives a loving, thinking, compassionate woman to bring her child to the instruments of an abortionist. It is not in her nature nor even necessarily in her desire... but often, it is the unrelenting pain, similar to the experience of many people who stand on the verge of suicide. Most do not really want to die... they really just want to stop the excruciating pain.
I have asked God many times to take away the suffering of pregnancy, and it always occurs to me that the most obvious vehicle of relief would be the removal of the pregnancy itself. For a person without support, without full knowledge of what abortion is and does, that line is easy enough to cross.
One of the single most influential pieces of fiction I have read is G. K. Chesterton's "The Secret of Fr. Brown." The entire series captivates me but nothing so much as Fr. Brown's explanation of how it was that he was such an extraordinary success at capturing criminals. He explains...
"I thought and thought about how a man might come to be like that, until I realized that I really was like that, in everything except actual final consent to the action. It was once suggested to me by a friend of mine, as a sort of religious exercise..."
"No man’s really any good till he knows how bad he is, or might be; till he’s realized exactly how much right he has to all this snobbery, and sneering, and talking about ‘criminals,’ as if they were apes in a forest ten thousand miles away; till he’s got rid of all the dirty self - deception of talking about low types and deficient skulls; till he’s squeezed out of his soul the last drop of the oil of the Pharisees; till his only hope is somehow or other to have captured one criminal, and kept him safe and sane under his own hat." (Read the entire short story here)
We can be outraged by the injustice of abortion and the cold evil which often accompanies the industry and participants... but we must be primarily motivated by great love and informed by truth and a good examination of conscience.
"You're not pro-life... You're pro-birth."
This slogan always leaves me dumbfounded. It's unjust in almost all cases. However... it strikes at a very important truth that must be acknowledged and lived: Saving the life of the child is only the first step. If our pro-life community does not have a comprehensive plan for loving families through every stage of pregnancy, birth, and beyond, then it is deficient, perhaps fatally so. Even if a woman gives birth to this child, her experience of suffering, isolation, and lack of care may convince her... never again.
61% of women seeking abortions already have children.
It is difficult to imagine enduring the severe physical illness of pregnancy without my full support system. How would I work? How would I perform basic functions? How would I get sufficient rest and nutrition? How would I navigate the emotional and mental strain of meeting unrelenting illness in most waking moments for months? I have had the better part of 20 years to try every remedy under the sun. I have overhauled my diet, soaked in magnesium, taken medication, read a million articles, heard all the advice. Kind words help but do not take it away. Sacrament and Scripture console but do not take it away. Prayer is my lifeline... and my family become the hands and feet of Christ... but I am still not relieved of the cross.
Pro-lifers know anxiety and depression. They know relationship drama. They know abuse. They know loss and tragedy. They know how hard it can be to get out of bed in the morning and brush their teeth and meet the world. They have simply decided that these sufferings do not ever justify the extermination of an innocent human being. But they cannot pretend that the following three words in the midst of any of these trials could not send any of us to a desperate place:
You. Are. Pregnant.
Our dialogue and outreach should always reflect our understanding of that place and the acknowledgment that we can't fix everything. The Crucifix is not an exception... it is the way. And we can not erase the very real sufferings of humanity with a dialogue of slogans.
Please understand... we DO have the authority to stand on behalf of the unborn and fight for their right to dignity and life, even if we can't personally fill every need of every person. My hope and plea is that each pro-life community will also commit itself to finding local hands and feet to love families through the crisis... and into the arms of safety and joy. Not by going around the Cross, but by leaning into it. Love is messy. Let's show up and love anyway. And then we can say with confidence: "I bet you one unplanned pregnancy... that love shows up." Thanks be to God!
Below are two local level organizations which need immediate assistance. If you or someone you know can possibly fill a need, please prayerfully consider doing so...
Maggie’s Place is a community that provides houses of hospitality for pregnant and parenting women in need who are living in the greater Phoenix, AZ and Cleveland, OH area. All houses have ongoing financial needs, current house needs lists, and a current need for MissionCorps members to commit to one year of service at a house. I know that in Cleveland, we have a need for two MissionCorps members to start in January. Is God calling you?
Stanton Health Care Charlotte Center for Women
The Stanton Vision...
"We believe in the fundamental truth that human rights begin in the womb. Every woman has an inherent right to embrace motherhood regardless of income, race, ethnicity, or place of residence.
We believe in practical, caring solutions which uphold the dignity of both mother and child. We provide life-affirming options to abortion-vulnerable women and provide hope to those struggling from the pain of a past abortion.
We believe sexual and reproductive integrity is vital to the health of each individual, every family, and by extension, society as a whole.
Stanton International seeks to replace abortion businesses around the world because we believe that women and their families are entitled to quality, coercion-free care and compassionate alternatives to abortion."
Click on the image below for more information on how to help...