I’ve read and reacted to the commentaries about the recently released Planned Parenthood videos with mixed emotions. I feel this incredible burden on my heart for the women and unborn children at the center of the storm. I feel hopeful for changes of heart mixed with grief for hardness of heart. And the turmoil has dredged up unexpected memories from my past.
The memories stirred stem from a time I was carrying a child with a death sentence upon his birth. Make no mistake, I mostly remember the love, support, and encouragement of friends and family as I walked through that crisis. But what I don’t usually talk about … what I pushed to the farthest recesses of my memory … are the fraction of people who were not so supportive.
My husband and I received the diagnosis of certain death upon the birth of our baby in a dark conference room. We sat huddled together in shock, gripping hands as the kind OBGYN gently explained our son’s condition. With tears of disbelief streaming down my cheeks, feeling nauseous and numb, it seemed like I was listening through water as she began detailing the unique risks associated with carrying a child with this diagnosis. She delicately suggested I pursue an abortion and how difficult it might be to secure one as I was in my 18th week of pregnancy. Realizing what she was offering, I snapped my head up and curtly informed her that abortion was NOT an option.
In the weeks that followed, we met with pro-life physicians including the lead OB/GYN for a pro-life pregnancy center to ask their advice. I could not wrap my mind around everyone, even the pro-life experts, telling me that the best option was to end my pregnancy. I studied my baby’s condition and made twice-weekly visits to my high risk OB/GYN to monitor my health due to the known risks of carrying this child coupled with my pregnancy complications. We, along with the support of our physicians, ultimately decided to try to get as far along in the pregnancy as possible but deliver at the earliest sign of trouble.
From this point forward, something strange happened. I found myself in this bizarre space where I not only had to justify my decisions to my pro-life friends but also to my pro-choice friends. Some felt that anything less than carrying my child to term meant I was having an abortion, plain and simple. Others felt I was delusional for even considering continuing a pregnancy at a risk to my health when the baby was brain dead and was going to die upon birth anyway.
I remember fumbling to explain my reasons for continuing the pregnancy to people who thought I was crazy for doing so. And months later, when all signs indicated that the time had come to deliver, fumbling to explain what was happening medically to my body and why my doctors and husband said it was time to deliver the baby before I risked losing my ability to ever carry a child again or have a stroke.
It felt like every decision I made carried political weight. And it was heavy.
I sensed accusing eyes casting disapproving looks. I was aware of assumptions made about my decisions. I fielded stinging remarks. I felt defensive and judged. I walked under the full weight of this issue and marveled at how I never EVER thought I would be in a position to defend myself to both pro-life and pro-choice friends.
And amidst all this I was shattered and desperately aware that the only time I would have with this baby were the weeks that kept ticking away as we approached his inevitable death upon birth. I knew that no decision I made would save him. And that was the darkest reality I have ever faced.
My lifelines were the people who, while not necessarily compromising on their beliefs, listened with grace, tenderness, and compassion. The people who loved me and dressed any advice in deep empathy and a desire to truly understand what I was going through. I clung to those who didn’t just have opinions, but had mercy and were willing to physically, tangibly, and viscerally walk with me.
Those were the people whose advice I was able to hear.
Why am I telling you this? Because the truth is, I was judgmental prior to having this experience. I was not tender-hearted towards women who even considered abortion. And while my beliefs about the practice of abortion haven’t changed, my heart has been broken for anyone who faces any sort of uncertainty about a pregnancy diagnosis. To be clear, I am against abortion morally and can’t, as an educated medical professional view it as anything less than the taking of an innocent life. I weep at what has become of us as a nation that we would tolerate the dismembering of one of our own in the name of women’s rights. Let alone millions of our own.
But my heart is compassionate for any woman who feels that her only option is to terminate her pregnancy. No woman should have to feel like that’s her only option. What a horrible option.
I know advocacy is important and believe light needs to be shone in the darkness. This is a conversation we should be having. But we need to remember that there are real people in the center of all this. Before posting or opining on this issue, ask yourself if your words are clothed in grace. If not, chances are you won’t be heard at best and you might hurt someone at worst.
And I urge you to not just walk away after declaring yourself pro-life. My prayer for the church is that we can go beyond posting a few articles on our social media pages, calling our senators, and forgetting about this issue. We are called to CARE for women and innocent children – not just advocate for nine months of time in the womb.
If we don’t want women to choose abortion, then lets work together to give them better options.
We who call ourselves pro-life should be the FIRST ones signing up to adopt, foster, and host children. We should be the FIRST ones to volunteer, employ, house, and disciple women in distress. We should get in the trenches and love with all that we have. And it’s hard. It requires sacrifice and inconvenience.
But isn’t personal sacrifice always required if we really want to love well?
Lets extend hands of mercy to moms who face hard choices. Rather than merely encouraging women to choose life, lets say to them, “And I will do life with you. You are NOT alone.” Lets be long-suffering, kind, and encouraging. Because if women are even considering abortion, they need our compassion more than they need our opinions.
I believe that we, as the church, can love women better than anyone else. I know this because I’ve experienced it. We can stand for truth without casting stones. We can wage this war on the practice of abortion armed with love and compassion. We can hold out the only real hope women have. So why would we do anything less?