I wrote this post a week ago after encountering a story in the New York magazine titled My Abortion. And then I sat on it, waiting. I rewrote section after section. I prayed.
The article is a collection of 26 women sharing the reasons they had an abortion. They look directly at the lens of the camera, their eyes bold and haunting all at the same time.
So are their stories.
“It was my senior year of high school. My boyfriend was homeless.”
“Why give birth to a baby who will die?”
“I couldn’t believe I was pregnant—we’d used condoms—and I was disappointed in myself.”
“This guy forced himself on me. When the woman at the clinic went over my options, I bawled. Society is so focused on women being mothers. I felt selfish for not wanting to be a mom.”
When I hear about abortion, it’s always from an angle – either the left, or the right. The woman in the middle becomes a caricature for whatever side is telling her story. But for the first time, after reading the article, I saw reality from the center of the storm. Two things were clear.
It seems we aren’t nearly careful enough with one another. Adult or unborn. 18 years or 18 weeks.
And when a choice about abortion has to be made, everyone is damaged.
I blog about birthing and raising twins, my toddler, and our lives as they relate to one another. It is probably not difficult to guess that I am an advocate for life.
And I get it – I’m a mother. Not everyone wants, or is able, to take on that title. But from this side of the fence, what I saw, felt, and learned from my pregnancy experiences was incredible. I am a different person for having gone through them. I am less selfish. More attuned to others and their needs. I am strongly aware of the significance of the lives around me.
I’ve also seen, week by week, the progress of a baby’s growth in utero. It’s hard to describe the emotions of this (although I attempted it here, in my nine week post about carrying twins, in case you’re interested in the details.) It’s crazy. It’s magical. It’s a little bit unnerving.
And one thing was very clear to me as soon as I knew I was pregnant. Carrying my daughters was my first and foremost responsibility because they were a direct result of my actions.
I also fully own that the situations surrounding my pregnancies were privileged – white, married, employed, insured, supported by friends and family. Most importantly, I wanted all three of my children, even though the word surprised does not even begin to cover how I felt when we discovered we were having twins.
It seems pretty easy for me to speak pro-life, and for that I apologize.
But I’m not blind. My situation is only my own. According to the headline of the article, one in three women has an abortion by the age of 45.
One in three.
This is 2013. Americans are still recovering from the Gosnell scenarios, the babies whose spinal cords were snipped with scissors, the babies who were put in jars until they stopped breathing.
Likewise, some of the stories in the article are incredibly difficult to read. One woman wrote [after having her abortion procedure] “When I went home, I got up to pee, and this gray golf-ball thing came out. I thought, So I just flush the toilet?”
As I write, my four month old daughters are asleep in their swings, and I choke back tears at thinking of their lives stopped short and flushed into city sewage.
It is a tsunami of emotions, this issue. Sacred becomes waste. A woman hunches over her knees. Certain dates become the hardest numbers on the calendar.
Every story has a hundred different facets, all of them razor-sharp.
But I realized something after I finished reading the stories in the article. It is impossible to navigate the emotions of abortion without being cut. And that’s a good thing. Because I shouldn’t just be crying for the unborn child.
I should be crying for the woman carrying the child as well. She is not a political pawn. She is not evil. She is not ruined for the rest of her life.
In fact, Jesus told a parable about a similar topic in John 8. There was woman caught in adultery (one of the more flammable topics of that day). The religious leaders captured her, wanted to know what Jesus said about her actions, and if she should be judged. Jesus looked them squarely in the eye and said “He who is without sin should cast the first stone.”
One by one, every one of the leaders walked away.
Everyone, that is, except Jesus.
He turns to her and says, “Neither do I condemn you. Now go, and leave your life of sin.”
In so many of the stories, shame and judgment were motivators for abortion. If that’s the case, I have a lesson to learn from Jesus’ reaction, and his response. So please hear me. My heart is broken for anyone who has endured the circumstances surrounding an abortion just as much as it breaks for the life that was ended.
It also strikes me that if anyone expects a woman to support a life she’s harboring, she herself must be strongly, firmly, supported in turn.
I read the stories in My Abortion hoping to find a measure of understanding.
What I found was my own responsibility.
When a woman is faced with an unexpected pregnancy, where are her supporters? Where is the person who comes alongside and communicates in love instead of fact? Who says you are not alone, and shows her she is of value, even in circumstances she did not plan for? Who helps buy groceries, or babysits, or offers rides to doctor appointments? Who opens their wallet and gives out of love? Who promises love instead of judgment, care instead of condescension?
Who is brave enough to say that adoption is the heartbeat and prayer of hundreds of thousands of people unable to conceive?
And is it reasonable to expect a woman to value a life she took part in creating if she herself is not, or does not feel valued?
What if we all truly believed we were responsible for one another?
I can’t know unless I myself promise to pour out that assurance whenever it’s needed.
As though a life depended on it.