“Because it is cold, they told me to leave my socks on. I wore flip-flops, so a nurse brought me an extra pair she had. Clean. She was going to the gym later, she told me. I handed her my panties when I slid them off. She told me she keeps them in her pocket, so she can help me slide them back on as soon as it is over, that I’ll need them. Quick. I started to cry when I put my feet in the stirrups. That nurse stood beside me and rubbed my head. ‘Take a deep breath and let medicine help you.’”
Over 1.2 million females in the United States have abortions each year. (http://www.prochoice.org/about_abortion/facts/women_who.html, http://www.abort73.com/abortion_facts/us_abortion_statistics/ Both the pro-life and pro-choice sites give close to he same numbers.) Gosnell has brought to light a very real and very ugly corner of the truths behind the abortion debate. Do I think his acts I've read about are tragic? Yes. Horrible? Yes. Do I think the church should line the sidewalks outside the clinics? No, not at all.
I have probably talked to over a 100, informally, usually, hundreds more behind the security of blogs and Facebook. In the Deep South when people find out you’re pro-choice, they’ll tell you their stories. Some are friends; some are family. Sometimes I get a number from a mutual friend. Most never ask why I’m pro-choice (My belief is that a government that bans abortion is dangerously close to one that can mandate them. Also, making abortions illegal won’t stop them, at all.); most never know that I am pro-choice, not necessarily pro-abortion. And I no longer tell the ones I’ve just met that I am a Christian, up front. They wouldn’t tell me, then, or else they would always say, “I know it is a sin,” and lock their stories up tighter.
Their stories, usually tear-streaked and deep inside. It is a weight, even if they remain confident in their decision, because they can’t ever just talk about it. They aren’t seeking absolution, just to say it out loud, to have it validated, that it happened and they are here, for better or worse, on the other side.
Each is different.
I know a quiet, Godly woman. She teaches pre-schoolers each Sunday morning, brings casseroles to those who have just had surgery, homeschools her three, and loves Jesus with all of her heart. “I would rather stand up from the pulpit and admit to having an affair before I ever let anyone at church know I had an abortion.”
There is the lady and her three kids, living with her aunt. The aunt told her if she brought home another baby she couldn’t live there anymore.
My friend who laid her head on my lap and cried because she was flying her 13 year-old out for a late-term abortion. “How come I didn’t know? She’s only 13. She can still be something.”
The one, with the eye swelled shut and thumbprints on her neck brought to the door by a man. A man who stood outside and waited the entire four and a half hours.
None of these women wanted an abortion; they each felt that it was either their best or only option at the time.
I never really had to ask. It would always come out in pieces, usually prefaced with “Those Christians don’t really want to help me…” or “If they cared as much about my born baby as this unborn one…” "Someone should tell them how they could really help..." And so they have
From post-abortive women, how the pro-life movement can really help:
1. Invite people into your life and into your church family. AND THEN be pleasant to everyone when they come to church. Encourage them to be active and involved; invite them to Sunday school or small groups, or out for a picnic lunch. If they are poor, dirty, racially/ethnically/culturally different, a single mother/father, pierced, tattooed, new in town, or just “not like you,” embrace them with open arms. “Sh@t. She doesn’t even speak to me at the school or in my line at Winn Dixie. Didn’t even recognize me. Just yelling “Baby killer.” Why would I want to go to church with her?”
2. Have real solutions. People do not have an abortion because they don’t want/can’t take care of a baby for one day, week, or month. An afternoon of protesting doesn’t help these women in the long-run, nor does telling them “someone will adopt the baby.” Develop a community network with other churches and organizations that will offer free formula and diapers for at least one full-year. Partner with day-cares; offer free or reduced costs for these moms. Provide the moms jobs, job-training, housing. No one group can do it all, but a network with real options would go a long way. Will some people take advantage of it? Yes. Just like some people take advantage of food banks, Welfare, and smoke breaks at work.
3. Please, please stop holding up signs that read, “Abortion is murder,” with larger-than-life-sized pictures of aborted babies/fetuses. Every woman, without fail, that I know that had an abortion felt like she was killing a living thing. You are not going to surprise her with this knowledge. Or even guilt her into not going through with it. Many states require an ultrasound before an abortive procedure, where the technician, by law, must tell you the specifications of what he/she finds. Length, width, approximate weight, age. These women hear this beforehand. They know. One woman once told me, “Put down the damn signs. I know you think I’m going to Hell. Right then, so did I. I wish they had just had a big grand-daddy rocking chair and let me crawl in their lap, and cry. The nurse who watched while I killed my baby looked like she loved me more than those Christians,”
4. Make the church a safe, place for women who have had abortions. Every True Love Waits rally I ever sat through (5 years at 3 different churches) had the same don’t-have-sex-you-might-get-pregnant-and-make-a-bad-choice-abortion speaker. The same young woman. In a city of greater than 70,000 only one young lady would admit to an abortion. Close your eyes. Think of your church family. If you can name two women who have had abortions and share that information publically, you are probably in the minority. There are some very vocal post-abortive women who have made it a ministry, but very few church members readily admit to it. Love these women; allow them to grieve, to be comforted, to not be shamed. In your church, at the very least there is likely one woman who has had an abortion. Love her. That is all you are commanded to do.
5. Teach sex education and pregnancy prevention to youth (yes, even churched youth). Christian youth, churched youth are having sex every day. Yes, even the ones in your youth group. Not to be vulgar, but probably at some church-sanctioned function or retreat. Promote abstinence, but be honest. “The Bible teaches us sex inside marriage is the best, but if you insist on having sex before you are married, use condoms. Here are some.”
6. Stop believing these women don’t love their unborn children or grieve their loss. Most women I know named their babies, remember each year what would have been the due date, and many wish they had another choice at the time. They grieve and hurt and second-guess, even the tough-as-nails broad who sneers at you when she comes out of the clinic will find this day in heart and mind for many years to come. Can you find women who use abortion as birth control? Yes. Can you find women who say it is just a fetus? Yes. Can you find women who say that life doesn’t begin until birth? Yes. But not every Baptist is a Westboro Baptist, either.
7. Stop believing that abortion is more of a sin than lying, cheating on taxes, lust in your heart, adultery. Many pro-lifers frequently act like they are attempting to save those would-be abortion choosers from the jaws of Hell.
Every time you pray for a woman who is considering abortion, ask God to bring your most recent sin to mind and ask him to reveal which sin He considers to be worse.
Sobering, isn’t it.
I believe that Jesus calls us to different things. Many active, staunch pro-lifers I know are God-fearing and feel led to lead pro-life ministries. Do it. But ask Jesus why he didn’t hold a sign at the well that read, “Adultery is evil.”
He just talked to the lady, loved her, and changed her life.