Abortion

How to Communicate with a Friend Considering Abortion, by Stephanie Gray

womancrying.jpg

“I’m pregnant, and I want an abortion.”

  How should one react when a friend says those words? 

  I am routinely (and as recently as the day I write this) contacted by friends (and strangers) who have friends who are considering abortion.  “What should I do?” they ask. “What should I say?” they wonder.

  Their concern is the well-being of their friend and her pre-born child; they don’t want her to go ahead with the abortion, but they come for advice because they recognize a noble desire, while necessary, is not sufficient to save a life.  How do they actually achieve their mind-changing goal?  They follow these four steps:

  1. Seek to Understand

  2. Support Her

  3. Inform Her

  4. Be Unwavering

  Let’s look at each in more detail, with practical tools to get the message out:

1.     Seek to Understand

  Think through your past to a time when you felt utterly overwhelmed and afraid.  Think about an experience of despair where you felt helpless.  Think about what it’s like to feel panic—to feel trapped—and how that affects your decisions.

  A woman facing an unplanned pregnancy may feel any number of emotions like the above, and anything you say or do is seen through the lens of what she’s feeling.  Rather than start your exchange by jumping onto a soap box, instead, grab a Kleenex box and ask questions that give her a chance to express herself.

  Truly and deeply listen to her—what are her concerns?  People not only need to be heard, they need to feel heard.  This is achieved through affirming truth she’s expressed, and communicating compassion: 

 ·         “There is no denying that is a really difficult situation…” or,

 ·         “That is really tough; I’m sorry for your suffering…” or,

 ·         “If I’m hearing you correctly it sounds like the crisis is overwhelming, and I can imagine it would be…” 

  Notice what you’re not doing here—you’re not saying something false (“I know what it’s like” when you, in fact, don’t know what it’s like); rather, you’re formulating words that acknowledge you understand her feelings are consistent with her crisis.

  From this expression of compassion, you seek to understand by asking questions that will give her a chance to express herself, and to help identify what she’s most concerned about (which you need to know in order to address the problem—you cannot alleviate a problem you do not know exists).

  For example, ask her, “Why do you want an abortion?”

  Her response will likely involve expressing concerns about money, school, lack of support from her partner or family, feelings of inadequacy, or perhaps even pressure to abort.

  What does this show?  She does not desire abortion as an end in and of itself; rather, she sees it as a means to address a problem. Once she identifies the problem, suggest other means to address it, always through the approach of asking questions:

·         “I’m sad for you that your parents said they’d kick you out.  You’re right to be devastated by that.  What if I was to let you live with me? Would that help? [Or, what if I was to connect you to a place where you could live?]”

·         “If I’m hearing you right, it sounds like you don’t have the resources to care for a child.  What if I was to connect you to a centre that will give you the resources you need?”

RESOURCE: An excellent pregnancy help website: http://www.visitationcenterus.org/

 ·         “It sounds like you don’t feel prepared to parent a child right now, and I can understand that.  What do you think about adoption?”

RESOURCES:

adoptionincanada.ca

http://www.theradiancefoundation.org/adoption/

·         “When a person receives a poor prenatal diagnosis, it can be scary to envision a future where the child has a disability.  Have you heard of stories of people who have had positive experiences caring for children with special needs? May I share some of these with you?”

RESOURCES:

https://loveunleasheslife.com/blog/2015/12/18/so-your-child-has-down-syndrome

Everylifecounts.ie

iamviable.com

http://aspecialmotherisborn.blogspot.com/

“Choosing Thomas”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ToNWquoXqJI&t=341s

Questioning is not only important to identify her motivations to abort so you can provide alternatives, but questioning is an important tool to help her explore her “gut” feelings about abortion.  Questions that help her think beyond the present scenario, to imagine a positive situation in the future when she’s pregnant, can help bring to light her own negative feelings about the abortion procedure:

·         “Given that you just said you don’t even love the child’s father, I can understand it would be hard to envision parenting the baby.  Something that’s worth considering is if your scenario was just the opposite—if you were happily married and pregnant with a child you’d tried for so long to be pregnant with, would you ever consider abortion?  [After her answer: Why not?]”

·         “If your parents wouldn’t kick you out of the house, would you be less likely to consider abortion? Why?”

·         “If you had the financial resources you needed to raise another (or this) child, would you want to carry through with the pregnancy? Why do you think that is?”

NOTE: The point of these questions is to draw out of her any instinctive feelings of revulsion toward abortion—if she articulates that she would never kill her child in these scenarios, you can now explore her thoughts that it is a child, and whether the difficulty of her situation changes what the child is.

2.     Support Her

There’s something terrifying about being alone in moments of crisis.  There is something comforting about sharing, even a hard experience, with another soul.

  A true friend will stand by her throughout this unplanned pregnancy.  If she feels abandoned, then she may run to the abortion which she feels will get her “out” of this experience of crisis and “aloneness.”  Knowing she has someone to stand by her through the crisis will make it easier.

  Offer to be with her when she has difficult conversations with her relatives or boyfriend/husband.  Offer to go with her to the doctor.  Time is of the essence in these situations and so is generous, self-less help.  If you have to miss work or school to accompany her to a pro-life doctor the next morning, do it.  Offer to accompany her to a pregnancy help center.  As a friend, it’s important to remember you aren’t a professional.  Correspondingly, remember that professionals aren’t friends, and offering to be present when she gets assistance from them will make her feel more supported than simply giving her a phone number to call.

NOTE: When she gets professional assistance, ensure that the people you recommend for this are 100% pro-life.  Tragically, some individuals and groups that are labeled “Christian” don’t always hold a consistent pro-life ethic, and this requires you be extra vigilant in your recommendations.

  FURTHER NOTE: Get to know your local pro-life doctors and local pregnancy care center staff as soon as possible, before you meet someone in crisis.  The more information you can give to your friend about who works where, what they offer, and how friendly they are, the more likely it will be that she will call or visit.  And remember—offer to accompany her.

  Part of being a support is helping her see goodness in a future that she thinks looks grim.  Being on the outside, you have the chance to paint a picture of hope when she feels despair, to help her consider how short-term gain can bring about long-term pain, whereas short-term pain can bring about long-term gain.

  This message, handed out by pro-life activist Mary Wagner to women going to abortion clinics, speaks important words of hope to women in crisis:

“You were made to love and to be loved.  Your goodness is greater than the difficulties of your situation. Circumstances in life change.  A new life, however tiny, brings the promise of unrepeatable joy.  There is still hope!”

3.     Inform Her

It is possible to communicate truth without love, but it is impossible to communicate love without truth.  Loving your friend therefore means communicating the truth about the abortion she says she wants.

  Certainly how you communicate that truth matters.  You need to be sensitive and should continue to use questions as much as possible, but you nonetheless need to impart some hard truths.  When providing information, you should convey three things:

·         The humanity of her pre-born child,

·         The inhumane nature of abortion, and

·         How abortion can hurt her

Let’s look at each of these in more detail:

The humanity of her pre-born child

A lot of women are unaware of just how rapidly their pre-born children are growing (for example, that a baby’s heartbeat has been detected at 3 weeks, and brainwaves have been detected at 6 weeks).  Ask a question like this:

“May I take you to a site which has amazing scientific facts of your baby’s development?”

RESOURCE: The Endowment for Human Development: http://www.ehd.org/  This is a fetal-maternal health website with prenatal development facts, along with actual video footage and 3D and 4D ultrasound.

Helping her bond with her child is key; two other ways to do this is through giving her a fetal model to hold, which helps her visualize her baby, and encouraging her to give a nickname to her child, for it’s harder to kill someone we’ve named and connected with.

RESOURCE: First-trimester fetal model: Order at www.lifecyclebooks.com (or ask your local pro-life society to give you one) 

The inhumane nature of abortion

Remember, you’re having this conversation with your friend because she said she wants an abortion.  But does she know what abortion actually entails?  It is essential that you convey the facts of the procedure.  You can ask,

“What do you know of the abortion procedure?  I have some knowledge of abortion and I believe you deserve to know what I do. May I share some information with you?”

RESOURCES:

Nucleus Medical Media: http://catalog.nucleusmedicalmedia.com/search?q=abortion&submit=&search_language=-1&search_type=&search_category=

First-Trimester Medical Abortion: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lRDnVSMr5j0

First-Trimester Surgical Abortion: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5THDmys8z30&t=6s

Second-Trimester Surgical Abortion: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jgw4X7Dw_3k

Third-Trimester Induction Abortion: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r5Af8vIym2o

Abortion: Before & After: https://vimeo.com/41433061

  When trying to explain that your motivation to share what you know comes from a place of goodness, you could use this analogy:

“Imagine there’s water with poison in it—whoever drinks it will die. Now imagine you are thirsty and, not knowing the water is poisoned, you drink it.  Would you have knowingly committed suicide?”  She’ll say no.  Then continue, “Now imagine that I know there’s poison in the water and you don’t.  I see you grab the glass and I don’t warn you what’s in it.  You drink it and die.  Have I just been an accomplice to your murder?”  She’ll say yes.  Then connect the dots: “In the same way, I know some pretty shocking things about the abortion procedure, and if I don’t share these things, then I’d be guilty of withholding life-saving information.  That’s not fair to you.” 

Some people have an unfounded fear that using abortion victim imagery could do harm to a woman faced with an unplanned pregnancy. You don’t lose anything by showing her imagery. But you potentially lose something by not showing the pictures: her baby’s life.

Remember all the fears that are motivating your friend to abort? Those fears are very real in her mind; they are immediate problems. If she continues to maintain the idea that her pre-born child is not a baby and that abortion is not an act of violence that will kill that baby, then it will be easier for her to have the abortion than to deal with her problems. Your challenge is to make your friend more horrified of the abortion than she is terrified of her unplanned pregnancy. Pictures do that.

  Admittedly, you need to be discerning in your one-on-one interactions about when to use any material. Be gentle, listen, and when it comes to showing pictures, tell her that you care for her and that you want her to be informed of everything she needs to know about abortion

  Finally, be encouraged that using this information doesn’t just work in theory—it works in practice.  For example, a Los Angeles pregnancy center not only offers to show an abortion video to each client, but they provide a copy of that video for the client to take home.  In 2011, they conducted a survey of all mothers who chose life for their babies at the center after initially contemplating abortion.  80% of their clients who chose life said the video was the number one thing that helped them choose life for their babies. 

  When the women take a copy of the video home with them, it also helps them to convince husbands, boyfriends, parents or other people who might be pressuring them to abort that abortion is a terrible choice.  Showing the abortion video to parents pressuring their teen to abort helps them to understand the profound damage to their daughter (and grandchild) whom they love and want to protect.  It is good to show the video to everyone influencing her decision.  Further, some clients have reported giving their copy of the video to pregnant friends who in turn opted against abortion. 

That is consistent with this post below an abortion video on Youtube:

  “A big thank you goes out to whoever posted this video.  I scheduled an appointment with Planned Parenthood to have this procedure and wanted to learn more because they wouldn't give me any information. I'm calling to cancel right now. I don't want my baby ripped to shreds.”

How abortion can hurt her

Because abortion kills children it hurts women.  It goes against human nature to kill one’s offspring—that is why abortion can adversely affect women emotionally.  It goes against the nature of a woman’s body to unnaturally and prematurely interrupt pregnancy the way abortion does—that is why abortion can adversely affect women physically.  Consider asking your friend,

  “Have you heard about the complication risks of abortion?  May I share what I know with you?”

RESOURCES:

https://www.deveber.org/complications/

abortionbreastcancer.com

afterabortion.org

silentnomoreawareness.org

4.     Be Unwavering

  Remember the earlier comment that being alone in moments of crisis is terrifying?  That is true not only for the unplanned pregnancy, but also for the abortion procedure.  The act of abortion could be, in her mind, a terrifying moment she wishes not to endure alone.  Knowing she’ll be without a friend could be enough to convince her not to do it.  But if you are present, that could make her abortion experience easier to endure. This is why it is essential that if, after your best effort to convince her of abortion’s wrongness, she goes ahead with the procedure, that you not go with her, not drop her off, not pick her up, not facilitate her decision in any way.

  Keep this principle in mind: friends don’t drive friends to abortion clinics.  After all, if your friend was going to beat up her baby brother and you failed in convincing her not to, would you participate in that action, even if only to “be there to support her”?

  If your friend does abort and then realizes at some future point that she made a mistake, and if you had in some way facilitated that abortion, she’ll wonder why you did that when you knew it was wrong. She may even hold you partially responsible, and rightly so. But if you demonstrate integrity through your unwavering views and consistent action, this could be the factor that convinces your friend not to have the abortion—after all, actions speak louder than words.

  Consider how you could explain your refusal to go with her:

  “Because I love you, I can’t go with you.  Because to love you is to desire your good, and I know too much—I can’t erase what I know about abortion and I know it won’t be good for you or your baby.  If I go with you, if I help you get there, then I’d be betraying you.  I’d no longer be guided by what’s best for you, but what’s best for me (namely, just making sure you aren’t mad at me). I love you enough that I’ll endure you being mad at me—even feeling hate towards me—rather than help you do something I fear you’ll regret in the future.”

  Hopefully, though, it won’t come to making that statement.  Because when you seek to understand and communicate truth in love, you can go far in convincing your friend to make a life-affirming choice.

 

A similar version of this document first appeared at https://www.endthekilling.ca/blog

Present at a Birth, by Stephanie Gray

rigthafter.jpg

     I couldn’t have known when I said yes to a speaking commitment 8 months ago, that it would allow for a Divine Appointment that would make one of my dreams come true—a dream I had been waiting for since 2006.  On April 28, 2018, twelve years after writing my dream list in which number 37 was “be present at a birth,” I was the unexpected support person for my friend’s out-of-town—and emergency—caesarean section.  As a quote attributed to Paul Carvel says, “To witness the birth of a child is our best opportunity to experience the meaning of the word miracle.”

     Last August, I agreed to speak in Michigan this past April 24.  Being so close to Windsor, after the event I drove across the border to visit some of my Ontario friends.  As it should happen, my friend’s cousin, also a friend of mine, planned to join us for my last weekend there.  Angie came with her 4 born daughters and her 37-week baby girl in-utero.  She brought her family’s only vehicle, leaving behind in her small town her husband and 4 sons.  The plan was to go to a banquet dinner Friday night and have a girls shopping day Saturday.  But when Angie started having contractions soon after arriving, it seemed like the weekend was not going to go exactly as planned.

     First there was the hospital visit to be checked out.  Then there was the hospital admission.  Then there was the 4am assessment from the doctor that that baby needed to come out, that morning, and by C-section. 

“This is my body given for you” -Luke 22:19

     Journeying with Angie through the process reminded me of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemani.  Hers was a real suffering: She was in pain; her husband was not there; she wasn’t where she lived; her own doctor was not present; she didn’t want to be cut open; she wanted to try a VBAC.   It wasn’t supposed to happen at this time, in this way.  The prayer of Jesus became her lived experience: “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will” (Matthew 26:39).  So surgery would happen.  After Angie was prepped, I was brought into the operating room to sit next to her, and for those unaware of how a C-section works, the mother’s arms are stretched out like she’s on a cross.  As she lay there, riddled with anxiety about being aware while being cut open, her experience was once again like Christ’s: “This is my body given for you.”  Angie would do what motherhood has continually called her to do—to be other-focused, to lay down her life.  In short, to love.  But with the impending arrival of her baby, soon a resurrection would follow this type of crucifixion.

     I don’t know what was going through the mind of the Ob/Gyn and his resident as they performed surgery, but if I could have selected a “soundtrack” for them as they cut into the person of Angie to retrieve the person of Mackenzie, it would be these words of Joseph Cardinal Mindszenty:

     “The most important person on earth is a mother.  She cannot claim the honor of having built Notre Dame Cathedral.  She need not.  She has built something more magnificent than any cathedral—a dwelling for an immortal soul, the tiny perfection of her baby's body.  The Angels have not been blessed with such a grace.  They cannot share in God's Creative miracle to bring new Saints to Heaven.  Only a human mother can.  Mothers are closer to God the Creator than any other creatures.  God joins forces with mothers in performing this act of creation.  What on God's good earth is more glorious than this: To be a mother?”

“It’s like watching fire.”

     After I got to cut the cord, I held 6 pounds and 3 ounces of pure goodness up to Angie so she could see her little one.  While the doctors were still working on Angie’s abdomen, she did what she could from her awkward angle to plant tender kisses on Mackenzie and we both just stared in awe.  Then Angie said, “It’s like watching fire.”  Having just come out of a long winter where I had sat in the presence of more fires than usual, I thought about how fire draws one in.  Fire captivates.  It hushes people to silence.  It comforts.  It leaves you in wonder.  On a cold winter evening, in the presence of a fireplace, you’re drawn into the present moment, into what is in front of you, and everything else fades away.  That’s what this silent, tiny, vulnerable little baby did for us.

Reverent Silence

     As the doctors were finishing sewing Angie up, a nurse asked me to bring baby Mackenzie and follow her to the recovery room.  After she helped me get the surgical gown off, she walked away, leaving sweet one and me alone for about 15 minutes.  Blown away with incredulity of all that had just happened, I was tempted to immediately text my 3 best friends from childhood, all of whom are doctors and have regularly experienced what was a first time for me.  But then I thought, “No, the time for communicating with others is for later.  Now is the time to just be with Mackenzie and revel in the gift of her life, in the gift of her presence.”  And so together we simply were.  Me cradling innocence and beauty.  Someone who was unrepeatable and irreplaceable.  Never was before.  Never would be again.  Perfectly unique. 

     Robert Cardinal Sarah once wrote, “Through silence, we return to our heavenly origin, where there is nothing but calm, peace, repose, silent contemplation, and adoration of the radiant face of God.”

     Was this what it was like for Mary cradling baby Jesus?

babygirl.jpg

     Mackenzie breathed gently.  Her one eye opened while the other was sealed shut by the vernix yet to be cleaned off.  At one point she rooted (“Sorry, baby girl, on that front I can’t help you!  Momma’s coming soon!”). 

     As we waited, I prayed. Tracing the sign of the cross on her forehead, praying over her future… that she would always love the Lord… that she would resist temptation to sin… that she would run to the mercy of Christ when she failed…that her earthly journey would ultimately take her to her Heavenly home.

     And then music came to my heart, and so I sang: “Oh Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder, consider all the works Thy hands have made…Then sings my soul, my Savior God to Thee, how great Thou art, how great Thou art.”

Love Doesn’t Divide.  It Multiplies.

     My flight to Vancouver was scheduled for that afternoon, and so a few hours later I found myself on a plane home.  Mackenzie’s birth was to finish my two week work trip which began with debating an abortionist at the University of California, Berkeley, in front of 200 of his students.  As I thought about how my trip began—and how it ended—I wished that those students could experience what I just had, that they could know intimately, personally, the pure gift of life, that they could experience the awe and wonder that comes with pregnancy and birth—if we allow ourselves to see it.  That they could understand that new life isn’t to be feared but instead to be revered.  That they could believe that when a woman becomes a mother she isn’t reduced to the status of slave but is instead lifted to new heights of love. 

     My wish for the students is that they could come to know what Angie texted me today: “Being open to life and being gifted all these babies, I believe is a testament to how God’s love multiplies. When you have one kid, you can’t fathom having enough love for another one—but you do.  And so it is with each subsequent child.  It makes it easy to understand how much God loves me!!! (And you) :).”

     Amen.

groupshot.jpg

What Will Make Christians Care About Abortion? by Stephanie Gray

 Irena Sendler

Irena Sendler

     Last week I spoke at Church of the Resurrection, a thriving Anglican church in Wheaton, IL, with a fantastic shepherd, Bishop Stewart Ruch.  During Q and A, I was asked about how people can appeal to their fellow Christians to take abortion more seriously; in particular, I was asked what influences Christians to respond adequately to the plight of pre-born children.  I believe there are three factors in particular:

1.      Conviction,

2.      Education, and

3.      Courage

     Conviction is a strong persuasion or belief.  It is deeper than intellectual assent.  It involves capturing the heart.  And in the context of Christianity, it's not simply knowing about Jesus, or about His commands; it requires a personal relationship with Him, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  This way, just as we care about the things that people we care about, care about, a personal relationship with Jesus will naturally draw forth from us a deep concern for what concerns Him.  As the song “Hosanna” by Hillsong United declares, “Break my heart for what breaks yours.”  Abortion destroys God's creation that is more than good--it is "very good" (Genesis 1:31); it destroys life made in His image (Genesis 1:26); it destroys the result of His command to be fruitful and multiply (Genesis 1:28).

     I am reminded of an allegory I once heard about two people who recited Psalm 23.  The first was a professional orator who declared “The Lord is my shepherd…” with drama and exaggeration.  When he finished, the crowd jumped to its feet and clapped with much enthusiasm.  Then a humble pastor got up.  He lowered his gaze and bowed his head; then he slowly and reverently prayed, “The Lord is my shepherd…”  When he was finished the crowd was struck with silence—the only sounds being gentle weeping from a people profoundly moved.  The conclusion?  The orator knew the psalm but the pastor knew the shepherd.

     It’s like the Parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10: When the priest and Levite saw a half-dead robbed victim on the road to Jericho they passed by on the other side.  The Samaritan man, however, was moved with compassion and cared for the wounded soul.  It was as though the priest and the Levite knew the law, but the Samaritan knew the law-giver.  We need to foster more than simply knowing about Jesus, but actually being in relationship with Him so that the cry of our hearts becomes the cry of the blind man Bartimaeus to Jesus: “Lord that I may see” (Mark 10:51).

     Just as the Good Samaritan “saw” with his eyes, and his heart, the plight of his neighbor, we should pray “that we may see” the plight of our pre-born neighbors just as Jesus sees it.  We should allow ourselves to come face-to-face with their broken bodies and allow their dismembered limbs to communicate to us what their silent screams could not.  We should pray to “see” their beauty and fragility, and the corresponding destruction of what abortion did to them, so as to respond with the broken heart that God Himself responds with.

     Following conviction, there can arise within us a fear of how people will respond if we act on such conviction, which is why education is so necessary.  The more people are equipped to “give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15) the more readily people will share.  We need to help people gain confidence in their beliefs, helping them both understand and articulate the rationale behind the pro-life claims.  The better prepared people are to rebut objections, to explain things clearly and persuasively, the more they will increase in confidence, which means they will naturally decrease in fear.

     But fear won’t necessarily be entirely eliminated.  Which is why we need courage too.  I once heard it said that “courage is not the absence of fear, but a will to do what is right in spite of your fears.”  How do we instill courage?  I firmly believe we are more likely to be courageous when we surround ourselves by people who are.  There is something inspiring about the example of people who are other-oriented, especially when there’s personal cost involved.  The courage of others is magnetic, and draws that same virtue out of those who are exposed to it.

     That’s why I encourage communities of believers to immerse themselves in the inspiring examples of heroes and role models who responded to injustice in their midst and advocated for the vulnerable.  Movies like Schindler’s List, Gandhi, Sophie Scholl, Beyond the Gates, The Courageous Heart of Irena Sendler, and Eyes on the Prize are not about abortion, but they are about good people responding to injustice.  That’s what we need in response to abortion, and watching these examples and then discussing how the past can relate to our present, will instill the courage Christians need to make a better future.

When Someone is in Darkness, Your Light is Blinding, by Stephanie Gray

lightdarkness.jpg

     In my 16 years of full-time pro-life work I have met some of the most incredible people around the world.  For all the criticism abortion supporters have about the pro-life movement, portraying pro-lifers as having no concern for the less fortunate, as not caring about children after birth, as being mean-spirited, etc., I have encountered a movement of people that is the exact opposite.  I have met pro-lifers who have adopted children domestically and internationally. I have met pro-lifers who have adopted not one but several children, including sibling sets all at once. I have met pro-lifers who fostered children who otherwise had no place to go.  I have met pro-lifers who have welcomed pregnant women into their homes.  I have met pro-lifers who have adopted and/or birthed children with special needs and embraced these lives as pure gift.

     This striking contrast reminds me of a podcast interview I recently listened to where Patrick Coffin and Jordan Peterson discussed Peterson's viral interview with Channel 4 journalist Cathy Newman.  Peterson described Newman's approach to him as "grilling [an] imaginary opponent."  He said, "She was interviewing a figment of her imagination and not noticing, even for a moment, that it bore no resemblance to me.”

     I have seen that same phenomena in how some abortion supporters represent pro-lifers--seeing the pro-lifer not as he or she actually is, but as a figment of the abortion supporter's imagination.  Why is that?  Perhaps it's because when you're wrong about something and don't want to admit it, that by demonizing those who hold the opposite perspective, you can feel justified in maintaining your false views.  Perhaps it’s also because when someone is in darkness they close their eyes at light, and that prevents them from seeing things as they are.

     That is what came to mind a couple weeks ago when I presented in Oregon.  An audience member mentioned that she had two children with special needs.  She expressed that complete strangers have walked up to her and said they would have aborted children like hers.  She has been hurt and taken aback by such rude remarks and wondered how to handle them.  This was my response:

     "What comes to mind as I'm hearing you speak is that when someone is in darkness, your light is blinding.  When someone is in darkness your light—and you have light—is blinding.  If this room was pitch-black dark and I flicked on movie-studio, high-beam lights, what would you do?  You'd say 'Ouch, that hurts, shut it off' or you'd close your eyes.  But eventually what happens when we wake up in the morning and we kind-of experience that with our bathroom light?  Our eyes adjust, right?  So there will be that initial reaction of rejection, but ultimate adjustment.  And I would say when someone says, 'I would have aborted that child' it's very possible what they're non-verbally saying to you is, 'I did abort that child and how dare you remind me of what I did.'  Because your light hurts in their darkness. 

     "And so what I recommend is that we never take this hostility personally, that we pray for these people and we sit in their pain by allowing them to tell us their stories without any agenda to try to convince them of anything… [So when] you're ever in a situation where someone says, 'I would abort' …ask open-ended questions like, 'Why is that?' or 'What would scare you most?' or 'Do you know anyone who's aborted in this type of situation and what has that experience been?' And just let the story be told.  And what they will remember is your light and how you reacted to their darkness, with gentleness and with compassion—and that will draw them out to where you are."

To watch that particular answer click on the video below and go to 59:07:

 

Image source at top of blog: Wikimedia Commons, Feliciano Guimarães, Guimarães, Portugal, Light at the end of tunnel

 

ADVERTISEMENT:

prosoft.jpg

When Does Parenthood Begin? by Stephanie Gray

uva debate.jpg

     In a recent debate I participated in against the former president of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Nadine Strossen, we were asked to respond to the question “Should abortion be legal?” As is my usual practice, I believe the best way to teach people is to answer one question by asking more questions.  Typically I would ask my audience to first consider questions like, “When does life begin?” and “How ought we treat humans whose lives have begun?”  But instead I framed my message this way:

Q: What do civil societies expect of parents? and

Q: When does parenthood begin?

     If you google the terms “Parents abuse, kill, starve, children” you will come up with news stories like these:

·         From California: “Parents arrested after cops find 12 siblings shackled to beds”

·         From Denver: “Abused children's cries for help were ignored”

·         From Iowa: “Baby found rotting in swing; parents charged with murder”

     As I told my audience, I know there is consensus in the room that these are horrifying headlines.  We all agree on that because we all agree that in civil societies parents do not harm their children; instead, they help their children, they meet their children’s material and emotional needs.

     Moreover, I suggested, we all know that the more vulnerable a child is, the greater a parent’s responsibility is.  I asked the students to imagine they go home for the holidays and ask their parents to feed them three meals/day.  If the parents refuse we might be sad for the college student, but we would not pursue criminal charges against the parents.  But what if, I asked the students to consider, the child requesting food isn’t a college student?  What if the child is four years old?  What if the 4-year-old asks her parents to feed her and the parents continually refuse—at that point do we think the parents should be charged with neglect?  Absolutely.  So what is the difference between a child who is a college student and a child who is four?  The latter is a dependent, and by virtue of the neediness, weakness, and vulnerability of such an individual, we expect more of the parents—not less.

     Again, I said, I do not believe this is a point over which we have a dispute.

     Therefore, if we can agree on a civil society’s expectations of parents, then I think we can agree that the response to the debate question, “Should abortion be legal?” ought to be one simple answer: “No.”  In order to elaborate on that, I asked and answered the question, “When does parenthood begin?”

     A basic understanding of reproduction tells us that the next generation of a species which reproduces sexually will begin at sperm-egg fusion.  When a man’s body produces sperm or a woman’s body produces eggs, we know these are mere parts of the body from which they came.  But when those parts are combined, what is produced is something entirely different from that which is a part of a female or a part of a male.  In fact, what is produced is a female or a male.  What is produced is not something but someone.  What is produced is a whole new individual who can be genetically traced as the offspring of the parents—a part of their lineage, but not a part of their person.  What is produced is a separate person.

     Since parenthood begins at fertilization that means the responsibilities of parents begin then too.  From the moment a child exists, parents have a responsibility to ensure the safety and care of that child.  And if one day they wish to relinquish those responsibilities, the only moral way to do so is to ensure another party takes care of the child.  In the absence of a proper “transfer of care” (e.g., adoption) the parents would be neglectful in their duty to help, not harm, their children.

     So should abortion be legal?  The answer to that question is obvious once we ask, “What do civil societies expect of parents, and when does parenthood begin?”

What Do Rape Victims Say About Their Pregnancies? by Stephanie Gray

 Image source: Mliu92, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Pregnant_profile_IV.svg

Image source: Mliu92, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Pregnant_profile_IV.svg

     “Abortion is needed in cases where women are pregnant from rape.”  Of all the justifications I have heard for abortion, that, by far, is the most common.

    Remembering my recent blog and review of the book “A More Beautiful Question,” I’d like to address this claim with a series of questions.

     What is this support for abortion based on?  Is it based on rape victims who have gotten pregnant and parented their children?  Or is it based on rape victims who have either never gotten pregnant or who have had abortions?  Is it possible to be pregnant from a much-hated sexual assault and yet be grateful for the resulting child?

     Consider the stories of Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus, and Michelle Knight.  These women were kidnapped (at the ages of 16, 14, and 21, respectively) and subjected to daily rapes and other horrifying torture by Ariel Castro.  They survived more a decade of inhuman abuse in his home in Cleveland, Ohio.  Amanda became pregnant by Castro three years into her captivity.  What was her reaction?

     In the Spring of 2006 Amanda learned from the news that her mother had died from a massive heart attack.  Soon after she discovered she was pregnant and wrote in her autobiography, “I think my mom sent this baby.  It’s her way of giving me an angel.  Someone to help pull me through, give me a reason to fight.”

     Indeed, in the book Hope: A Memoir of Survival in Cleveland that she penned with fellow survivor Gina, they wrote about Amanda's child conceived in rape: “We are inspired every day by Jocelyn Berry, who was born on a Christmas morning in the house on Seymour Avenue.  She made a dark place brighter, and in many ways helped save us.”  

     Amanda also wrote of her daughter Jocelyn, “I used to worry that if I had the baby it would remind me of him [Castro] for the rest of my life.  But I don’t anymore.  This is my baby.  I’m so close now.  I am still pretty small, maybe a hundred and fifteen pounds, less than when I arrived here, but my stomach looks huge to me.  I already feel more like ‘we’ than ‘I.’  Whenever I’m sadder or more depressed than usual, or when he does something especially mean and my hope starts slipping away, I rub my belly and talk to my baby.”

     After giving birth in the torture chamber she wrote, “I crawl into bed with my new baby.  As he fastens the chain around my ankle, I think about my daughter being born into this prison, and who her father is.  But I try to focus on happier thoughts: She seems healthy and she’s beautiful.  I am going to protect her, and the rest we will figure out as we go.”

     The experience of fellow survivor Michelle Knight was very different.  She became pregnant 5 times by Castro and he beat her each time, successfully killing her pre-born children.  In fact, Castro was charged with four counts of aggravated murder for this.

     The jury’s decision on these charges leads to important questions: Is killing wrong based on who does the killing or based on who is killed?  If it was wrong for Castro to kill the children conceived in rape, wouldn’t it be wrong for anyone to kill the children conceived in rape?  Is the human right to life grounded in being human, or grounded in the circumstances under which a human was conceived?

     In her autobiography Finding Me: A Decade of Darkness, a Life Reclaimed, Michelle writes that when he attacked her with a barbell because she was pregnant she screamed, “Stop it!  Please don’t kill my baby!”

     On another occasion, after he kicked her in the stomach to kill another child she had conceived by him, she wrote, “I stood up and stared into the toilet.  I reached down and scooped my baby out of the water.  I stood there and sobbed….Death would have felt better than seeing my own child destroyed.  I looked down at the fetus in my hands. ‘I’m so sorry this happened to you,’ I wailed. ‘I am so sorry.  You deserved better than this!’”

     Or consider the story of Jaycee Dugard.  She was kidnapped in California at eleven years old and held for 18 years by Phillip and Nancy Garrido.  Also subjected to rapes and other unspeakable torture, she gave birth to her first child at 14 and a second at 17.  She writes of her daughters conceived in rape (in the book A Stolen Life: A Memoir): “I had my girls to give me strength,” and “I am thankful for my daughters.”  Of her first pregnancy she said, “The connection I feel for this baby inside of me every time I feel it move is an incredible feeling.”

     Jaycee also wrote, “How do you get through things you don’t want to do?  You just do.  I did it because that was the only thing I could do.  I would do it all again.  The most precious thing in the world came out of it…my daughters.”

     Some might point out that because these women were still held captive while enduring rapes and pregnancies, that new life was a comfort and light in an environment of darkness and suffering, but for rape victims who are no longer enduring victimization, a child is an unnecessary reminder.

     In response, consider my friend Lianna.  She was kidnapped and raped at age 12 and found out she was pregnant after being released from the torture.  When a doctor offered her an abortion, she asked whether it would help her forget the rape and ease her pain and suffering.  She explains her thought process when he replied no: “If abortion wasn’t going to heal anything, I didn’t see the point.”  She carried through with the pregnancy and chose to parent her daughter, who she is so grateful for.  In fact, Lianna was so traumatized by the sexual assault itself that she considered suicide—but didn’t kill herself because she didn’t want to kill her child.  In effect, then, the child conceived in rape became her motivation to continue living, and she credits her daughter for saving her life.

     Certainly there is no denying not everyone will react the same way in the moment.  Consider the Rwandan genocide where mass rapes occurred—one estimate being over 200,000 women raped and approximately 20,000 pregnancies as a result.  One survivor, Jacqueline, was gang-raped and became pregnant with her daughter Angel as a result.  Although she was initially so traumatized by the assault (as well as the murder of her husband and children) that she tried to poison herself and Angel when her daughter was a baby, she eventually entered counselling and “started to love her” and now feels Angel came from God.

     With the right support and help, it is possible to distinguish the innocence of a child from the guilt of a father.  After all, what does the test of time show us when it comes to the presence of children conceived in rape?

     Another question to consider is this: Will abortion un-rape a rape victim?

     The answer to this is obvious.  When I once remarked that whether a victim of rape gets pregnant or not, that the assault itself is a trauma that an abortion won’t take away, a child-molestation victim said in response, “Yeah, 10 years and counting.”

     So the next question to consider, then, is this: What is more difficult to come to terms with: Being an innocent who is hurt, or hurting an innocent?

     My friend Nicole Cooley got pregnant from rape and she had an abortion.  Nicole said, “For me, having an abortion was like being raped again, only worse—because this time I had consented to the assault.”

     Or consider Penny Ann Beernsten: In 1985 she was raped while running along Lake Michigan.  Unfortunately she incorrectly identified an innocent man, Steven Avery, as her attacker.  He was imprisoned for 18 years until the actual rapist, Gregory Allen, was identified using DNA-testing technology. 

     Penny wrote, “The day I learned of the exoneration was worse than the day I was assaulted. I really fought back when my attacker grabbed me. I scratched him, I kicked him. I did not go gently. After the DNA results came back, I just felt powerless. I can’t un-ring this bell. I can’t give Steve back the years that he’s lost.”

     While both these women went through horrifying traumas no human should ever have to endure, they acknowledged a worse pain when they realized their decisions hurt other people.  Of course, there is no denying the impact their traumas had on their judgement, and the failure of those around them, who were emotionally removed from the situations, to better guide them, but the point still stands that it is more difficult to come to terms with hurting an innocent than in being an innocent who is hurt.

     Since the child conceived from rape will ultimately need to come out of the rape victim’s body one way or another—which is better, to remove the child dead or alive?

     In a survey done of 192 women who got pregnant from sexual assault, almost 80% of the women who had abortions reported that abortion had been the wrong solution, and of the women who gave birth to their children, none of them expressed regret and none of them said they wish they had aborted.

     The documentary “Allowed to Live: A Look at the Hard Cases” shares powerful stories of a) people who regret abortions after rape, b) people who are grateful they carried their children to term, and c) people who are thankful their moms protected their lives.

     Which brings to mind my friend Ryan Bomberger.  Ryan’s birth mom was raped and he was conceived.  As it says in his biography, “He was adopted at 6 weeks of age and grew up in a loving, multi-racial Christian family of 15. With siblings of varying ethnicities, he grew up with a great appreciation for diversity. Ten of the thirteen children were adopted in this remarkable family. His life defies the myth of the ‘unwanted’ child as he was adopted, loved and has flourished.”

For the Spanish translation of this article, click here.

----- 

Final Note: Live Action has an excellent, short response to abortion in cases of rape here.  Moreover, years ago I wrote here about a Chilean case involving pregnancy from rape.

 ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

The Second-Last Word, by Stephanie Gray

mommydont.jpg

     I recently had yet another exchange with an abortion supporter who argued abortion is justified from the perspective of a woman’s “bodily rights.”  I have written pro-life responses to this argument before, such as here and here.  It occurred to me that when the bodily rights argument is raised it is often perceived as more challenging, but at the end of the day our simple proposal ought to be this: Let’s focus on a parent's responsibility to her child.  It is easy to lose sight about what we are actually talking about when bodily rights is raised, and that is this: relationship.  And not just any relationship—the relationship of a strong party to a vulnerable party.  And not just any strong party and any vulnerable party.  We are talking about a mom and a child.  I therefore need to call out the bodily rights argument for the horror that it is: a profoundly brutal attack on the nature of the parent-child relationship.

     What element of the Rwandan genocide was more horrifying than other human rights violations?  It was that colleagues, neighbors, friends, and even family were turning over and killing people that they knew.  It was not just a matter of strangers killing strangers (as horrific as even that is).  Consider the story of Monica: She is a Rwandan woman whose own father and brothers brutally executed her Tutsi husband and children in front of her eyes.

     Her father and brothers did more than attack her spouse and offspring.  They attacked their bond with her.  They attacked their relationship.

     Or consider the story of Penny Boudreau who killed her 12-year-old daughter Carissa.  The young victim's last words as she appealed to the woman who birthed her were these: “Mommy, don't.”

     There is something horrifying about her second-last word in the context it was said: “Mommy.”  That little girl made an appeal without realizing it; her use of the term “Mommy” was a call to the nature of who Penny was: a mom.  “Mommy, don't” was more than “Don’t kill me.”  It was a cry from the very depths of her being: “Mommy!  Do what mommies do!”

     Why do we need a mommy?  What are mommies for?  What do mommies constantly assure their children who wake up from nightmares?  “Mommy is here.  Mommy will protect you.  You're safe with me.”  Certainly, it is nice if a stranger helps a scared child, but we sure know that of all people who should help such a sad soul it is this: a mom.

     And so, I would suggest that abortion, and the corresponding bodily rights argument to justify it, is entirely sinister because it is about a mom killing her child.  Not just any child.  Her child.  Not just any woman.  A mother.

     I feel pain writing that.  I feel it for two reasons.  The first is because it is so sad.  The second is because so many moms have unfortunately already made this permanent, deadly choice.  I have several friends who have had abortions, and met countless other women who have done the same.  And sadly, I cannot bring their babies back.

     What I can do is point the wounded in the direction of hope, which, as an anonymous quote I once read said, “is like a bird that senses the dawn and carefully starts to sing, even while it is still dark.”  What I can do is tell about my friends like Anita, Angelina, Debbie, and Elizabeth, who have found forgiveness and healing from their abortions, and who have redeemed their pasts by warning others to learn from their mistakes rather than make new ones.  What I can do is show that even in the most unthinkable of situations, reconciliation is possible, which is what Monica from Rwanda, mentioned above, managed to achieve with her brothers.

     We cannot undo the mistakes we've made in our past, but we can inspire people to act different from us in the present.  We can also inspire people to follow the example of those who have done the right thing.  That’s why I believe it’s worth focusing on another mother, a single mother I met on a college campus several years ago.  Veronika told me,

     “The picture I have enclosed of Amelia and I does not fully show my face but it's an important picture to me. Amelia became very ill with respiratory problems around seven months which meant a lot of nights of dealing with fevers, congestion, pain control and a sad little baby who kept waking up due to having trouble breathing in her sleep. I took this picture one night when I decided to let her sleep on my chest instead of in the crib and she slept throughout the night. I did that every night until she was better. To me, it represents what we do as mothers, that we stop looking at ourselves as individuals with needs and we begin to look at how we can serve another and therefore love another, and with that comes learning to love ourselves.

     When I mentioned that in being faced with a “bodily rights” argument we ought to make a proposal about a parent’s responsibility to her child, I think there's a better way of saying that:

     Our proposal, ultimately, is love.

 ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Pregnancy and Slavery, by Stephanie Gray

After my presentation on abortion for the series "Talks at Google," I received an e-mail from someone who identified as pro-choice.  He wanted to outline his position on abortion and hear my thoughts.  What follows is my reply to him, as it provides a teaching tool for how to explain the pro-life position to someone who argues that when a woman does not wish to be pregnant, to force her to continue is like slavery.

     I am encouraged that you acknowledge that "a fetus is a human being with equal right to any other, and that killing it is immoral."  Given that, if you consider maintaining pregnancy/giving birth to be a type of slavery (if the pregnancy/birth are against the woman's will), then couldn't the same could be said about caring for a born child if doing so is against a woman's will?  In other words, if no one was able to care for a woman's infant for 6 weeks, would that give her grounds to refuse to feed the infant, to directly kill the infant, on the basis that she does not give permission to be "enslaved" to the infant?  Bear in mind that a born child is 100% dependent on another human to use their body (mind, arms, chest) to feed, burp, change, and shelter him or her.  Without total care from another human's body, the infant will die.

     Remember, I'm working with your admission that a fetus is just as human as an infant, and your admission that killing is immoral.  If dependency of one human on another is considered slavery, and it justifies deadly force to cease said relationship, then logically you would need to carry that over to born children.  Is that a position you're willing to take?

     Assuming you aren't willing to take that position, then I think what is reasonable to deduce is this:

     Whereas slavery involves one person treating another person as property, pre-born (and born) children are not doing this. In fact, the opposite of your position could be said: That embracing abortion is analogous to embracing slavery.  Whereas the latter (slavery) says of another human, "That's my property" (which isn't true), the former (abortion) says of another human, "That's my body" (which isn't true).

     Furthermore, slave owners are the strong party who dominate vulnerable people.  How can pre-born children be analogous to that when it's their parents who are the strong party and the pre-born who are the vulnerable one?

     You claim that "women...can consent to having sex without consenting to pregnancy."  Really?  Consider this:

     Is it reasonable to say a person can consent to playing baseball without consenting to the ball going through, and breaking, a neighbor's window?  Would it be reasonable to say to the neighbor, "I consented to playing the game but not to it causing property damage so I won't fix your window"?  Or, is it reasonable for a man to say he consented to having sex without consenting to paying child support?  Would it be reasonable to say to a judge, "I consented to having sex but not to creating the child my partner birthed so I won't provide ongoing financial support to the child"?

     In either example, the consequence of a window being broken or of a child needing support are just that--consequences, results, which flow from an action.  A person cannot "consent" to such consequences; they must merely accept them.  By engaging in actions (playing baseball, having sex) that have consequences tied to them, a person must accept what comes.  If that's true for the broken window or child support scenarios, it's also true for a pregnancy scenario.

      Moreover, with pregnancy and parenthood we are not speaking of a stranger-to-stranger relationship, but rather of a parent-to-child relationship.  Consider, for example, if someone is starving in your city: Will you be charged with neglect for not feeding them?  No.  While it would be nice of you to feed the poor, you do not have a legal duty to do so.  What if your child is starving in your home: Will you be charged with neglect for not feeding her?  Yes.  Why?  Parents have a responsibility to meet the basic needs of their children.  Requiring parents of born children to meet their childrens' basic needs of food, clothing, and shelter, is the same as requiring a mother to meet her pre-born child's basic needs of food and shelter.

     You said, "I see pregnancy as an immoral imposition on the woman against her will imposed by biology/nature/god, like slavery."  Even if that's how you see it, the child is not the one responsible for this imposition.  Moreover, as pointed out previously, the "imposition" doesn't end at birth.  So if the imposition of "nature" is grounds to kill the innocent pre-born child, it's also grounds to kill the innocent born child, and that's a position civil societies just don't take. 

     Consider this statement from the UN's Declaration on the Rights of the Child: "the child, by reason of his physical and mental immaturity, needs special safeguards and care, including appropriate legal protection, before as well as after birth."

      You said, "A common criticism of [the claim about a woman's right to choose is] if people have the right to do whatever they want with their bodies they have the right to wave a sword around wherever they want, so why is it immoral to cut people who happen to get in the way? You can’t do whatever you want in public space which is owned by everyone, however inside of your body isn’t public space. If someone invaded your home/body (knowingly or not) against your will, then you are fully in your rights to swing your sword even if it hits them, or at the very least evict them out post haste so you can go back to swinging your sword in peace."

      Actually, if you found a baby in your home you wouldn't be able to justify swinging your sword or leaving the child in the cold.  Yet here's how pregnancy is different even from that: The pre-born child has not invaded the mom's body. She is there by "invitation" of her parents.  Moreover, she is in the only place she should be in.  That point cannot be minimized: Where else should the pre-born be except for the mom's body?  The child in the womb is a sign something has gone right, rather than wrong.

      Moreover, who does the uterus primarily exist for?  A woman can live without her uterus; her offspring cannot.  In fact, every single month the uterus is getting ready for someone else's body.  While it exists in the mom's body it is a unique organ in that it exists more for one's offspring than for oneself; hence, the argument can be made that the pre-born child has a right to be there.

      You said, "If you were a slave and your owner tasked you with taking care of a child for nine months after which you would be free. Also considering the fact that if you refused the child would die, are you obligated to being a slave and taking care of the child or are you justified in escaping slavery even at the cost of the child’s life?"

     I would point out that because the baby is not an independent adult who can try to fend for herself, that I think the woman should care for the slave baby too.  Having said that, the scenario you've described is not like pregnancy.  Pregnancy is a parent-child relationship.  So let me make the right course of action clearer with a thought experiment that is more parallel to pregnancy [working with a concept from my friends over at Justice for All]:

     Imagine a woman gives birth but doesn't want to use her body to breastfeed her baby.  She has formula and bottles all ready to provide nourishment for the child that way.  But suddenly, she and her newborn are kidnapped and locked in a cabin in the woods. There is solid food for her to eat but no bottles or formula for the baby.  Would she be obligated to breastfeed her child or could she justify letting the baby starve because she didn't want to use her body to help her child?

     Clearly she still has a duty to meet the needs of her born child even when circumstances beyond her control prevent her from following her original plan.  The same is true for the pre-born who you acknowledged to be human and with equal rights.

Twins: Double the Fun or Double the Trouble? by Stephanie Gray

 My mom and my aunt, her twin.

My mom and my aunt, her twin.

     A quick google search of “you’re pregnant with twins” produces over 1 million results, the first of which says, “Are you having two (or three, or more) times the fun?”

     There is something powerfully positive about twins (my mom, an identical twin, would agree, as would I who technically have a second biological mother).  In fact, the positive impact of twins can be seen in a story featured in The Blaze about a woman who was going to have an abortion but changed her mind to adoption—until she discovered she had twins.  Once she found out she had two babies she changed her mind again—this time to parenting.  She said, “I thought about our life together and what it could be” 

     But while some look at twins as “double the fun,” tragically others view them as “double the trouble.”  And that came to mind when I read a story in the National Post last week about an Ottawa woman who seized on news of being pregnant with twins as grounds to kill one of them through abortion.

     As I read about various facts in this case, I was struck by how crazy the thinking of our abortion-obsessed culture has become.  For example, the hospital the woman initially went to refused to “reduce” her twin pregnancy to a singleton.  At the time, however, had circumstances been different, they would have acted: If she had three babies instead of two, they would have aborted one.  If she had a diseased baby instead of a healthy one, the hospital also would have aborted.  

     Their standards seem to convey that killing a child isn’t inherently wrong, but only conditionally wrong, and that these pre-born children didn’t meet the conditions.  That flies in the face of human rights doctrines which acknowledge that the inalienable right to life is something we have by virtue of being a member of the human family, not by virtue of meeting certain conditions.  Indeed, back when I was studying at UBC, I recall a bioethics professor remarking that abortion is either all right or all wrong—the “grey” zone doesn’t exist, she said.  That makes sense; after all, if the pre-born aren’t human, then why would we stop any abortion?  On the other hand, if the pre-born are human, then why would we permit any abortion? 

     Perhaps the mother herself would attempt to answer my question by claiming that her eliminating one child would increase the odds of her embracing another child (she was told her twin pregnancy, her older age, and other factors increased her risk of miscarriage).  Doesn’t that violate the universal standard of ethical healthcare: “Do no harm”?  Don’t we decry experiments done to harm one human, even if such experiments might produce evidence that helps another human, precisely because it inflicts harm that is so wrong it doesn’t matter what good comes about?  Correspondingly, shouldn’t we oppose killing one baby in order to increase the odds of bringing to birth another baby because the means to get to that end result involve committing egregious harm?  Unfortunately it seems that that principle would have gotten lost on the mother whose previous decision appears consistent with her more recent one: The news reported that the pregnant patient (known only as “C.V.”) conceived her children by In Vitro Fertilization (IVF). 

     IVF typically involves creating more human beings than are implanted, meaning that some of these tiny, unique, unrepeatable individuals are, at their earliest age, subjected to the injustice of freezing and/or being discarded (and thus killed).  There’s no denying the tragedy of infertility and the need to find ethical solutions to it (a subject for a future post).  Even with that reality we must face this question: Is it ethical to endanger and/or end the lives of some humans because we desperately want to care for other humans?

A Step-by-Step Guide to Planning and Delivering a Memorial Service for Aborted Children

Several months ago, I had an idea to create A Memorial Service for Aborted Children.  In recently piloting it at a church in BC, I saw over 100 people flock to the church to honor and remember aborted children.  This experience taught me that everyone has a story, and many are suffering silently.  One person had, decades before, paid for an abortion.  Another person’s mother had almost been aborted.  Another person tried to dissuade someone from supporting a friend’s abortion—and failed.  The stories go on, showing that while some have directly had abortions, all have been touched by abortion in some way.  A memorial is a way of responding to these experiences.  As one attendee said afterwards, “I’ve experienced a healing, and will sleep better tonight than I have in years.”

 

This event was extremely low cost, did not involve much work, and was hugely powerful.  So if you’re interested in the simple steps to put on this life-changing event, consider yourself the leader who will follow what’s below and take charge of overseeing and delegating.  This blog entry is designed to make it as easy as possible for this event to be replicated around the world.  Besides you as leader and MC of the event, the main people you need to enlist to help you are as follows: a pastor, a church secretary, musicians, a sound person, a post-abortive woman (and/or man) to give a testimony, and a few counselors/prayer persons.

 

Here are the steps to take:

 

1.      Read the document “A Memorial Service for Aborted Children: The Idea Explained.”  Be sure to share this document with the planning team you develop below.

2.      Consult your pastor to get “buy in” and select a date and time that works for him and your church.  The service runs for approximately 1 hour and he will need to prepare a sermon of maximum 10 minutes (on the theme of memorializing the aborted and healing for the wounded), open and close the service in prayer, and select a Bible passage to read.

3.      Book musicians.  Ask your church’s worship team or 2-3 people to lead the music for the event.  Find out what instruments, cables, etc., they require you to arrange for at the church (although ideally this would be primarily handled by the musicians themselves).  We had two singers who harmonized and used one instrument (a piano) and it was hauntingly powerful; numerous attendees raved about the music.  Of course, the musicians were extremely talented (led by Kathleen LeBlanc of “A Guy and a Girl”), but the point is sometimes less is more.

4.      Book a person to ensure proper audio set up and the presence of all required microphones, cables, instruments, and other technology required by the musicians and for the whole service and confirm they will arrive early to work with the musicians to set this up.

5.      Select songs. Ask the musicians to select 7-8 songs and provide lyrics to you.  You can provide input.  Songs should be chosen that are reflective and highlight mercy, as well as fitting for a funeral/memorial.  When we piloted this event, we chose songs for the beginning and end that all attendees would likely know.  As the service progressed, songs chosen were “less known” and primarily sung by the musicians to correspond with the service becoming more reflective and contemplative for attendees.  See sample song choices here.

6.      Book someone to give a post-abortive testimony.  For our pilot of this in Maple Ridge, BC, we chose Elizabeth Sutcliffe of Silent No More Awareness Canada who gave an extremely powerful testimony.  The testimony should last no more than 15 minutes, with 10 being ideal.

7.      Book counselors/prayer team persons to be present at the memorial should attendees wish to speak with one afterwards.  If the event is held at a Catholic church, book a priest or two to hold confession following the memorial as well.  The counselors should be the welcoming committee to hand out the programs upon peoples’ arrival so that there is face-recognition when they are introduced later on (the role they play is announced by the MC in the closing remarks, which are in the MC’s detailed notes here).

8.      Book reception hosts.  At our pilot event, the youth group and their families took on the responsibility to organize all food and drinks as well as the set-up and clean-up of a reception for after the memorial.

9.      Book a little boy and little girl (between the ages of 5 and 10) to be dressed in “Sunday best” and walk up the aisle, holding flowers, with the priest/pastor at the beginning.  This is explained in the MC’s detailed notes which can be viewed here.

10.  Promote!  Promote!  Promote!

a.       Create, or work with your church secretary to create, a large poster that can be printed to be placed at your church and other churches within your geographic area.  Deliver these to other churches 3 weeks ahead of time.  See sample poster file here.

b.      Write a sample bulletin announcement and have your church secretary put it in each weekly bulletin 4-6 weeks ahead of the event.  See sample bulletin announcement here.

c.       Set up a public Facebook event page and invite your friends, and have the other event helpers invite their friends.  Share the FB event every week until the event (with an extra reminder the morning of) as well as write reminder posts in the event page itself.  See sample FB event here.

d.      Contact your local religious newspaper to see if they will do a story about the event so it’s printed 2 weeks before the event.  See actual newspaper coverage here.

e.       Have your pastor or priest preach on abortion at all weekend services/masses a Sunday before the event.  See an actual sermon preached before a memorial here.  See a document for ideas for pro-life sermons here.

f.       You make an announcement at the end of each service/mass about the memorial the Sunday that your pastor would have preached on abortion.  See sample announcement here.

11.  Prepare program and ask the church secretary to print out sufficient numbers (we printed 150 the first time and had approximately 120 attendees).  To see our program click here.

12.  Items you need to gather for the night-of (ideally your church will already have them) and arrive early to lay out:

a.       Tea-light candles: arrange these along the front of the church.  (We laid out 200 across the communion rail.)  Have a starter candle lit and wood sticks for when people need to light.

b.      Pens and paper: distribute these throughout the pews/chairs.

c.       Buy flowers: we bought two packages of red and white carnations.

d.      A vase at the front for the flowers.

e.       Name tags for the counselors/prayer persons to wear.

f.       The printed programs for attendees.

13.  Have your MC notes readyclick here to read the ones from our pilot event.

 

If everyone committed to a role above arrives early and is prepared to fulfill their responsibility, the event goes very smoothly.  Ours did, and was an extremely beautiful and touching evening that attendees described as powerful, moving, and needed!  If you do this, please send me your feedback and testimonies about how the event went.

 

Note: It is common at an event remembering pre-born children lost to abortion, for those affected by miscarriage to be reminded of their own loss of pre-born children too.  This is natural and understandable because of the similar age of the children lost; the memorial, however, does not formally address miscarriage because there is a substantively different nature between miscarriage and abortion.  In the former the children die naturally whereas in the latter, their lives are purposefully destroyed.  So while I encourage remembering and memorializing miscarried children for proper honoring and healing, I recommend doing so in a different service from one remembering children unjustly killed.   A different but powerful program can be read about here and here.  Moreover, at the time of miscarriage one could also do a funeral and even a burial