Inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King's challenge to rise above the narrow confines of individualistic concerns, we seek first to understand, then to be understood; to listen with empathy and compassion; to preserve dignity and embrace humanity.
An individual has not started living fully until they can rise above the narrow confines of individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of humanity. Every person must decide whether they will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness. - Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
A local bakery owner welcomed us and made fresh coffee. Early arrivals rearranged tables, three presenters filled seats along one side, the facilitator to our right, my spouse to our left.
As others arrive my heart hesitates, a nagging pulse of thought threatens to unravel me: my husband's heart, his feelings, as he takes in the words i am about to share. i hesitate.
Our topic? abortion
Each year 3 million unintended pregnancies gather like raindrops cascading into a waterfall. Our American culture celebrates passion and independence, giving in to seduction, going with the flow. Stopping to put on a condom, to talk about contraception, to prevent pregnancy, is too often missing from the love scenes in movies and TV. The idea of waiting for the person God designed for us, does not seem to exist at all.
A few months after The Supreme Court decided Roe vs Wade, my mother invited me to sit down at the kitchen table for a talk -- the talk about what would be happening to my body, about sex, about how good girls don't. In her nervous words I found no redemption for bad girls who did, no room for compassion, no invitation to the beauty of monogamy, no celebration of sexuality as God designed it. In the years that followed as my body and mind grew from girl to woman, my heart twisted with fear. I became convinced that were I to disclose an unplanned pregnancy, my father would kill me with his bare hands. I chose to be careful, to use birth control, to seek medical care, to preserve my own life, to never get pregnant.
At the same time, compassion for other women grew within me: women without resources to pay for medical care, women discarded-abandoned-marginalized, women trapped in impossible situations, lives infused with violence both real and imagined, truth and lies, women facing unexpected pregnancies, women who needed care, women who needed choices.
Through the 70s the images of back-alley abortions, of mothers and children butchered by human greed, haunted me. In the 80s the grotesque, amplified posters of aborted babies held by people picketing along South Hastings Way, disgusted me. And in the 90s after writing a letter to the editor championing the redirection of talents from debating abortion to providing education, prenatal care and support, I was unprepared for the inhumanity that arrived in our mailbox from strangers claiming pro-life status.
In 2008, in the months just before we started Whispered Hopes, four women came to me with their personal stories of choice and life, unplanned pregnancy and abortion. In these intimate, quiet, tearful conversations each woman in her own time told her own story. One told of a husband who insisted she abort and the miraculous moment when she refused, getting up from the clinic table, choosing life for their child and their marriage. Another woman spoke of shame and isolation, of keeping her secret from even her closest companions, of prayer and fear, seeking God's guidance, and experiencing a peace in the decision to abort -- a false peace that dissipated the moment she left the clinic. The other two women were within my closest family and friends, so close that my heart silently screamed, "I would have raised your child as my own!" Yet, the shame associated is so deep and the compassion with in me so hidden, the silence sealed their resolve.
If I am honest, it is more complicated than being willing to help after her story is told. Breaking the isolation, overcoming the fear, telling our story to another human, trusting one another requires great courage. To reveal our story while we are in the stormy sea of an unintended pregnancy requires miraculous courage. God-breathed courage.
My hands are empty. My heart is broken.
If a woman is seeking an abortion, I will petition God for the courage to go with her into the clinic, for the faith to pray with her and for her, looking for the miracle, as we walk together through this storm.
In the 24 hours following our Justice Panel i realized that i am on both sides of this issue: i believe life begins at conception and i uphold a woman's (parent's) right to choose.
An inner discussion is on-going, how do we honor both people present at conception?
... and footnotes:
We seek first to understand, then to be understood - Stephen Covey
3 million unintended pregnancies annually, reported in 2012 statistics Center for Disease Control, with 699,000+ pregnancies ended in abortions for the same time period.
Unintended pregnancies account for 51% of pregnancies in our country, reported by Guttmacher Institute; with further identification as 31% mistimed and 20% unwanted. [more]
Another discovery for me is the scope of time we risk unintended pregnancy. From CDC (but source missing in my notes) is the concept that women are fertile from 15 to 44 so even those who want children and a family spend decades seeking to avoid pregnancy rather than welcoming it.
Roe v Wade was decided on 01/22/1973 and for me this marks the beginning of the brutal, divisive debate still raging in American society.