Today I participated in a conversation on abortion rights. Now, if you know me, you know I spend a lot more of my time calling out the pro-life movement on its lack of initiative of support for pregnant mothers and other areas than I do calling out the pro-choice movement. My thought is to pull the planks out of our own eyes first, right? But I felt a desire to participate in this discussion, which began with a post by a friend lamenting Texas’ new laws that require abortion clinics to be certified ambulatory surgical centers and a few other changes.
These laws brought about the closure of all but six abortion-performing clinics, six clinics that must be up to some high health standards. The author of the article argued that this was causing women to cross the border to procure backalley abortions and abortifacient drugs administered improperly. The author did not disclose how often this had happened in the past, nor did she disclose any information about the clinics that were shut down. When I suggested, in the wake of these closures, offering women services to help them keep their baby, it was radically denied by one reader and garnered the response that “convincing a woman to keep that baby is not the answer here.” The person arguing this also said that even if it was a viable answer, it was the responsibility of the pro-life movement to do this. The pro-choice movement is not interested in providing that kind of help and would prefer to focus on abortion rights. I am not kidding about this response.
(I also had a second idea to provide bus passes and housing to women in order for them to be able to visit one of the open clinics. This got me accused of not knowing a thing about what these women need due to my “white privilege.” I had no idea being white could illegitimize every ounce of ministry I’ve ever had with those less fortunate, my experience as a parent who is still in school, and the number of women I’ve known or know personally who live in very poor, can’t-put-food-on-the-table situations. I also had no idea being white still made me as a parent less of an authority on what it’s like to be pregnant than a childless man whose race was undisclosed.)
What I realized is the people with whom I was discussing this, people who have never had children themselves, really thought the only answer to help these women was to have abortion clinics–even if they were less than ideal in health standards–readily available. Any other idea, especially those that require work and personal relationships, was bad.
What I also realized from this conversation is that what this version of the pro-choice movement really wants is free love. Sex without cost. But there is no such thing.
In sex, one must always make some kind of sacrifice regarding their fertility:
1) They pay for birth control (or have someone else pay for it) and understand there is a small possibility of pregnancy.
2) They don’t pay for birth control and understand there is a greater possibility of pregnancy.
3) They practice a fertility awareness method, abstain during fertile times, and understand there is a small possibility of pregnancy.
4) They abstain completely with no possibility for pregnancy.
There is some kind of sacrifice to be made in each situation, even if that sacrifice is abstinence.
So, if you believe your only option for an abortion is to run to Mexico, you have to decide:
Do I have sex, and risk getting pregnant, and then risk a bad abortion procedure?
Do I have sex, and risk getting pregnant, and then take responsibility for that child, even with the option of giving them up for adoption?
Or do I not have sex in order to avoid getting pregnant?
(Rape is obviously a different story and not what I mean to discuss here.)
Sex is not for children; it’s for grown-ups, precisely because these are the grown-up decisions one has to make. Who is educating these men and women to that point? Who is not just showing them how to put on the condom, but educating them on how to pre-meditate the possible outcomes of their choice to buy and use that condom? Who is empowering them to stand up for their decisions with regard to their sexuality? Who is empowering them to follow through with those decisions?
Neither the popular pro-choice nor the pro-life movements (except a few factions of each) seem concerned about this kind of sex and relationship education. It all seems centered around how to use birth control or how to stay abstinent, but learning how to make your own choices and to take responsibility for the outcomes of those choices is not part of the curriculum. Perhaps it shouldn’t be. Perhaps it should the onus of the parents or guardians to teach this. But what happens when they don’t?
There are many who want to provide merely “free love” and sex without cost to these men and women, but what good does that do? True, divine love is not possible without cost. Personally, I have experienced no truer love than what I have in being a mom, and I say that because it changes even the way I love my husband and so many others. There are moments where I regret getting pregnant and wonder what I was thinking, whether that’s because I miss my dance career or because I feel inadequate as a mom. But the moments of joy and the moments where I see my daughter grow and become more and more the incredible human being that she was made to be far outweigh any feelings of regret. I see that there are so many other people out there who can fulfill the world’s need for dance, but I–despite all my inadequacies–am the only one who can be my daughter’s mother. She needs me. I may find it annoying on occasion, and I may have to make insane sacrifices for her needs that drive me to exhaustion, but it is so incredibly beautiful and powerful to be needed and to have to love like that, to have to love on terms other than my own.
And I’m not just making up this idea of love requiring suffering all on my own. In case you weren’t yet tired of me quoting Kahlil Gibran from The Prophet on love:
“But if in your fear you would seek only love’s peace and love’s pleasure,
Then it is better for you that you cover your nakedness and pass out of love’s threshing-floor,
Into the seasonless world where you shall laugh, but not all of your laughter, and weep, but not all of your tears.”
So to those pro-choice people who find me and other pro-life people ignorant of a woman’s needs, I would urge you to remember the human need for love.
Not for sex.
Not for satisfaction.
Not for convenience.
But for self-giving, life-giving love.
And then ask yourself whether or not the answer really isn’t to encourage and support a woman in keeping her child.
If you or someone you know is struggling with difficult emotions related to an abortion, please visit abortionrecovery.org, the website for Abortion Recovery International (ARIN). This is an excellent organization that can set you up with a counseling program that meets your spiritual and emotional needs.