My husband and I were handed the the death sentence of our unborn child in a dark conference room. We sat huddled together in shock, gripping hands as a kind doctor gently explained our son’s condition. With tears of disbelief streaming down my cheeks, feeling nauseous and numb, it seemed like I was listening through water as she detailed the unique risks associated with carrying a child with this diagnosis.
The physician delicately suggested I pursue an abortion and how difficult it might be to secure one as I was in my 18th week of pregnancy. Realizing what she was offering, I snapped my head up and curtly informed her that abortion was NOT an option.
In the weeks that followed, we met with pro-life physicians including the lead OBGYN for a pro-life pregnancy center to ask their advice. I could not wrap my mind around the fact that everyone, even the pro-life experts, were telling me that the best option was to end my pregnancy.
I obsessively studied my baby’s condition, desperate for a story of hope (there were none) and made twice-weekly visits to a high risk OBGYN. My doctors insisted on keeping a close watch on my health due to the known risks of carrying a child with this condition coupled with my own history of pregnancy complications. We, along with the support of our physicians, tentatively decided to try to get as far along in the pregnancy as possible but deliver at the earliest sign of trouble.
From this point forward, something strange happened. I found myself in this bizarre space where I not only had to justify my decisions to my pro-life friends but also to my pro-choice friends. Some felt that anything less than carrying my child to term meant I was having an abortion, plain and simple. Others felt I was delusional to even consider continuing a pregnancy at a risk to my health when my baby was brain dead and going to die upon birth anyway.
I fumbled to explain my reasons for continuing the pregnancy to people who thought I was crazy for doing so. And months later, when my rapidly declining health indicated that the time had come to deliver, I fumbled to explain what was happening medically to my body and why my doctors and husband said it was time to deliver the baby lest I lose my ability to ever carry a child again or have a stroke.
It felt like every decision I made carried political weight. And it was heavy.
I sensed accusing eyes casting disapproving looks. I was aware of assumptions made about my decisions. I fielded stinging remarks. I felt defensive and judged. I walked under the full weight of this issue and marveled at how I never EVER thought I would be in a position to defend myself to both pro-life and pro-choice friends.
And amidst all this, I was shattered. I was desperately aware that the only time I would have with this baby were the weeks that kept ticking by as we approached his inevitable death upon birth. I knew that no decision I made could save him. And that was the darkest reality I have ever faced.
My lifelines were the people who, while not necessarily compromising on their beliefs, listened with grace, tenderness and compassion. These dear friends and family members loved me and dressed any advice in deep empathy and a desire to truly understand what I was going through. I clung to those who didn’t just have opinions, but had mercy and were willing to physically, tangibly and viscerally walk with me.
Those were the people whose advice I was able to hear.
Why am I telling you this? Because the truth is, I was judgmental prior to having this experience. I was not tender-hearted towards women who even considered abortion. And while my beliefs about the practice of abortion haven’t changed, my heart has been broken for anyone who faces any sort of uncertainty about a pregnancy diagnosis.
To be clear, I am against abortion morally and can’t, as an educated medical professional view it as anything less than the taking of an innocent life. I weep at what has become of us as a nation that we would tolerate the dismembering of one of our own in the name of women’s rights. Let alone millions of our own.
But my heart is compassionate towards any woman who feels that her only option is to terminate her pregnancy. No woman should have to feel like that’s her only option. What a horrible option.
I know advocacy is important and believe light needs to be shone into the darkness. The abortion debate is a conversation we should be having. But we need to remember that there are real people in the center of all this. Before posting or opining on this issue, ask yourself if your words are clothed in grace. If not, you won’t be heard at best and you might hurt someone at worst.
And I urge my pro-life friends to not just walk away after declaring yourself pro-life. My prayer for the church is that we can go beyond posting a few articles on our social media pages, calling our senators and forgetting about this issue. We are called to CARE for women and innocent children – not just advocate for nine months of time in the womb.
If we don’t want women to choose abortion, then lets work together to give them better options.
We who call ourselves pro-life should be the FIRST ones signing up to adopt, foster, and host children. We should be the FIRST ones to volunteer, employ, house and disciple women in distress. We should get in the trenches and love with all that we have.
Sure, it’s hard. It requires sacrifice and inconvenience. But isn’t personal sacrifice always required if we really want to love well?
Lets extend hands of mercy to moms who face hard choices. Rather than merely encouraging women to choose life, lets say to them, “And I will do life with you. You are NOT alone.” Lets be long-suffering, kind, and encouraging. Because if women are even considering abortion, they need our compassion more than they need our opinions.
I believe that followers of Jesus can love women better than anyone else. I know this because I’ve experienced it. We can stand for truth without casting stones. We can wage this war on the practice of abortion armed with love and compassion. We can hold out the only real hope women have. So why would we do anything less?
Follow twentyshekels on Facebook for updates and encouragement.