Making the Other Two “Choices” a Reality
By Misty Dawn Mealey
March 26, 2001
I once saw a bumper sticker that made me laugh: “Annoy a liberal: work hard and smile.” I propose an even more potent message: “Annoy a pro-choicer: volunteer to help a woman in crisis.”
For the past eight months, I’ve frequented About.com’s pro-life forum, moderated by Christina Dunigan. Occasionally, I “lurk” on the site’s pro-choice forum, and about a month ago I began a dialogue with someone about the pregnant 17-year-old I was mentoring, shuttling to adoption lawyer appointments, and driving to visit prospective families. Now, logic would tell you that anyone who does these things for a woman in a crisis pregnancy is actually supporting the woman’s choice not to abort.
And yet, the reaction I received from the other “pro-choicers” on the board, most notably the forum’s moderator, Margaret Sykes, can only be described as uncooperative, derisive, and hostile. Among other things, I was summarily informed that I had pressured her to carry the child to term and that I was “in league” with the prospective adoptive parents to deprive her of the child. Perhaps more importantly, however, was the assertion that because I was pro-life, I was “too biased” to help this young woman through her pregnancy and adoption.
To most outsiders, the fact that I—and not her parents—am assisting this girl through such an intimate event raises eyebrows. Yet when you considering that the parents’ lack of supervision has enabled their daughter to become a gang member at age 12, pregnant at 13 (the father beat the baby to death in her third trimester), a runaway at 14, a mental patient at 15, a drive-by shooting victim at age 16, and pregnant again at 17 (by her 23-year-old homeless, jobless boyfriend that they invited to live with the family for several months), it should be quite clear why I’m taking such an active role in her life right now. Obviously, no one else is.
A Pro-Life “Choicer”
For a young woman who has endured so many traumas, trust does not come easily. In fact, despite having access to her personal files as her teacher, I never knew that she had been pregnant before until she handed me a Polaroid of herself, taken when she was very obviously pregnant. “That’s me on the third day of my third trimester,” she said proudly. In the next breath, she begged me not to tell anyone, including her school counselors. “I ran away for about six months around then so my parents don’t even know,” she said.
I was also the first adult to know that she was pregnant again. Last October, she showed up at my home at 1 a.m., crying and holding a positive pregnancy test. I made her tea, calmed her down, and sent her home to tell her parents.
Before she left, however, I asked her how she felt about the pregnancy and what she wanted to do. Her teenage acquaintance immediately chimed in that adoption was “out of the question” because she’s been adopted and hated it. “You should get an abortion,” she advised the girl. I took the girl’s hands. “This is your life, and you are the one who must live with the consequences, not me, not your friends, not your parents. What do you want to do? What does your conscience demand?”
In theory, my response would probably be interpreted as pro-choice, not pro-life. After all, I didn’t tell her that abortion was murder or try to sway her one way or the other. In my opinion, pregnant women know in their hearts that they carry more than a mass of tissue, and I still naively believe that conscience will lead to the right (and moral) decision if you can convince people to listen to it. I have also personally witnessed a beautiful, sensitive sixteen year old girl be pressured, threatened, and then bribed into her third abortion by her parents, friends, school counselors, and boyfriend. I promised myself then that I would never subject a woman in crisis to any kind of emotional terrorism. As far as I am concerned, doing so would make me no better than the pro-aborts.
Yet for the pro-choicers on About.com, because I did not explicitly push abortion as an equally valid solution to this girls’ problem, and allowed her conscience to guide her to a decision, the mere existence of my pro-life beliefs made my role in this scene “inappropriate.” Apparently, only those who officially wear the pro-choice label are objective (and caring) enough to assist a woman in a crisis pregnancy. Pro-lifers should not even be in the same zip code.
Having heard this young woman say in the past that she was pro-life, I nonetheless held my breath when she paused to answer my question. The fact is, abortion is legal, quick, and relatively cheap. One never knows what pressures a young woman will face when her boyfriend, counselors, and parents must face the reality of her pregnancy. Would she be able to handle that pressure? Would she even want to?
Fortunately, she affirmed that she was pro-life and that abortion was out of the question. I told her then that I would be there to help her through the pregnancy. Over the past seven months, I have kept my promise. It is also likely that I will fly to be with her during the birth, and be the one who consoles her as she gives her child away to virtual strangers. At this point, I am the only person in her life who has elected (and who has been asked) to attend the birth.
Practice What You Preach
Before this young woman came into my life, being pro-life was an intangible personal philosophy that dictated how I thought about unborn children. Today, it is a code of ethics that dictates how I treat women in crisis. Most pregnant women do not want to abort; they do so because they believe they will not have the support they need to give birth to their child and then raise it or give it up for adoption. Abortion is not a choice, but what happens in the absence of choice, when a woman feels that it was the “only” alternative.
True pro-choicers don’t care if the abortion rates go down, as long as the woman is making the “best choice for her.” Abortion advocates on the other hand (often disguised as “pro-choice”) do; fewer abortions means fewer post-abortive women. And fewer post-abortive women means more mothers and birth mothers, and less support for the practice as a whole. As pro-lifers, there are two very important things that we can do to help women choose life, and reduce the number of abortions:
1) Share your beliefs but soften your dogma. Above all, make sure that your children know that you are pro-life first, and anti-premarital sex second (if you are). In other words, we need to make sure our own daughters know that they can come to us for support if they ever get pregnant. Give women/girls a solid foundation of emotional and financial support, and they are far less likely to feel that abortion is the only choice they have. We have all planned our lives, and would like to plan our children’s lives, but life happens. Be principled, but be supportive and learn to roll with the punches. Your daughter can go back to college. She can postpone the wedding. She can never reverse an abortion.
2) Back up your convictions about life being a priority by supporting the existing life that's here. There are many ways to do this, and they don't all have to involve adopting babies. My husband and I are foster parents, for example. We took a month-long course and are now certified to help children from very disadvantaged families. Volunteer in a capacity that helps children and their families directly. It does not take a lot of money, just time and heart. This approach improves the quality of life and prospective future for “unwanted” children, gives the pro-life movement credibility, and most importantly, shows other women—through example—that there are resources out there to help them with unplanned pregnancies.
Legal abortion has not liberated women, but it has in many cases liberated their mates, friends, and families from supporting them in making the decision to give birth. Women deserve better than abortion. Let’s give it to them if we can.
Copyright 2001 by Misty Dawn Mealey. Not to be reproduced in any fashion,
in whole or in part, without written consent from the author. All