Saturday, January 19, 2008

A Retrospect

January 22, 1973. Roe v. Wade. Abortion laws overturned in the United States opening up abortion on demand.

I had to run my calculator just now to count the years as my brain couldn't wrap itself around the fact that this landmark Supreme Court decision happened thirty-five years ago.

Ten years into the abortion debate I found my life increasingly speckled with pro-life activists. Materials were given to me as I was pregnant with my second child, information that made me physically ill. Even as precious life grew inside of me I learned about gruesome procedures designed to terminate life within a woman's womb, about court rulings upholding the 'right' to do such things. I became aware of innumerable political activists on both sides of the issue marching, writing, and fighting.

I am a passionate woman. I am a mother. Babies have always been mysterious, beloved wonders to me. I didn't pick a side in the debate, it picked me. As sympathetic as I am to women who find themselves pregnant against their desire, allowing death is not something I support, barring life-of-the-mother type scenarios, which are extremely rare.

In 1983 I found my newly abortion-aware self invited to become co-director of our county Right-to-Life. When the woman who'd been director of the organization had to move out of state, my friend, Karen, agreed to take over, and she asked me to help her. I talked it over with Tom. Together we decided I should join the cause in this capacity.

It'd been awhile since this group had met, connections had shriveled along with communications. Karen and I jumped right in. In no time we created a Board of Directors which consisted of a doctor, a lawyer, pastors from two denominations, a couple of teachers, and the two of us. We talked. We educated ourselves. We planned. We organized. We got to work.

Both Karen and I had dabbled in journalism in high school and college so a newsletter was a natural step. From scratch we created a monthly six-page periodical filled with political and support information, medical news, book reviews, local events, opportunities for involvement, interviews with people of note on both sides of the issue, editorials, and more, all written and compiled by the two of us in our kitchens and living rooms. The response was huge. The mailing list grew.

Money came in without our asking, money we used to fund our printing expenses, pay for materials, and to support local crisis pregnancy centers.

Soon we found ourselves invited to speak to youth groups, study groups, churches, and schools. Our talks, coupled with films and guest speakers, led to invigorating question and answer sessions. A local radio station invited us for a lively on-air two hour interview complete with an extensive Q & A session with its radio listeners. We found ourselves repeatedly interviewed on television. People of all ages were thirsty for information and we were happy to help them sort it all out.

One moment vividly stands out in my mind. After one of our out-of-town speaking engagements I was approached by a gentle young woman in the parking lot as I made my way to my car. She carefully pulled a limp newspaper clipping from her wallet and handed it to me. It was a letter I'd written to the editor of the local newspaper she subscribed to, a letter stating my views on abortion and the reasons why. She said, "I just want you to know that I was completely, actively pro-choice until I read this letter of yours. It opened my eyes and changed my heart. I keep it here in my wallet where I see it every day. It inspires me to speak up for mothers and babies whenever I can."

My mind and body seemed to stop when I realized what she was saying to me. I had changed her life through my words. It took me a long time to grasp the implications of that. I am ever thankful that she took the time to tell me the impact I had on her for it taught me that no effort is too small to make a difference. As far as I know this dedicated woman remains a tireless champion of the unborn.

After more than two years of long days and nights spent writing, answering mail, keeping the books, lecturing, attending meetings, and taking long phone calls at all times of the day and night by people eager to learn from me or tell me their stories, I was pretty much burned out. I had two sons of my own to raise and a patient, supportive husband. They needed all of me. I resigned, leaving the organization in very capable hands, the baton successfully passed.

Each January 22nd I pause to size up the advances made in the effort to protect the unborn. I've always felt that most people will make the right choice if they know exactly what they are dealing with. Education is the key. As knowledge increases, abortions seem to decline.

A lump forms in my throat when I contemplate human beings rationalizing the killing of innocent life for their own convenience or reputation. I know it's not an easy decision for most, that those who abort often agonize over their situation. I am sympathetic, I am. But at the risk of sounding bland, two wrongs don't make a right.

It's my hope that one day we as a civilized people will look back on these days of women sacrificing their unborn children as a dark, dark era in the history of humanity; that human life will be restored to its place of honor and mystery.


IndianaJones said...

I don't think you could have said it better.
I've found myself recently having to defend my pro-life views as they are not very popular amongst my generation (sadly) and what I have noticed is that as the debate continues the pro-choice people I have encountered have no interest in even discussing when life begins or if what is being done to the unborn is actually death, they are stuck on the woman's right to do what she wishes with her own body. This argument seems so flawed to me but it is difficult to have much to say to someone who has decided it is not even an issue of life but an issue of woman's rights. I'm all for women's rights but this is one issue that I'm sorry to say I think has been mis-termed. I'm glad you were given the opportunity to change even one woman's life (though I'm sure there were many) and I hope one day that my efforts to voice my concerns are heard, even by one woman.

Cherie said...

I hear you, Summer. The defense of women's rights has been the barricade between fear and real education. For some reason this issue seems to be, in the minds of many, the anchor, the pivotal point. If they lose the right to abortion on demand, they feel all women's rights will go down the tube and we'll go back to the 'barefoot and pregnant' days, subservient to men. I'm for women's rights, too. Most women are. Many men are. I don't think they are endangered, but there is fear, unreasonable, blind fear. What else but fear could convince a human woman to think that she has a right to kill the child within her womb? It's not rational.

It seems as if while abortion is a hot-button political issue the whole women's rights thing will dominate and obliterate rationality on the national scene.

I've come to see that it's a matter of consistently exposing the truth so that hearts can re-engage and come back to common sense, one person at a time.

It's hard to be patient when you realize babies are being killed and women exploited. But here is where a belief in a sovereign God enters the picture, or even a belief that things happen for a reason, if one can't wrap their mind around God. If he can use my feeble letter-to-the-editor to change the heart of a woman who vehemently believed just as you described in your comment, he can use your words, your actions, anything, anytime. And who knows what ruminations go on in the heads of those you converse with, after the conversation is over. Never underestimate, and never give up gently explaining what is true. It has more of an effect than you'll ever know. It's by bits and pieces that our minds are changed.

Thanks for your comments, Summer.

deanna said...

After abortion became legal, I reasoned that I was against it personally, but would never push my views on someone else. And so it was okay for it to be legal. I became involved on the pro-life side, after having messed up my life in other ways, doing things I'd always said I was against, personally. I recognized we flawed beings do things in the heat of moments that we later regret for eons. The availability of abortion makes it so easy, so easy. And then it can't be undone.

Cherie said...

How right you are, Deanna, that the availability makes it so easy and then it can't be undone.

I agree with you that it's important to not push our views on others. When a person is inquisitive, receptive, or actually invites the conversation there is no more loving thing to do than offer what you believe to be the truth. Emphasis on lovingly, because as you stated, we are all flawed, we all make mistakes. Support is so much better than judgment, isn't it.

Thanks to you, too, for your comments. This topic has been around so long I think sometimes we tire of it, grow weary you know, and forget that there really is a tragic thing happening.

tshsmom said...

Totally agree!

I long ago gave up the hope of solving this issue through political means. The only hope left is through education and better birth control methods. One person at a time, and it spreads from there.

I still remember when I was pregnant with Z, at age 36. The doctor wanted to test for Down's Syndrome. I told him:"What's the point? I won't abort my baby if the test is positive." Needless to say, the doctor didn't perform the test.

Cherie said...

Tshs: Another in-common for us, eh. ;)

I had Cassie when I was 35, and Caroline when I was nearly 39. Same thing happened to me, what with the doctor wanting to do all sorts of tests, and my response was identical to yours, "Why?" The doctors and nurses rolled their eyes, but I just smiled. They didn't understand, but I did, and that's all that mattered.

Thanks for sharing and reminding me of a time I felt perfect peace in the absence of the conventional 'wisdom' of the day. No matter how it had turned out, our babies would be treasured.

tshsmom said...

"No matter how it had turned out, our babies would be treasured."
I got the eye rolling too. ;)

Alan said...

It is my hope that pro-life should take the responsibility of looking after every (mother too) child the mother wanted to abort because they could not give the proper care due to their financial, or otherwise situation- if you fail to do this, you fail to do 50% of the job.
I knew personally a young woman 19 years, kill herself and her baby, when long after the birth, those who pro-lifed her into keeping the baby, disappeared, off to save someone elses soul, while she was left to survive alone, when obviously, she couldn't.
I worked as a caretaker in a hostel for the homeless in Dublin Ireland, and my experience was soul destroying.

tshsmom said...

Good point Sean!
Our local "Right To Life" group has evolved into a counseling center for confused young mothers. We offer birth control, adoption counseling, parenting classes, and above mentoring.

We also conduct drives for used baby furniture and clothing. Monetary donations help purchase diapers and other essential items.
If a mother chooses to keep her baby, we're THERE for them!

Cherie said...

Sean, it's always been my experience that the people/groups who help the ladies who need help, such as you describe, stay with the women and see that they get all the support and resources they can for as long as they need it, even up to helping with an adoption process, places to live, jobs, baby items, food, everything, just as Tshsmom describes. To do otherwise, to leave a woman in the lurch with a little baby and no way to care for it, is abominable.

Yet, as you describe, it happens, and I am ever so sorry that it happened to someone you knew personally. So sad, and so sorry. I hope the people who left her knew what happened and that they realized their heavy part in it, and changed their ways.

The abortion issue has many ugly sides. Women have been known to take their own lives after having abortions, too, so inescapable is the guilt when they realize what they've done. It's tragic. Women are left sterile. Women die on the table. Families are destroyed. Lives destroyed. And then there are the little babies who never see the light of day.

It's a glaring sin on the part of society that we don't care for each other better than we do. No one should be left destitute when there are so many of us around who can help.

And yet, it happens. Shame on us.

Thanks again for balance, Sean. Your story makes me sad - and determined.

Tshs: "If a mother chooses to keep her baby, we're THERE for them!" That's how it is around here, too. Totally there for them, with every single thing. It angers me to think that the woman Sean knew was left like that. Really angry.

I know a lot of 'pro-life' people (man, I hate those monikers - pro-life, pro-choice) who are real jerks, who are mean, no compassion whatsoever, political wannabes who care not enough for the issue but want to stir up trouble, and gain notoriety in the process. Same on the other side, too.

Like I said, ugly sides to the issue. But beautiful ones to, in the grace and mercy shown, in the assistance given, the friendships made, the families restored. Bless the kind souls who, with genuine compassion, put themselves out there everyday to help strangers find a way to live and give life when all seems so hopeless.

We can all do better.

Anonymous said...

I agree. We can all do better. Thanks for the reminder Cherie and for a good conversation here.

Cherie said...

Annie, thanks to you and the readers who engage in such conversations. It, to me, is the best part of the blog - the conversations, new views, balance, and affirmation that takes place in the comment forum. Like a little living room on the ginormous impersonal world wide web.

cecily said...

I find this whole topic an interesting one. I do not agree with abortion, if offered amniocentesis I would decline, but when I think of the girls who opt for abortion (sometimes) I can understand their choice. The sadder thing is our society that has led to women feeling they have no other option (or must have a choice or whatever angle you want to take), or to them even ending up in the situation. Can I start my fight a bit further upstream from yours? :)

Cherie said...

Sure, Cecily, and I join you! To empower women to know they do have an option to prevent 'ending up in the situation' in the first place seems the best and most loving, sensible place to begin. I'm with you.

Wandering Coyote said...

Nice to see a civilized discussion about such a hot-button topic.

I'm glad you had that experience in the parking lot. As I've gotten older, it's become more and more important to me to tell people when they've inspired me or done something to enrich, enhance, or significantly influence my mind & thinking.

That being said, I am firmly pro-choice.

Cherie said...

I, too, am pleased with the civilized discussion, WC. Seems like it would behoove everyone to be so civilized - I mean, if this issue had an easy answer, we could have answered it by now.

I couldn't agree more about the importance of letting one another know when we've been enriched, enhanced, or significantly influenced. The encouragement would be tremendous.

Thanks for these comments, WC. Means a lot.