Today I popped over to Bump Babies Beyond, where Londonistar (who commented on Amanda’s excellent post about the 12-week scan) blogs (she can also be found at TowerTales). Imminently expecting a baby, she describes herself as “Conservative in political outlook struggling and aspiring Catholic in faith. Welcome to a parenting journey from these perspectives.” Do go over and have a look. I’ll refer to her, with apologies, as “L” because I don’t know her real name.
My first stop was at the post L herself recommended us to read, The Politics of Personal. In this she talks more about the experience of abortion following a 12-week scan, and her journey afterwards, that she related in her comment. It’s a moving post that gives plenty of food for thought, but I’d just like to mention a couple of themes that particularly struck me.
After the scan (which was not straightforward) she and her partner had a big decision to make and she writes, “At that time of our lives we were horribly caught up in the abortion debate raging across the internet again and frankly I wondered whether people ever stop to think about the effect this has on the people caught up in it who are being fought over so bitterly…” She continues this theme in a striking paragraph,
“The internet is a ghastly place at times. Deep in among the anti abortion propaganda I was made to feel fearful and guilty. Guilty of what I wondered? Getting pregnant and facing this decision? We didn’t choose this lot in life. Abortion is so casually debated that there is no distinction made between the women, or couples, who enter and exit those clinics. No allowances made. The bitter angry or prayerful judgment from people with little or no experience of the pain and heartache of it all or an understanding of who we are as people. This is a deeply personal situation. And it is not one I battled emotionally alone as a woman either. There are two broken hearts in this story.”
Finally she writes, “I am rather fed up with this sensitive issue being kicked around in such an ugly polarised debate. There seems little depth to the abortion debate other than placard proselytizing. Caught in the crossfire for so many months of that year in so many ways, I certainly feel it’s about time the debate matured.”
L concludes her post with a wish list that surely most pro-lifers will agree with: better guidance and support for parents in her situation so that a truly informed choice can be made, the greater promotion of adoption as an option, encouragement given to young people to think hard about what they are doing and about their responsibilities when they consider entering into a sexual relationship. She emphasises that parents who have been through the abortion process (and she describes vividly the hurt it did her and the attitude of the Marie Stopes clinic she visited) should have their voices heard, as well as women and couples who are not in step with the pro-choice movement. Perhaps more challengingly for some, she also writes, “I want to see practical solutions for women and couples to avoid abortion not clinic protests”. I’m not sure personally quite where I stand on clinic protests – I would happily say the Rosary outside an abortion clinic but I don't think I would stand there holding a photo of a dismembered foetus – but have a recurring sense of guilt about how much I do, or rather don’t do, to practically support those facing crisis pregnancies.
The reason I have quoted her post at such length (there’s more – do read it) is that I feel challenged by it. Do I lump all those who have abortions into the same category, when in fact they will be from widely differing backgrounds and circumstances and possess motivations and attitudes that are as far from each other as chalk from cheese? [Daft digression: who decided to compare those two particular substances in the first place...?! And why??] If I do, that is neither compassionate nor constructive. Am I debating the ethics of abortion as though they were philosophical abstractions and forgetting the impact my words may have on those who are struggling with very real down-to-earth crises? Am I more focused on trumping the other side (maybe using accusative language like “conspiracy of death” and describing “rivers of blood”) than on considering those I am trying to help? And of course, those I am trying to help (in fact, on many levels, to save) includes not just the babies, but the mums and dads.
“If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.” (1 Corinthians 13:1) It is also worth remembering (to get a bit technical) that whilst the Catholic Church clearly says, “There are concrete acts which it is always wrong to choose” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 1761) because they are objectively wrong, it also says that the circumstances surrounding a human act, whilst not changing whether it is objectively right or wrong, can diminish the act’s moral evil or the responsibility of the person carrying it out (see CCC 1754).
It is definitely not a question of compromising the truth to make people feel better. The “don’t beat yourself up about it” or “abortion is sometimes so understandable that it’s actually really OK” approaches are unhelpful because you’re essentially just encouraging people to bury the demons of pain and guilt which will, sure as day is day and cheese isn’t chalk, claw and chew their way back up to the surface sooner or later. It is, however, very much a question of speaking that truth compassionately and remembering the humanity and individuality of those you are addressing. Especially as pro-lifers who believe in the intrinsic dignity and worth of every human person, we must never let the sensitivities and needs of those most concerned – those actually facing unintended pregnancies or receiving bad news at 12-week scans – get lost in the debate.
I’ve been thinking quite a lot recently not only about how to deliver an essentially simple moral message in a complicated world but also about how to discern the best course of action when picking one’s way through an ethical minefield. For me this dilemma focuses on the area of medical research and potential treatments for my daughter’s Friedreich’s Ataxia. But I think I’ve maundered on long enough, so that can wait for another post!
Best wishes to L from all our group and thank you for sharing your story in order to help others. (Oh – and L’s site today features an interview with Nadine Dorries, whose proposals to bring in compulsory counselling before abortions caused controversy in both pro-choice and pro-life camps.)