If you haven't already, please read: *Disclaimer Post*
I have been wanting to write this for a while now (and it's still not as polished as I'd like, but I need to hit publish and keep writing), and well, it's just time to talk about being pro-life and what that looks like to a non-Catholic or someone who does not 'fit in' with the circle of 'orthodox/faithful/traditional/whateverothertermyouwanttouse' Catholic.
From my own experience with this: (Reminding you of my own transformation from being pro-choice, of the 'I'd never do it, but who I am to tell someone else what to do' ilk, to being fully pro-life from conception to natural death including opposing the death penalty and euthanasia.) I remember the first person who said to me "Thank you for choosing life" upon learning I was pregnant with Sugarbeet. At first I was a little put out, thinking why would someone even say that to me? Not choosing life had never even crossed my mind, placing her for adoption had (that is a story for another day), but not carrying her to term and giving birth to her? Um, nope, never even occurred to me. And then, I thought about it.
Pregnant. By someone other than my husband. Facing having to quit my job. Facing having to tell my parents. Facing having to tell a community of faithful Catholics who I considered some of my dearest friends. Starting over, with no guarantee of support from anyone.
Oh. I got it. I was nearly the poster child for NARAL and a woman's right to choose.
And then I did share the news. And many of the things I feared would happen, did indeed happen. To list a few: people I considered friends quit speaking to me because I did not do things the way they saw to be the 'only way'. My Dad and my relationship is fractured to a point I'm not sure it can recover, he has only seen his granddaugther 3 times in 6 months. My stepmother has never seen Sugarbeet, nor has my littlest brother. I was removed from blog-rolls, deleted from being able to see private blogs I followed, unfriended on Facebook and in real life. And more.
I feared, and quite honestly knew, these things would happen. I dreaded them. And I'm so glad I didn't even consider some of the other things that would happen. I fought the urge to just quietly disappear and not tell anyone, so that I could at least pretend it was all my 'choice.' And then I thought, oh my. What would my 19-year-old self, or even my 25-year-old self, have done in the similar situation?
And y'all, I was shaken to my core. I knew, without a doubt what she would have done. She'd have 'taken care of it.' Her pride, wanting to preserve the way others saw her, and fear would have taken center stage, and she'd have done anything to preserve it.
Knowing that rejection and not being accepted are two of the things that I struggle with more than any other. Knowing that only in the last few years of gut-wrenching soul searching and spiritual direction have I even been able to admit that aspect of my own weaknesses. Knowing that without years of infertility, I did not have a full respect for life from the very beginning.
And, where this fits into the bigger pro-life picture, and our responsibility as pro-life Catholics/Christians is this: what about the girl or woman on the outside looking in? The lurker who read comments in this space refusing to congratulate me because my pregnancy was not in the perfect circumstances? Which I have said I intellectually understand, and accept. But, if we say all life is a gift and is to be cherished, why do we withhold the congratulations on this gift? And what of the girl who never hears the word 'congratulations' because those around her are too busy focusing on her sin and not on the life that is growing inside of her?
And about the girl who knows her father will quit speaking to her?
Who knows she will no longer be invited to participate in activities with the people with which she has found a home?
Who will be forced out of a group that she founded to support others?
Who will have friends (who she once called friends) of friends refuse to be in the same space with her?
How do we possibly preach pro-life and behave like this?
It is no wonder that girls and women walk into Planned Parenthood and 'take care of it'. They hear that they are loved and begged to choose life, but then they see the actions of those same people towards someone. And dare I say, they see it and it frightens them more because it is 'one of their own.'
We truly do say: Your baby's life and your life are valued, if and only if you adhere to our standards. Do things our way. These may not be our words, but these are the actions of so many.
You may be thinking: but you knew better. You were different. We treated you differently because you knew better. And to that, I say. Yes, I knew better. So what?! I was still a woman facing uncertainty, pregnant and in need of the support we claim to offer. Yes, a few (and you know who you are, and you will never know the lifeline you have been to me) offered this kind of support, but the majority abandoned me. My place of refuge, of love, became a place of rejection, all because I no longer fit on the pedestal upon which I had allowed myself to be placed.
I shudder to think of the number of women who have been my 19 or 25 year old self and walked through those doors. I shudder to think at how my own actions in the past have contributed to any woman walking through those doors - directly or indirectly.
If we truly want to change our culture of death, we must change the way we respond to unplanned life among us. There is a way to walk with someone and to love them, without condoning their sins. Some of you, have done a beautiful job of this, and I don't want you to feel forgotten in this. From those of you who offered congratulations, to the one of you who offered me sanctuary, to those who offered tangible resources if needed, to those who have shared in my joy of Sugarbeet (which reminds me, I do have a secret FB group with more frequent updates and pictures if you are interested, just send me a PM or email and I'll add you), to the small gifts and notes offered along the way. These are the things that are the actions of truly pro-life people. Sadly though, these are what have caught me most off-guard; what have surprised me. Shouldn't it be the other way around? Shouldn't it be the other actions that surprise? The other actions that are the exception? And, I suspect, those of you who have remained connected to me have received some push back as well. In fact, I know it to be true in more than a few instances. My head, my intellect, understands it is a consequence of my sin and our fallen world. Fortunately, I am not 19 or 25 year old me, and I can bear it, and I can reach out to those who are willing to walk with me when needed.
The very human side of me, who found a community and a 'home' here during some of the darkest days of my life, well, she still doesn't get it. There is a hole in my heart. You may say I deserve it. I deserve the isolation. That my sins demand it. Fortunately I am learning (finally, perhaps) to fill that hole with Jesus and no one else.
But, I ask you then, what does that say to the young woman standing at the door of Planned Parenthood? How does that give her any hope that she and her child will be welcomed and loved? That her acceptance as a human person, and that her baby's worth to be congratulated depends on her manner of conception?
We preach and march and vote and pray 'pro-life'. We must find a way to truly act it.