Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Shades of Gray

It’s been a long hiatus, busy moving our household across town while the world changed. Terri Schiavo’s judicial homicide by starvation is a fait accomplis for the culture of death. Our beloved Pope John Paul II was released from his earthly burdens, and the newly-elected Defender of the Deposit of Faith is the orthodox and competent former-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI.

Prior to the announcement of his election yesterday, I wrote three words on a notepad: “Shades of Gray.” Moral relativism was going to be the first subject I tackled on my return, one of many that have been bouncing through my head with nowhere to land. Pope Benedict's election was Providential in that regard, but I was actually prompted by an earlier criticism from a pro-choicer who thought I was unable to see in shades of gray. My first response to the accusation was childish and not worth recording except in an email whine to Ashli at The S.I.C.L.E. Cell (an excellent blogspot that deserves as many plugs as I can fit in): “the world has shades of gray - oh, my, did I, the baby-killer, not know that?”

Childish, yes I am, but I am also often amazed at the childishness of the pro-choicers who spout patent arguments off the cuff without any thought at all, apparently. I am post-abortive – is that a secret somewhere anymore? I have a pretty good idea of how to look at the world through the screen of gray shades, thanks. Been there, done that, and tired of saying it to people who don't pay attention. Please, change your arguments or think them through when you are talking to a woman who exercised the choice you fight so hard to protect.

The problem is that there are absolutes in the world, legitimate shades of black and white that every one is capable of seeing, but which not everyone can accept, and one of those black shades is the color of death. And that’s what abortion is about – it’s about death, and death is inarguably absolute.

It’s not about women’s health, or we would regulate the abortionists and the abortuaries – but we don’t. It isn’t about poverty or financial responsibility, or thirty years of legalized abortion would have reduced the number of children who live in poverty in this nation. It hasn’t. It isn’t about letting women decide whether they want to be pregnant or not – they already can without legal abortion. Abortion is not contraception, because it occurs after conception. It is murder used as contraception, and this black truth bears repeating as often as it takes, until we no longer deny that it exists.

The simple fact, in plain black and white, is that abortion is about killing the child and the responsibilities that come with him or her. It is this truth that causes problems for women who procure abortions. Unlike other cases of abuse or trauma in which the victim is purely a victim, the post-abortive woman has to point to herself as one of the instigators. Not only was she a victim, she was a victimizer. She wasn’t just abused by abortion; she abused her own child with it, and he is absolutely dead because of it. This scar penetrates the psyche in a different way because it carries the black weight of guilt. In helping the post-abortive woman who seeks recovery understand the consequences of abortion in her life, we cannot deny the impact of grave sin on her soul. In doing so, we short-change her because apparently we don't think she can grasp right from wrong. We don’t give her the opportunity to repent and heal if we don’t help her stop denying that it is the knowledge that the abortion was wrong, that she sinned against life – a life she helped create - which is tearing her apart inside.

Mark Crutcher of Life Dynamics would prefer the pro-life movement say that women “submit” to abortions, rather than saying they “have” them. Yes, women submit to abortions. They are coerced, present company included, and they give in to the pressure of others. But he misses a point that is salient to recovery programs and to turning the tide against making the poor choice. All post-abortive women are victims of abortion, yes, but many of us don’t just submit – we choose. We elect. We opt. We procure. We engage.

In doing so, we accept the lies and cheap rationalizations, the gray area that frees us to make the choice to kill our unborn children. We have to identify with the argument, no matter how briefly or transparently, that abortion is okay, or we aren’t going to be able to go through with it. I accepted this lie: “it will be as if it had never happened.” Yeah, right. Unfortunately, the catch phrase is as black as truth can be. I didn’t not become a mother by choosing abortion. Just like they say, I became the mother of a dead child. The abortionist could not undo conception. He had to kill the child to make me un-pregnant. There was no other way, no gray area in which I could think of myself as having been a “little bit pregnant,” or think of the child as not quite alive, yet, so the abortionist is simply removing some inanimate tissue (but if the baby is not alive, essentially dead already, why does he have to be torn to pieces? Most doctors remove a tumor intact if they can...but no, I can't bear thinking of that, because it is all black, there, and I get lost in the darkness). Does anyone remember when being a little bit pregnant was a joke, and few would argue with it because of the absurdity of it all?

In our current “dictatorship of moral relativism,” it is entirely possible to convince ourselves that obvious fallacies such as this can be true. “If it’s true for me, then it’s Truth, whether it conflicts with what you think is true or not. If what you think is true is different, well then that’s Truth for you, and your Truth equals my Truth.” It hurts just to write such unreasonable reasoning. Thinking in this manner creates complete anarchy in the psyche. If there are no absolutes, then I cannot find my way. There are no landmarks to guide us on this gray plain, so it is no wonder we act as if we are lost.

Truth is immutable – it is unchanging by its very nature. Truth comes in one shade, and isn't gray. Otherwise, it is not truth. It is opinion. Opinions come in all the shades of gray that range between black and white, and we all know the old saw about opinions: everyone has some of them, along with other equally unattractive features.

Friday, April 08, 2005

They're Not Sorry - What Now?

Some commentary is being tossed about at After Abortion reviewing the stories posted at I’m Not Sorry, testimonies of post-abortive women who claim they have no regrets, women whose stories remind me of my mother (see "Is There Something Missing in Me?. In the comments, rightly or wrongly (and I admit I am sensitive), I heard a tone that had kept me a stranger to the pro-life movement for decades. I heard people judging the reasons why the women who weren’t sorry had their abortions. The reasons came up short, of course. They are all flimsy excuses for killing: careers, financial resources, immaturity, lack of support from the baby’s father, etc. Many of these women don’t sound dire and desperate enough to have resorted to the ultimate solution: killing the expected problem-child. But why are we even looking for good reasons in the first place? There are no good reasons for an abortion. It is an inherently selfish and self-serving act because it eliminates a human being who would otherwise require our attention and care. It’s fruitless to search for good reasons, and even more pointless to state the obvious – their reasons aren’t good enough. But I hear the women being judged for their poor choices anyway, and my defenses go up. I think we can concede the point – it was a poor choice. Now what do we do with their flimsy reasons, particularly those of us who are pro-life Christians?

Well, let’s don’t judge the sinners. Remember “hate the sin, love the sinner?” From our perspective, other people’s lives look darned easy. But we are not called to pass judgment on the lives of others. We can judge their actions as being good or bad – the distinction is important. We cannot judge the person or the inner workings of a person’s mind (reasons). Only God can discern the righteousness of the soul. But apparently we still have to teach Christians how to treat post-abortive women. We have to remind church-going Christian people that the woman standing next to them might be post-abortive, and they should not treat her unkindly. Why? Shouldn’t we also remind our church-going Christians that the person standing next to them could be a liar, or a thief, or an adulterer, or a fornicator? Shouldn’t they already be aware that such a person might have been staring back at them in their mirrors that morning? “There but for the grace of God, go I.” No one is exempt from sin, but all sinners can be forgiven – even the baby killers such as I – if we repent. The woman who is not sorry is not a lower creature. She lacks enlightenment, all too often because the pain of facing our own ugliness is too great for her. Are we all standing so strongly on such high moral ground that we can look down on her weakness and berate her for it?

Better yet, let’s listen to what these women think were dire and sufficient reasons for abortion, and come up with solutions based on them. I see quite a few who were in abusive relationships. Pro-life people need to be vocal about protecting women from domestic violence, particularly since homicide is now the leading cause of death among pregnant women. So many of them were young when they made the choice. We need to support our crisis pregnancy centers. We need to support married couples, to keep families together and fathers in the household. Young girls who find love at home don’t seek it elsewhere. These aren’t all the answers, of course, but every abortion story is a roadmap that can tell us what these women needed in order to a) avoid pregnancy in the first place, or b) choose birth (often a lack of access to legal abortion would have sufficed). And each story tells us what these women now need in order to live with the truth of the choices they made, giving us directions to help them see that truth.

Lastly, as we listen to what is at times cold-blooded testimony of infanticide, words that can even make a pro-choicer wince, we have to remember there’s a human mouth on a human face speaking those words. We can’t see that face, but I have seen at least one of them. My mother held back the bitterest tears as she said she was not sorry. I think the most compassionate response is to listen as if the speaker is a woman who desires to justify her decision to have an abortion because she is unable to live with her choice if it was unjust. I hear in many of the stories a woman who suffers more than other post-abortive women, but in such silence that she cannot even hear it herself. I hear many of them say they are sorry about something – sorry for getting pregnant; sorry the father was such a bastard; sorry she didn’t have the resources or the time to have a child at that moment; she is often sorry, but to admit she is sorry for the abortion itself, she has to admit to the sin, and such a sin it is: to kill one’s own helpless and innocent child.

The post-abortive woman (sorry or not), like all sinners, needs our compassion and, if we are true Christians, our prayers. If she seems obstinately unrepentant, it is entirely possible, and perhaps likely, that she is in a cold, dark void, crying out for someone to please help her deny the truth, tell her it was all right, and that she’s not really a bad person after all. The pro-choice movement stands ready with arms wide open to embrace her. The pro-life movement has not been there for women like me in the past, and still some seem to resist help from the post-abortive ("Be Gentle with the Wounded Soul"). It’s time for that to change. If you work in the pro-life movement and your hands are clean, God bless you. Now let's help those whose hands are not clean. Let's try to bring them gently out of the void and the darkness with compassion and love. They are not our enemies, no matter how loudly they insist “No, I wasn’t wrong, and I’m not sorry!” They are our sisters, and if they are not as enlightened as they should be, we have to reach out to them – out, not down. If we start picking apart a woman’s reasons for choosing abortion, we automatically put her in a defensive position from which she will be unable to hear us. If we lead her to the true nature of the act of abortion instead, helping her see that her child was a human being entitled to his life, his own life to make worth living, then she will also be brought to the truth that there were no valid reasons to justify the taking of that life.