What Does it Mean to Really Be Pro-Life?

Along with a lot of Internet surfers, I recently read this honest and poignant post about a mom who found herself in a “crisis” pregnancy that ended up giving her not only a new life in the form of a baby but a new life to live. (Her follow-up post about why offering a woman’s “choice” is not compassionate is excellent as well and worth a read.)

Calah of Barefoot and Pregnant (one of my new favorite blogs) writes,

When I got that positive pregnancy test, the one that changed my life, I was addicted to crystal meth.

And do you know what the people around me did? They didn’t take the secular line and say, “this baby’s life would be horibble. You’re unfit to be a mother. Better for it to not be born at all.”

But neither did they take the typical pro-life line in that situation and say, “you are clearly unfit to be a mother, but all you have to do is carry the baby to term and give a stable couple a wonderful gift.”

The Ogre said, “you’re a mother now, and I’m a father, and together we’ll raise our child.”

My parents said, “marry that man, and raise that baby. You’ve made the choices, you have to live with them.”

My friends said, “you screwed up, big time. But we love you. We’ll throw you a baby shower, buy you maternity clothes, and babysit while you finish your semester.”

Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t easy, being a newly-pregnant drug addict. But it gave me something to live for. Someone to live for.

Her post reminded me of something I wrote back in January that I never got around to polishing up or submitting for publication. Calah’s honest sharing of what helped her during this difficult time mirrored what a dear friend of mine who works intimately with women who are labeled as being in “crisis pregnancies” has always told me are the best ways we can best minister to these women. My friend’s wisdom was the genesis for the original article, which I posted below. Calah’s courageous post gave me the impetus I needed to put my words out there.

Thanks to all women and men who bravely choose life when a foolish society is telling them lies that there’s an easier way and many prayers to all those who are living with the scars of abortion.

***

Every January, even as the event is largely unnoticed by mainstream media, an overwhelming sea of humanity floods the streets of Washington D.C. and cities throughout the country to give the unborn a voice. Every year I catch glimpses of the event and am filled with hope. I’ve personally never been to the March for Life. I’ve never even been to a pro-life rally closer to home. I’m not sure why when I was younger, single, and had more time than I even realized, I didn’t set my feet walking (probably fear more than anything).  Now the desire is there, and I pay close attention to the coverage, but I’ve found this season of my life (young motherhood) usually prevents me from abandoning the domestic front to be right there on the battle lines. There was one year when I was all geared up to go. Then a child cheeks became flushed with fever, and I was stuck at home feeling helpless and ineffectual.

Newly pregnant with my fourth child and still in the wake of a fairly recent miscarriage, I had to go in for an early ultrasound when I started to spot. And so I found myself nervously waiting in my midwife’s office during the same month people would be marching for life. Nervous about what I might see (or not see), I stared at the screen in the examination room, straining my untrained eyes to catch a glimpse of something hopeful and promising. It didn’t take long for my eyes to blur with tears – joyful tears – because I knew what I was looking at: My baby. On the chalkboard-like oval of darkness I saw a tiny cloud of white. Within the the dancing cloud there was a flash that kept pulsating. The ultrasound tech did not need to tell me the flash I was staring at was a heartbeat.  We were looking at life at six weeks, growing stronger and stronger by the second.

I was overjoyed seeing this beautiful sight, but I was sad, too. I was reminded why so many Americans brave the bitter cold weather and march every January to give that flash of life more than a brief appearance on a grainy sonogram, to give that child a life, a chance to grow up.

I was also wistful that I wouldn’t be marching in D.C. that January. Yet, there’s still plenty I can do from behind-the-scenes to advance the pro-life movement.

There’s plenty all of us can do.

Some of us aren’t able to attend marches or peacefully protest outside of abortion clinics. Not all of us can pound the pavement in honor of the unborn. These acts send powerful messages, no doubt, but so does the mom with the swollen belly and the two little ones clinging to her legs who is beaming through the exhaustion. So does the man who goes to work and proudly announce he’s expecting another child.

So what does it mean to really be pro-life? It means strongly believing and strongly living a life that sends the sometimes subtle but always present message that human dignity begins from the moment of conception.

Here, several simple ways (no marching required) to send a powerful pro-life message :

Embrace new life within your family and in others.

By celebrating babies and pregnancies, we’re constantly sending the message that children are gifts from God to be cherished. As a mom to little ones, I’ve accepted I may not be able to join a March for Life every year (my job keeps me home a lot of times), but I can still send a pro-life message. The little baby growing inside of me right now is my pro-life badge, and I try to wear him or her with honor (even when I’m feeling green with non-stop nausea).

We also should show our support to any pregnant woman we encounter in our everyday interactions. I remember checking out at the grocery store and noticing the young cashier’s swollen stomach and tired face. “You look radiant,” I told her, and she did. “When are you due?”

She smiled at me and told me a little more about her baby and pregnancy.

Once I saw a pregnant mom trying to juggle a tray of food, a tired toddler, and a behemoth belly at a restaurant. I had my own gang with me, but I offered to help her with her tray. She didn’t accept my help, but she smiled and thanked me all the same.

I happen to go to a midwifery practice that also ministers to women in crisis pregnancies. Knowing this I always put on a happy face when I enter the waiting room (even if I’m feeling like a beached whale). Once my midwife told me that just smiling at a scared woman who might be afraid of the new life being knit within her can offer the gift of serenity. “I cannot count how many moms – always strong and loving Christian women – touched a girl’s heart in the waiting room,” she told me once. “I’ll have a girl come in and say, ‘There was a lady out there who had her kids with her, and they all smiled at me and said something nice to me.’”

No matter your gender or your station in life, be supportive of all pregnant women you see.

Be pro-life and pro-children.

Don’t stop supporting parents once their perfect babies turn into screaming toddlers. Smile at the mom of three (or four or 17) who looks overwhelmed at the grocery store. Hold the door for the parent entering the post office. Don’t gawk at the noisy family in the pew behind you at church. Instead, encourage them with an understanding or sympathetic smile. Thank all parents for bringing their children to church and to Jesus. Thank all parents period.

Dole out love and support, not judgment.

More than anything, women who have aborted their babies or are considering abortion need our prayers, our support, and our love. Resist the impulse to lecture someone who is pro-choice or any woman you might encounter who is considering abortion and instead offer them your love. If that sounds overly touchy-feely, that’s because it is. But once again my friend who has made it a part of her life’s vocation to get women to change their minds about having an abortion has offered me wise counsel and has told me time and time again that love, support, and kindness are what these women need far more than judgment, statistics, or bloody pictures of aborted babies.

Even from a strictly biological standpoint, it’s not natural for a mother to want to get rid of her baby. Maybe she wants to get rid of the pregnancy or the fear, but not the baby. (Even I sometimes disassociate pregnancy with the baby growing inside of me. “I hate pregnancy!” I’ll lament. But I don’t hate my baby.) Pregnancy and raising a child are hard even when you’re in a loving family and have what appears to be “ideal” conditions to welcome a child into the world (i.e., economically and emotionally secure and in a happy marriage). Add abuse,  poverty, an addiction, depression, or the fact that you haven’t graduated from high school yet, and it’s tempting to be crushed under the weight of that tiny new life within you. Women lining up at abortion clinics are numb; they feel nothing. Or they are numb with feeling too much – too much fear, too much self-hatred.  Women in crisis pregnancies might give reasons for considering abortion like, “My mom and dad will never approve.” Or, “My husband doesn’t love me.” Or, “I’m not fit to be a mother, not right now.” It’s pro-lifers job to convince them that we always approve of new life – no matter the circumstance – and that they are loved and capable of being mother to a child (or to another child). Love begets love. Let’s plant some love in them and hope it starts growing.

Maybe we’ll have the opportunity to directly minister to a woman in a crisis pregnancy and to show our love. Maybe not. But we all can pray for women and babies threatened by abortion.

Don’t make the baby the sin.

I’ve come across a fair share of pro-lifers who are eager to march and rally for life one day and then the very next they’re off shunning unmarried women or teenagers who are pregnant.

“What went wrong?” they say, sadly shaking their heads.

Nothing went wrong. Something went right! One of sex’s primary functions is procreation, to bring forth new life.

I’ve also heard of Catholic schools that force a pregnant girl to drop out of school or to be homeschooled (the same policy, interestingly, doesn’t apply to the young man who helped get her pregnant). That’s sending the wrong message. Let’s hide this sinful woman away. But all this is doing is suggesting that the baby – rather than the action that led to the miracle of the baby – is the sin. But a baby is never, ever a bad; a baby is a blessing even when it is conceived in pain or unexpectedly, outside of the Sacrament of Marriage, or without love.

As pro-lifers, let’s remember that saying “yes” to life brings new love, new potential, a new human being who can beat the odds to make his mark on the world.

Support pro-life causes.

Ideally, we should do more than write checks to further the pro-life movement, but if you’re unable to make your own voice and life a strong pro-life witness, then let others do the job for you. There are many worthy pro-life causes that work to save lives and minister to women in crisis pregnancies. To name a few: National Right to Life, Life Site, Birth Right International, Priests for Life, and Pro-Life Action League. Many local pro-life organizations that provide support to women and babies exist as well. Finally, there are numerous ministries to support women and families in search of healing after an abortion such as PATH (post-abortion treatment and healing) and Rachel’s Vineyard Ministries.

*If readers know of other pro-life causes, resources, and organizations devoted to helping people heal after abortions, please share them.

Support pro-life politicians.

View the scorecard pro-life roll call votes in the U.S. Senate or U.S. House of Representatives for any Congress beginning with the 105th Congress (1997-98), up through the current 111th Congress (2009-10) here.

 

Enter the Conversation...

15 Responses to “What Does it Mean to Really Be Pro-Life?”
  1. Heidi Saxton says:

    Hi, Kate!

    When I read the first story, I couldn’t help but wonder what the future holds for that baby. With unmarried pregnancy at an all-time high (more than 40% of all children are born to women who are unmarried), and adoption at an all-time low (less than 2% of unmarried mothers choose it for their children), these children are being forced to bear the brunt of the consequences: poverty, neglect, and abuse.

    That is not to say ALL children born to single mothers fall in this category. Women who choose to parent who are capable of supporting themselves and their children. (There are lots of single mothers who choose to adopt or foster children, who must demonstrate their ability to take care of themselves and their children before the children are placed in those homes).

    I hope that this mother with addiction issues has a strong support system, who will look out for her and her baby. Statistically, the odds are not in her favor. In this case, I question whether the “pro-life” position should be not simply “Isn’t it great that this woman chose not to abort?” but “Who is going to look out for the welfare of this child until his mother is ready to parent him?”

    Abortion is a horrible form of child abuse — but it is hardly the only one.

  2. Kate Wicker says:

    Heidi, I don’t have the time right now to give your comment a thoughtful response, but do read the rest of Calah’s post. Her and her baby’s story has a happy ending. Darwin Catholic pointed out earlier this week (or maybe last week; the days are running together) that motherhood offered her a way out of a difficult life. She and her family have beaten the odds. Blessings!

  3. I have been enjoying Calah’s blog as well. I am also increasingly concerned by an overwhelming number of prolifers who shun or look down upon unmarried pregnant women or pregant teenagers. My husband, like yours, Kate, is not Catholic and when I was pregnant with my first going to mass alone people didn’t even try to whisper. Yes, I had my engagement ring and wedding band on, but a lot of girls will wear them just to throw people off now (which is sad). A moment of vindication came when a well-known couple in my parish who are Eucharistic ministers were discussing me loudly in back of the church and considering refusing me the Body of Christ if I approached them and friends of ours, an older couple with grown children overheard and the husband intervened (their daughter is also married to a non-Catholic and as a couple they teach NFP) saying, “Who are you to gossip about someone you don’t know and make proclamations as to the state of her soul or ability to receive communion? I know that woman AND her husband who happens to not be Catholic. There was no sin involved in any part of that child, but even if there was, you don’t get to make the decision to refuse them communion.” The experience was eye-opening and I do not hesitate to defend a woman making the “choice” to have her child vs abort.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Kristen,

      What you had to go through is not funny, but it reminded me of something I thought at the time was comical. I was pregnant with my fourth child and had to get my wedding band AND engagement ring finished at the same time. I didn’t really think anything of it until my mother-in-law said something to me. She said, “Karen! You don’t want to be walking around pregnant without your rings on!” I just rolled my eyes at her because really, who are others to judge? What if my fingers are too fat for them? Or even if I wasn’t married, they should not be judging anyway. We all have something we could do better, or could have done better, in our lives. I wish others would realize that and just be happy that an unwed mother is deciding to carry her baby and focus on how they can encourage her and help her and her child. We have so much work to do in our society. We need to take up a lot of prayer for the end of abortion and the mentality that goes with it.

      Blessings and love to all!

  4. Kate Wicker says:

    Kristen, I’m so sorry you had to endure that.

    One more thing Re: Heidi’s thought-provoking comment that I meant to mention in my brief comment above. I agree women in with addictions or those in other difficult situations need a strong support system, and that’s where pro-lifers need to step up to the plate. Rather than judging unmarried women or ending our support with, “Thank God you didn’t abort your baby,” we need to continue to help these women and children with our prayers, emotional support, monitary help, etc. We too often end the celebration of life with gratitude that a woman has chosen to put herself up against the odds, but then the whispers begin. Can you believe she’s an addict having a baby? Or we simply forget and/or ignore the pregnant woman or the new mom who is thankful for her baby but also very afraid.

    A simple request my friend who ministers to women in crisis pregnancies has is to ask pro-lifers for donations like diapers or little layette sets. But even more than these physical gifts, she asks us to write notes of encouragement to these moms. For awhile if been writing to a specific mom. I’ve slacked off, but all of this has reminded me of how small gestures of kindness make a big difference. I received the sweetest responses thanking me for taking the time to encourage her.

  5. Kate Wicker says:

    p.s. Please forgive any typos. I typed all that on my phone as I waited in a parking lot for my oldest child to be finished with her play dress rehearsal. Thumbs are getting an awesome workout. :)

  6. Calah says:

    Heidi,

    With respect, it is exactly this attitude that I’m trying to combat in writing about my own crisis pregnancy. I do wish you would go read the whole thing instead of making assumptions based on a snippet. The point my article makes is that no one around me said that I couldn’t do it. They expected me to, and it was that expectation that kept me straight. Believe me, if they had given me an out, I would have taken it. But they didn’t, so here I am today, three children, six years, and one conversion to Catholicism later. I’m very well aware of the dangerous nature of addiction and will probably never say that I’m safely out of the woods or that I’ve beaten it once and for all, but I do think that I’m strong enough now to never go back.

    While I understand the call for prudence in cases like mine (and do understand that my husband and parents watched me very closely for any signs of returning to drug use, I was just unaware of that at the time), it is phrases like “choosing to parent” that frustrate me. When a woman becomes pregnant, she is a parent. It’s not a choice anymore. Only if she refuses to clean up her life or take responsibility for the child should other options be pursued. I fear that too often babies are lost to abortion because scared young women are told that they can’t do it.

    We need to send them a better message, because they can.

    Kate, wonderful post. I love it, and agree with every part of it, and thanks for the link!

    I am seriously loving the new look of your blog, by the way. I thought it would take time to get used to, but it’s just perfect!

  7. Kate Wicker says:

    “When a woman becomes pregnant, she is a parent. It’s not a choice anymore.” Amen.

  8. ViolinMama says:

    Hey! Incredible blog look, and “Love you!”

    Now…you touched upon something I’ve longed thought – and I HIGHLY recommend everyone read “UnPlanned” by Abby Johnson and Cindy Lambert on Abby’s former career as a PP Clinic Director. INCREDIBLE book. Our society does NOT hold women or couples who choose life to be heroic – they focus on the sin. They forget that the child is of God’s image and God has a plan for this precious soul.

    When life choosing women, men, and those who made the HARD choice of giving up their child to adoption and those who adopt are seen as heroic – then things will change. Until then, most times, scared women and boyfriends get more compassion in an abortion clinic and society than by Cathoic Christians/Christians. We have to remember to tempter passion with COMpassion.

    Abby writes in “UnPlanned” how compassion was what turned her heart over time against Planned Parenthood…not the protesters dressed as the Grim Reaper, or the bloody signs. She even questioned why anyone would want to follow a faith that was so dark and angry. It was when the protesters were organized into silent prayer, compassionate communicators, and prayerful supporters she began to see “the light.”

    When people start saying “WE CAN DO THIS. YOU CAN DO THIS, and you won’t be alone” things will change. We can’t allow people to feel an “out” like Calah says. People can do this….we can help them be heroic. Kate – thanks for the ideas of personal messages to these brave moms.

    I schol Kate and Calah – “When a woman becomes pregnant, she is a parent. It’s not a choice anymore.” Amen.” – I say too, AMEN.

    Thanks Kate, Kristin, and Calah!!

  9. ViolinMama says:

    Oh – forgot to mention that when talking to pro-choicers, it is important to remember most are por choice to be pro-life – they think they are saving women’s lives (again…UnPlanned is a must read!). It is why it is so hard because pro-choicers think we are limiting medical care and hurting women (if abortion was illegal and leading woment to the back alley) when we are trying to free women and embrace life.

    The culture of death is not just abortion – it is our attitude towards women in crisis that lead to their “dying” in spirit, in hope, in courage to choose life and or adoption. Death comes in many forms. Until those forms are addressed, abandoned, and changed – then we will be stuck in the back alley.

  10. Nada says:

    My good friend adopted a little girl last year. After eight years of struggling, she and her husband were finally blessed with a beautiful little girl. No matter what the form of acquisition, that girl is their daughter, through and through. Her birth mother was a young girl with mental disabilities who became pregnant. Abortion would have “solved” a lot of her problems but she chose to carry the child and give her up for adoption. Now she has a wonderful family who worship the (God who put down the) ground she walks on. Adoption should never ever be an answer.

    Also, I wanted to post a bit of food for thought. This is a quote from one of my favorite Christians, Shane Claiborne:

    “I must say that I am still passionately pro-life, I just have a much more holistic sense of what it means to be for life, knowing that life does not just begin at conception and end at birth, and that if I am going to discourage abortion, I had better be ready to adopt some babies and care for some mothers.” (p. 44, The Irresistable Revolution)

  11. Melanie B says:

    Great article, Kate. Like you, I often feel like I’m not doing enough for the cause. Good food for thought here.

  12. Nina says:

    Beautiful, Kate.

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