What We Really See: A Response

A friend of mine published an article the other day in Mommy Nearest, and I wanted to write about it.

[First of all, a disclaimer: I know Priscilla in real life.  She and one of my cousins were in a longtime relationship, she was a guest at my wedding, and I consider her a friend.  As a writer, she inspires me with her moxie, and although she and I approach issues differently (sometimes very differently), I respect her very, very much.]

So when she published her latest article, “Why I Became Even More Pro-Choice After Becoming a Mother,” I felt a few things: sadness, understanding, and the surprising emotion of what it would feel like to have a lightbulb go off in your head the way they do in comic strips.  The sadness because I never like to hear about anyone having an abortion; the understanding because as a mother myself, I understand the physical and mental toll pregnancy exacts.  I can understand the financial strain children put on a marriage and on a family, and I can understand the terror of having to face the trauma of the possibility that a pregnancy might not end with a baby you can take home with you, especially when you have already gone through that trial not only once, but nearly twice, as Priscilla did.  I felt the lightbulb because her article really illuminated for me the reasoning so many women have when they have abortions after already having children, a demographic I have to admit I had the most difficult time understanding.

So thank you, Priscilla, for walking me through your thought process.

I don’t know about you, reader, but I know that, as a pro-lifer and someone completely on the other side of the street, so to speak, I have met a lot of people on ‘my side’ who are immediately dismissive of articles like hers.  And I know that, as a reader of the Internet, there are just as many women who are as dismissive of people like me, too.  

And I felt compelled to respond to this, even though it would probably immediately be dismissed out of hand, out of a spirit of dialogue, for people to understand why we think the way we do.  I think sharing our experiences online is a powerful thing, and for people who have more than one point of view.

Here’s what I can tell you: I’m not pro-life because I hate women.  I’m not pro-life because people tell me to be. I’m not pro-life because I hate poor people and feel the need to step on them to get ahead; I’m not pro-life because my religion commands me to be.  I’m not pro-life because I want women to always be secondary to men.

Here it is, simply.  I am pro-life because I believe that as a scientific fact, human life begins at conception.  

That’s it.  

So Priscilla and I are at odds pretty much fundamentally, because philosophically, we have different definitions of what personhood is and where it begins.  She believes that it is we who decide when a baby is a baby, or that our circumstances dictate when a baby is a baby.  I believe in an objective truths that are certain whether or not I believe in them.  If human life is human life at conception, it follows that it is own entity, separate from myself, even when it’s physically inside me.  If I believe that, then I believe any termination of that pregnancy is definitively ending a human life.

But here’s the thing: a lot of people think that pro-lifers assume it’s all easy.  Just keep it, keep your head down, and work.  Too bad for you, they think.  You made your bed, right? Sleep in it.  But a lot of us pro-lifers understand how hard it is.  It’s an incredibly hard thing to be pregnant when you do not want to be.  It is incredibly hard to be pregnant and have to worry about where your food is coming from and how bills are going to be paid, because those are very real things that need to be addressed.    It’s incredibly hard to be pregnant having lost a child, or even more than one child.  It’s incredibly hard to be pregnant when your body hates it, when you have HG and you are so sick you can’t physically function, especially if you have other children to take care of.  When you’re told your child has no chance of survival outside the womb.  When you want to keep your babies so, so badly, more than anything, but the circumstances say no.

Physical and psychological strain is also a very, very real thing.  Pro-lifers see that.  I don’t know if you know that, but we see it.  Those are all very hard realities to face, and these are realities that women face every single day in every country in the world.

Speaking for myself as a pro-lifer, it’s my job to work to make sure those outside conditions are met so that women can feel more empowered to have their babies and see their pregnancies through.  There are so many responsibilities that we all share here.

But I also know that some choices aren’t up to us.  I have seen the power of women helping each other, of supporting each other when circumstances seem insanely dire.  I have seen what can happen when we reach out our hands to one another and give each other hope.  

It is so, so hard.  But it is not impossible.

Mama T.

So Mother Teresa will be canonized this week.  I don’t know an incredible amount about her, but one of my favorite stories came from a seminarian I once met who went to volunteer with her order when she was still alive.  He described the horrible conditions of where he went to work, and what it was like to live and work for Mother Teresa.  He had brought along a mirror with him, I guess to check his reflection or whatever, and the story went that she caught him checking his look one day before volunteering.  She walked over to him, took the mirror and broke it, and gave him one shard to use instead — anything bigger would be the height of vanity.

I have no idea if that story is true or not, but I love it.  I love the single-mindedness of helping God’s people.  What a role model to have at this time in our history.

I was thinking recently about being a Catholic and what it means to be a Catholic voter in America these days, and I thought about what actually needs to be done to affect change in our country.  Think about the one issue (or two, or however many) you feel in your life is the most important thing, and if it needs changing, how would you change it? How would you change racism, or poverty? Indifference? Ignorance? Whatever the issue is, pray about how God wants you particularly to do something about it, and let’s do what Mother Teresa did — pray for courage and strength, break our mirrors, take the focus off ourselves, and go to work.

In the news today was a story about an FSU wide receiver, Travis Rudolph, who did an astounding act: while visiting a middle school, he sat with a kid during lunch.  The young boy has autism, and would normally not have anyone to sit with during mealtime — the other kids leave him out.  The player didn’t know about the disability – he just saw a boy sitting alone – and decided to keep him company.  The act blew the boy’s mother away, and on social media, she announced the good deed he did that made such a difference to her family.  The story blew up and became such big news because it highlighted that to which we are so attracted: stepping outside of ourselves to help others.

Mother Teresa did that.  Did she solve the problem of poverty? No.  But she showed us how we can start.  Travis Rudolph did that.  Did he solve the problem of ostracizing others because of fearing a disability? No.  But he showed us how we can start.  You and I can do it, too.  We’re all called to it, no matter how large problems might seem.  It will make a difference, I promise you.