When I was in third grade I wrote a letter to Bill Clinton asking him to end abortion. Today I spent seven hours in an abortion clinic. As a third grader, I accepted the conservative beliefs of my parents. As I grew in age, knowledge, and experience--I learned that nothing is ever that simple. I am a woman who believes that life begins at conception, a mother who struggled with infertility, and a businesswoman who cares for children for a living. I also understand that sometimes a woman faces a hard choice. And that woman is entitled to the right to make this hard choice. I can judge her or I can sit with her.
I found out a few weeks ago that one of my friends was experiencing an unplanned pregnancy. She wasn’t stupid and irresponsible. She was on the depo shot but still found herself pregnant. She thought long and hard. Do I carry this child to term or do I terminate? I love her other children from my skin to my core. Despite everything I have going on in my life, I felt driven to offer to take on her unplanned child. I told her, “I respect whatever choice you make. But if you choose to carry the pregnancy to term, I will help in whatever capacity possible.” She thanked me for caring and related the agonizing process of coming to her final decision. She had thought long and hard and she would be going forward with the abortion. “Do you have someone to go with you?” When she answered no, I told her, “I will be there with you.”
When we pulled into the driveway protesters shouted, “You don’t have to do this! Let us talk to you!” If only these protestors knew how I would adopt her child in a second. But they were there to judge not to be still.
As a middle class white woman, it is easy for me to say that I would never choose abortion. But if I put myself in this woman’s shoes and recognize where she is coming from, the perspective shifts. I have other children that I can barely take care of. I am sick, exhausted, and on the verge of losing the job that allows me to provide for the children I have. And what would it look like to carry this child to term and place him or her up for adoption, fully aware of the siblings that I kept? What would it look like to keep yet another child when I am barely surviving with the ones that I have?
I will never really know what it would feel like if I were walking in her shoes. If I found myself facing an unplanned pregnancy it is simple. I can afford the child. I have childcare for the child. Life goes on. But between my skin color and the family I was born into, remains nothing more than luck. So I can proclaim the stance of pro-life until I’m blue in the face. But this stance will not be black and white. I will walk in the other woman’s shoes. I will be empathetic. I will be compassionate. I will reassure her that we are all flawed humans doing our best each day. I will sit with her for seven hours instead of holding up a sign that reads, “Choose life.”
The clinic was packed when we sat down. Every hour another woman was called back. I noticed how many heartbeats were in the room at 10a.m. I prayed as each woman was called back. I prayed for her. I prayed for her child. I was fully aware that when she left, there would be one less heart beating in this world. I don’t believe that it was tissue suctioned from her body. I believe that it was a child—fearfully and wonderfully made. Yet I stay.
There wasn’t even Internet reception in the waiting area. The mood was somber. And there was nothing to do but sit and wait and think for hour after hour after hour. After hearing the wait time, I went out to my car and grabbed some of the Kindergarten crafts and announcements that littered its floors. I could at least write on the back of them to pass the time. Poems or thoughts or prayers. The boredom was painful, yet I couldn’t bring myself to write. I could only sit and watch and think and pray and wonder. Each of these women was facing a hard choice. Each of these women agonized over each different option. So when the pro-life protestor says, “Let me talk to you,” she undermines the hours and days that went into the decision that was ultimately made.
When I would walk outside to my car, or just for some fresh air, the protestors appeared out of nowhere. One even popped out of a damn bush, “You don’t have to do this,” she shouted. I fought the urge to shout back, “There is only McDonald’s in here but thanks for being so concerned about the fate of my egg mcmuffin.”
I was so grateful for the women wearing pink fluorescent vests with the word “choice” printed in bold black letters. They made a path when the protesters harassed. They told me when traffic had cleared so I could drive away like hell from the woman pressed against my window, shouting, “Let me talk to you!”
It was a bit of a strange space to be in—having the same belief set around this issue as the protestor, yet being profoundly thankful for the kind pro-choice escorts. They were my people. They were kind and respectful and had my back. They weren’t hiding behind a bush sneaking up on me or shouting into my car. The protestors were abrasive and rude and assumed I was pregnant and on my way to terminate. They provide scripture and pamphlets and resources. I would have actually adopted this nine-week-old baby if he or she were to grow to term. But that wasn’t my choice to make.
The mom I accompanied was the very last person to be called back. Nine hearts had already stopped beating. Only one life remained. I was in a ripe spot to coerce her into changing her mind. I am a pro-life woman who had spent seven hours on this inside of an abortion clinic. By the time the women are waiting for their procedure, they are past ambivalence. They have cried and suffered and agonized over the decision that they have arrived at. My interference would have been a violating coercion. So I sat with them. I prayed specifically for each woman and child called back. My words were the same each time, “Bring the mother peace. Welcome her child home.”
This mother was the same as the others in the way she tormented herself in the process of arriving at this decision. But she was different because I could have been her child’s mother. I would have loved that child like me own. But I had to let him or her go. I prayed one last time but was able to use the mother’s real name this time. “Bring Alicia peace. Welcome her child home.” And I prayed that tenth heart into heaven.
Jesus wouldn’t have been on the streets barking and judging and intimidating. Jesus would have walked inside, held each mother’s hand, and prayed with her. And then Jesus would let go of her hand as she walks down the stairs and towards her choice.
*name of mother changed