I sat down this evening to write, my thoughts turned toward mothering and being at home and the long days and the short years and how to express the conflicting emotions of spending my days with a one-year-old. I’d worked out some of the phrases, had a good deal of the post written in my mind, and all that remained was working it out in WordPress. Before starting, however, I broke one of the cardinal rules of productivity in the age of the Internet: I took a look at Facebook. I took a look at Facebook, and all of those thoughts and phrases flew right out of my mind.
They flew out of my mind because there, on Facebook, I saw a trending hashtag, one that’s a response to the House’s vote to freeze funding for Planned Parenthood. #ShoutYourAbortion. Shout it out, take pride in it, revel in it. Own it. Those using this slogan are vehement in their protection of their choice, adamant that there is no moral quandary when ending a pregnancy. They’re saying women should take pride in their decision, should feel no negative emotion associated with it, which is drastically different from saying “Abortion is a necessary evil,” or “It should be legal, safe and rare,” or “The mother’s life takes precedence over the child’s.”
I shouldn’t have, but I did: I scrolled through posts with this hashtag, read what people were saying, until I could no longer do so because it made me physically ill.
I don’t know what to say at this point, for I am saddened, on multiple levels. I’m saddened that the conversation has been reduced to this, to competing hashtags, a yelling match on social media, a competition to see which side can shout the loudest. I’m saddened that the common narrative in today’s culture is that pro-life advocates care only for the unborn baby and not for the mother, whether that narrative is justly earned or not. I’m saddened that babies are treated like so much garbage, that women are deceived into thinking that ripping their children from their wombs is nothing more than a medical procedure, like burning a wart, removing a cyst. I’m saddened that, as a nation, we have so many broken families, so many broken communities, that women find themselves in such situations and feel that they have no recourse. I’m saddened by it all, by the ugliness and the anger and the hatred and the shouting past each other and the lives lost and the hearts broken and the shame felt and the pride expressed.
I don’t know what to say, for I recognize this is a complex issue, with much nuance. These are real, human lives we’re talking about, both the mother’s and the child’s. Becoming a parent is no small thing, and many who become pregnant are not socially, emotionally, financially, relationally, or spiritually well-equipped to care for a baby. I realize that, and yet I cannot get around my firm conviction that those in the womb are the most vulnerable of human lives, worthy of protection and dignity and respect.
I don’t know what to say except for this: I believe that abortion takes the lives of helpless children, of babies at their most vulnerable. I believe it is harmful, not only to the child whose life it takes, but also to the mother and to the father and to our society as a whole. There can be no pride in this action, no beauty in it, no revelry in a practice that ends life in this way, and the #ShoutYourAbortion trend is abhorrent. Those who have started it say they want to end the shame, end the stigma. These are laudable goals, but the way to end shame is not to say there is no cause for shame, but to confront the shameful action, to bring it to the light, to heal and to move forward.
If you’ve had an abortion, there’s no room for pride, but neither is there room for shame, for guilt, for despising yourself. There is room for you to share your story with others. There is room for hope. There is room for healing. There is room for forgiveness. Regret the decision you made, the road that took you into that clinic or hospital, mourn the life that was lost, but turn that regret, that grief to good.
If you’ve had an abortion, don’t shout it in pride, but do share it in humility. Let others know. Talk about it, about the circumstances that led to your decision, about the child you lost. Tell your story and be healed, and loved, and forgiven.