In several previous articles for Live Action, I have alluded to the fact that I used to be pro-abortion, and fairly recently. The conversation that convinced me that abortion was wrong occurred in the fall of 2006
Before that day, I would have told anyone who asked that I was pro-choice. I was never involved in activism, unless you call giving the middle finger to pro-life protesters as I drove by abortion clinics “activism.” In fact, I never really gave abortion much thought. But in political debates — in which I frequently engaged — one of the accusations I liked to hurl at the opposition was that they were “anti-choice.”
I have a clear memory of looking for a website one day when I accidentally typed the URL incorrectly, and instead of the shopping site I was looking for, I ended up at a pro-life website with a large, graphic photo of an aborted fetus on the title page. I remember feeling disgusted… by the pro-lifers. This emotional reaction is mystifying to me now, although I felt it many times myself and have witnessed it in others. Confronted with a jarring photo of the violence of abortion, the pro-abort does not feel sadness or horror for the child, but anger at the pro-lifer for offending him. They simply do not see the baby. They see only their own opinion, assaulted.
There are exceptions to this, and I’ll get to them.
I knew girls my age — mid to late twenties — who’d had abortions. When they told me about them, I reacted with what I felt was the requisite nonchalance, but inside I always felt a little horrified. I did not have children — I still do not — and had never tried to, but I also knew that no matter how poor, lonely, or desperate I was, I could never abort my child. And I have been poor, lonely, and desperate. In my mind and heart, I understood babies to be sources of joy.
My mom was a 27-year-old mother of two working in the food service industry when she became pregnant. Her boyfriend, upon finding out she was pregnant, surprised her by taking off and never coming back. Then the sonogram surprised her by revealing two heartbeats. That’s right: twins.
She considered abortion briefly, in a moment of panic, but not seriously. She says she thought about it the way you sometimes think about doing something you know you’ll never do. It was a momentary fantasy born of desperation, but it was never an option. She credits prayer with getting her through the next few years until she met the man who would become my brothers’ father. My mom has a strong will, and she was determined to be positive. She put a magnet on the refrigerator so she would see it every day. It said, “A baby is God’s opinion that the world should go on.” I remember it being there for years.
When the twins were born, she could no longer work 60+ hours a week as the manager of a fast food restaurant. My grandparents helped some and I, at nearly nine, was a built-in babysitter and diaper changer and entertainer. Now my mom was 28 with a nine year old, a seven year old, two infants, no job, and a GED.
I never remember being surrounded by gloom. I didn’t feel poor. I knew things were hard, and I worried about my mom, and things weren’t perfect, but ours was not a miserable childhood.
More than anything, I remember the joy my baby brothers brought to our family. They were the light of everyone’s life. It’s almost like God said to my mom, “Well, since the circumstances for these babies are less than ideal, I’m gonna make the babies themselves ideal. How’s that?” They were perfect: blonde curls, giant blue eyes, creamy skin, with fun, happy personalities. They were smart and charming and wonderful, and they still are. They are 23 years old now, and one has a daughter of his own. She is the light of our life, too, and my mom is a proud grandmother.
It would have been so easy for my mother to choose abortion. It was 1988 in a major metropolitan area. Abortion was legal and fairly commonplace. But my mom did the courageous, difficult, wonderful thing, and chose life for her sons. In doing so, she gave our family — and the world — a wonderful gift in my two youngest brothers. I cannot imagine life without them. I don’t want to.
Considering the story of my brothers’ origins, and the fact that my mom was adopted at birth, you’d think I would have been a natural candidate for pro-life views. But by the time I knew what abortion was, I was old enough to start rebelling against my parents’ values. My rebellion was more ideological than practical. I wasn’t much for running around with boys or sneaking out constantly — my mom was pretty strict — but I read a lot, and I had wild ideas. I decided to do what young people have done from time immemorial, and reject the mores of the society I knew.
So I said “no thanks” to the Baptist church and traditional values in general at around age 14, and I stayed more or less anti-everything-I-grew-up-with until the age of 27, when I got in a van with a Catholic.
Here’s what happened:
I had a friend. I’ll call her Sadie. She was a fellow rebel with me in high school and up through our early 20s. In the past couple years, we had fallen out of touch. She had converted and married a Catholic and had two babies. She’d become a sort of Betty Crocker, a model suburban housewife, albeit one who retained a marked tendency to listen to The Cure and smoke cloves.
Anyway, Sadie and I reconnected somehow, and she asked if I wanted to come spend the night. Her husband was overseas with the Army, so we could put the kids to bed and stay up all night talking like we did back in high school. I said sure, and she said she’d come by to pick me up.
I knew Sadie had become a Catholic Army wife, and I was prepared for the mini-van, the car seats, and the munchkins, but not for the pro-life bumper stickers.
Later that night, after the kids were in bed and I had imbibed some Jack Daniels and whooped her butt at Lord of the Rings Trivial Pursuit, I said to Sadie, “What’s with the pro-life bumper stickers? I mean, come on. I know you’re Catholic and all, but haven’t you gone a little bit overboard?”
Sadie replied with something I had not known. She told me she’d always been pro-life.
“I thought you were a feminist,” I said.
She answered, “I am.”
“Then how can you not support a woman’s right to choose?”
I don’t remember exactly how Sadie walked me through the pro-life argument. I know what she didn’t do, and that’s invoke religion or God in any way. At the time I would have described myself as an agnostic pantheist, so I would have immediately rejected such language.
After about an hour of back and forth, I knew I was had. I couldn’t argue with her anymore. Every talking point I had, she had shredded with logic and knowledge. But I was still wavering.
During the course of our conversation, she kept alluding to photos and what a large part they played in helping someone understand what abortion is. Finally — and this is important — I asked to see them.
She showed them to me, and I had a completely different reaction than the one I’d had when confronted with the accidental website, or protesters bearing signs. My reaction before had not been horror at the dead baby, but anger at the pro-lifer for making me look at it. I thought it was “disrespectful of the dead,” and somehow glossed over how disrespectful it was to cause that death.
But this time, I had just had my mind and heart opened. I had slowly over the course of an hour been made to hear the truth, and now I was ready to see it.
I looked at the photos, and I had a visceral reaction. No words formed. But something inside me, something simple and human, said, “That is not okay.” I knew that what I was looking at was a dead human being. I knew it.
At that moment, I was pro-life.
I kept saying, “You just made me pro-life!” I kept repeating it the next morning as well, awed by the change in me and how it had happened. It was completely unexpected, and more than a little unwelcome.
I went home and got on the computer and went immediately to pro-choice websites hoping to be unconvinced. Reality was setting in, and with it the understanding that a pro-life viewpoint was not compatible with my lifestyle, my friends, my political and religious beliefs, or my irreverent sense of humor. I felt a mild sense of panic, because if abortion was what I unfortunately now believed it was, then it was not only wrong, it was reprehensible. It was not just something I was going to disagree with, it was something I was going to have to fight.
The pro-choice websites couldn’t unconvince me of the wrongness of abortion, and the scientific information I found only made things worse. More than anything, I wanted to find those photos discredited as fakes or misleading, but instead I found more photos, and plenty of authentication. I found a video in which a former abortionist turned pro-life activist, Dr. Bernard Nathanson, handled an aborted fetus and described it to the viewer. I watched and wept.
I started to feel duped, and a little angry. I felt lied to by the pro-choice side. I felt the terminology they used, like “clump of cells,” was misleading. I knew the information my friends had gotten in abortion clinics, and I knew now that it was patently false.
At the time I was blogging on MySpace — remember MySpace? — and had a lot of readers. I posted about my newfound viewpoint with trepidation, and people went a little wild. Over the course of the next year, I would lose a few dear friends over this issue and similar ones. Other people have remained friends with me, but it’s never quite been the same. The issue is so divisive that it really can make or break friendships, I’ve learned, especially when you do what I did and become an overnight activist.
You see, I was committed to a belief in human rights before I became pro-life, and I understood more and more as time went on that abortion is the ultimate human rights violation. It violates the most basic right — the right to life — for the most innocent and helpless among us — the unborn baby. It is the ultimate in the kind of “might makes right” thinking people condemn when it comes to wars, but embrace when it comes to a mother’s tyranny over her pre-born child.
The night I learned that abortion was wrong, I would have told you I was not only not a Christian, but that I disliked and distrusted Christianity. Less than a year later, I was confirmed in the Catholic Church. This is not to say the pro-life philosophy leads one to religion necessarily. In fact, I know pro-lifers of every political and religious persuasion and sexual orientation. But for me personally, I believe God used this issue to open my heart and start me down a path that I never expected to walk.
In many ways, Sadie is a completely different person than on the night we had that conversation, and so am I. But we are still good friends, and we are both still pro-life. I owe her a huge debt of gratitude for having the courage to stand up for life in the face of someone who was pretty direct and challenging (that would be me), and the knowledge and wisdom to approach the issue from a secular, scientific point of view.
I am living proof of several things:
First, that it is essential for the pro-life apologist to be ready to tailor the argument to the person.
Second, that graphic images can absolutely change hearts when used correctly.
And third… Well…
You know that friend you have that you don’t even bother mentioning abortion to? The one who is so prickly and such a smarty-pants that you feel like you’d be shot down if you even tried explaining the pro-life viewpoint? I was that friend. And look at me now.
There is no heart that cannot be changed by truth.