I recently celebrated my 28th birthday, and it was lovely. My brother came to my apartment to go to church with me, and treated me to my favorite Indian restaurant for lunch afterward. That weekend I enjoyed an event with women at my church, and a party at my old workplace. I also received a nice amount of happy birthday texts and Facebook posts, and each one put a smile on my face.
The cliché, yet sincere, birthday reflections end here, and things are about to get gauche. During my birth year, 1989, 1,396,658 legal abortions were reported to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. The Guttmacher Institute reports an even higher number, 1,566,870.
The CDC’s abstract on the average woman who obtained an abortion that year looks like it was written explicitly about my mom: “less than 25 years of age, white, and unmarried and had not had any live-born children.” The top three reasons women gave in ‘87, the closest year I could find, were all issues my mother faced. No. 1 was concern that a baby would change her life, No. 2 being unable to afford a baby, and No. 3 being problems with a relationship or wanting to avoid single parenthood.
In other words, I could have very easily been a statistic. My mom had finished college, but the extent of her work experience was waitressing, au pairing, and teaching some evening English classes. She rented a room in another person’s apartment. Her significant other encouraged her to abort. A slimy youth pastor encouraged her to abort. Her family encouraged her to abort. Thank God someone reached out to her during that time and encouraged her to seek support at a pregnancy resource center, or I might not be here today.
Do You Support Women’s Choice for Life?
Pregnancy Distress of Columbus, Ohio (now renamed Pregnancy Decisions) provided a family she could stay with during her pregnancy, as well as financial, medical, spiritual, and emotional support. Up until the eighth month, she was preparing to choose adoption. They also helped her through that process and showed her families that would be happy to adopt me. I’m glad she ultimately had a change of heart and raised me herself, because I don’t think anyone could have been a stronger role model.
Everyday, but especially on my birthday and the days that lead up to it, I grapple with the idea that so many people just like me were not allowed to be here. I also experience astonishment that so many of my friends and family are hostile to the idea that children like me should be allowed to live.
To those who say, “Her body, her choice,” I say, do you help women who choose life? It’s hard to take you seriously when the extent of your “help” to women is supporting politicians and movements that believe it is a right to end the lives of the unborn. Have you ever housed a woman in need—not necessarily a pregnant woman, just any woman in need? Have you mentored a young woman with college applications or job training?
Have you thrown a baby shower and provided many of the necessities needed in the first year of parenting? Do you keep your eyes peeled for women who are feeling alone or overwhelmed, and offer to take them out to lunch or meet up for a beer? I can rattle off a list of pro-life individuals and organizations that do all that and more. No one is arguing that an unplanned pregnancy isn’t life-changing, but the effect it will have on a woman’s life depends greatly on her support structures, and everywhere you go you will find pro-life people building systems that support women.
Put Your Hands Where Your Mouth Is
Here’s the thing: most people do not actually want to help women. In fact, deep in the recesses of their minds I believe many people think the 1,396,658 children aborted in 1989 were better off not being given a chance.
There are the boyfriends who don’t want to financially or emotionally support the women carrying their children. The parents who “just want the best” for their daughter, but deep down are dreading the idea of helping out with finances, housing, or parenting. The friends who cannot imagine trading surface friendship for the grittiness of volunteering to babysit weekly. The educated urbanite, who in her innermost thoughts hears a voice that mutters, “Those children would be leeches and junkies, and riding the metro is gross enough as is.”
Sadly, even the experience of meeting or being related to a young woman whose life was once on the chopping block of abortion is not enough to shift people. The pro-choicers in my life who know my story tend to be in the, “That’s nice it worked out for you and your mom, but that is rare” camp.
First off, poverty causes unplanned pregnancy, not the other way around. Secondly, if you want a better outcome for women who choose to parent after an unplanned pregnancy, why don’t you offer some hands-on help, or at least stay out of the way of people trying to help? Finally, the point of life is not to gracefully glide from your power job to your night class in being an even-better employee to drinks at the hottest new cocktail bar, all while encountering the least amount of riff-raff possible.
Yes, some of the children born would have been welfare dependents, some would have had disabilities, and some would grow up to be substance abusers. Those people are still just as worthy of being alive as you and I are. No one had the right to end my life, and no one had the right to end the lives of the approximately million and a half children who should have been born in 1989 along with me.