My (Pro) Life Story

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I have early memories of standing outside abortion clinics. I was about seven. I remember the heat of the day, and our silence as we stood and prayed. I remember being tired, and not fully understanding why we were there. I remember a moment in which a woman walked in, then immediately out, opting not to abort that day, and how those of us praying outside rejoiced.

Needless to say, my exposure to the existence of abortion began at a young age. I had an understanding of what occurred, and I knew enough to know “it was bad”. Having grown up in a politically active and outspoken church, I was generally aware of abortion’s role in politics throughout my adolescence, and watched my parents use “abortion stance” alongside other issues in their voting decisions. To steal a quote from the movie Juno, I was very much in the camp of “All babies want to get borned”.

My involvement in the pro-life movement took a rapid launch forward one Saturday morning during my sophomore year at Azusa Pacific University. At the prodding of a friend, I dragged myself out of bed to attend a seminar which addressed not only the pro-life stance, but more importantly, HOW to speak to those on the other side of this issue. After all, “But it’s a baby” can only get one so far in the debate, and I was beginning to understand the complexities surrounding abortion as I grew into adulthood. I knew I was pro-life, but I wanted to know how to properly convey it.

That day changed my life. I was so enthralled by this new way of dialoguing about this issue, I could barely blink through the entire seminar. The people speaking were kind. They were intelligent. They were informed. Mostly, they expressed a genuine care for the potential people they may eventually involve in dialogue on this issue. I learned science behind the act of abortion, about fetal development, about statistics, and most invaluably, I learned better ways to answer those “tough questions” such as “What if she was raped?”.

How refreshing to hear this organization’s answer to that question: “When you are asked this question, this is a key moment in your conversation.” the speaker said. “This person is not asking to find out your opinion on what to do if the girl was raped. They are asking to find out whether or not you’re human.” We were encouraged to think about the nightmare of rape, to put ourselves in the shoes of the hypothetical girl who had experienced this trauma, and take a moment to just… be really sad about it. Something incredibly easy to do, as it turns out. They showed us real life videos of “how not to do it”, in which someone holding a pro-life sign is approached by a woman and asked the rape question. The man simply answers, “That doesn’t matter. It’s still a baby.” We were taught that what the girl hears isn’t “That doesn’t matter. It’s still a baby.” She hears, “I hate you.”

To this day, the organization that led this life-changing seminar marches boldly onto college campuses across the US and stands in front of giant signs showing the reality of abortion. Then, they send out dozens of trained and equipped volunteers to stand nearby, approach people, and say, “What do you think of all this?” Then, the volunteers are to listen. And listen. And listen longer. And then when the person taking in all the photos and commotion pauses, the volunteer is to ask a question about what has just been said, and then listen again. Because, if pro-life logic is truth and pro-choice logic is flawed, talking out one’s views on abortion causes those flaws to surface naturally. And if it’s actually the other way around and pro-lifers are wrong, we really wanted to know about it, so we didn’t continue to look stupid standing in front of signs that are for the wrong side.

After that seminar, over the course of the next four years, I traveled to six college campuses and stood in front of really ugly pictures and talked to people. Most of them were angry pro-choice people. Using what I’d been taught – be kind, be calm, ask tough questions, and LISTEN – I’ve made a lot of pro-choice friends over the years. People whose email addresses and names I have in a mini composition notebook, some of whom I actually carried on communication with for a time.

My time as a pro-life advocate has taught me lessons about what it means to REALLY be pro-life. In one conversation, I was speaking to a pro-choice student who was adamant that if we are going to urge women to bring babies into this world rather than abort them, we simply MUST create a better world for those children to come into – including fixing up our messed up foster care system, providing support for mothers, and giving opportunities to children and families who otherwise would have struggled. As she expressed this, I agreed emphatically. Then, she asked a question that I’ve asked myself about ten thousand times since that day: “If you agree, then tell me, what are you personally doing to ensure the children who are born instead of aborted have a better life once here in the world?”

“… what are you personally doing to ensure the children who are born instead of aborted have a better life?…”

I was embarrassed. I was ashamed. I had to tell her… nothing. I had to puff up my work with pro-life organizations to make myself seem like less of a loser. Because in reality, I was showing my support for fetuses, but not for newborns, not for toddlers, not for kids in foster care, and certainly not for moms who live paycheck to paycheck trying to make ends meet. How could I expect to be taken seriously as a compassionate pro-life woman, when the unborn child is the only one who receives my time and advocacy, and not the plethora of people and life circumstances surrounding the fate of that unborn baby? That conversation changed the course of my compassion, and I don’t even know the name of the girl I have to thank for it.

In another interaction, an IRATE student was engaging me in a loud discussion about abortion. She was so demonstrative that a small group began to gather around us – something I’d seen happen several times in other outreaches but never to me personally. I was staying calm and answering each question or accusation as intelligently as I could. Then came the question: What about if the girl is RAPED??!? She almost yelled it.

I spent time expressing what an awful ordeal it would be for any girl to go through that and that rapists should be persecuted to the fullest extent of the law. I told her I couldn’t imagine how difficult it must be for girls who have gone through such a thing, but that if a pregnancy results from such an awful situation, that I don’t see why the unborn child should be the one to pay for the crimes of the father. And that if this girl had the heart and courage to carry the baby to term, and her son was born LOOKING like her rapist, how difficult that would be, but that once born, she would certainly not terminate the life of her newborn, so why should it be different when that same child is in the womb?

I felt like I had answered her pressing and accusatory questions to the best of my ability, but she was more worked up than ever. By now, at least twenty people were standing around us listening in. I began to say, “I’m just doing my best to think about the voiceless unborn child in this situat…” she cut me off and shouted, “WHAT IF IT WAS YOU?!?”. Everything fell quiet. “What if YOU were in this situation, and YOU were the one who had been raped?!? Tell me honestly. What would YOU DO????”

My heart was pounding. I felt a lump rise in my throat and tears burn hot against the back of my eyes.

“I don’t know.” I almost whispered. “I just don’t know what I would do in that situation.” I shrunk back and wilted.

Air escaped from each of our lungs like a slow leak in a balloon and it seemed to be echoed in the whole crowd around. Her face softened. The tension of the conversation dissolved almost immediately. We each left calm and civil.

The director of the organization had overheard our interactions and there was a part of me that felt like such a failure. “I probably shouldn’t have said, ‘I don’t know.’ but I just was so caught up in the difficult nature of this conversation.” I told him. He immediately said, “No. You spoke from your heart. And in that moment, you morphed from a giant anti-abortion monster into a human being. And that is a triumph.”

That day I learned that these are not scripted conversations or talking points. These are real women and men in life-altering situations, oftentimes in which they feel they have no other options. This girl was desperate for me to drop the script and just be real. To hear me admit that the black and white goes away when you’ve been violated in such a devastating way. To hear me say, “I understand what you’ve been through”. Yes, it is a human inside that womb, but there is a human carrying that tiny person around, too, and I’ll never understand the complicated and dire place of her life until I start to care about that woman just as much as I care about the baby inside her. THAT is the definition of pro-life. Pro-baby-life. Pro-mommy-life. Pro-quality-of-life. Pro-adoptive-life. All of these matter immensely, and I need to begin living like it.

I have such humongous respect and love for the people who run and volunteer for the organization, Justice for All, that put so much care into equipping me as a pro-life advocate. They are some of the most actively compassionate and smart people I’ve ever interacted with, and they’ve made me a better person. I do, however, admit I’ve felt an “itchy scratchy” feeling regarding the graphic photos shown to students on the campuses they visit. As a volunteer, we purposefully engaged as many conversations as possible to allow dialogue to accompany the pictures, but I always felt a twinge of discomfort for those who walked far around our exhibit, purposing to talk to no one, yet seeing the images nonetheless. Likely being haunted by them for decisions made in their past. I always wished I could reach out to those women and men and hug them and hear their stories. But it is impossible to engage and stop every person in a place. You can only do the best you can.

I write today after having just watched all the videos released regarding Planned Parenthood and their alleged sale of fetal parts to various research centers. People are up in arms about this, and I agree that the graphic nature of everything described is disconcerting. But more than anything, I feel this whole debacle is at the outer margins of the true issue. Whether an aborted fetus is being used or discarded after it has died has little to do with the fact that women are still opting to abort. Thousands every day. Asking whether I care that the aborted fetus is then used for something or thrown away is like asking if I’m upset that my dead father was cremated instead of buried. Why does it matter, when my father just died? Why would I care more about the use or non-use of a teeny tiny dead baby when the item in question is, in fact, a dead baby?! Abortion in itself is what breaks my heart and all the life situations and dire circumstances that surely overwhelmed that woman to land her in an abortion clinic.

The message that has been sent loudly and clearly to the pro-choice community is that pro-life people only care about the baby, and not about the mother. Isn’t that sad? True change in our country is never going to come through legislation. Voting for a “pro-life” politician can only do so much in a nation of checks, balances, red-tape and bureaucracy. Change is going to come through pro-life individuals stepping up, being bold in their advocacy for the unborn, and caring for women and their babies in a manner that rivals what Planned Parenthood offers. When that day comes, when women see light at the end of the tunnel because of support surrounding them, the pro-life movement may begin to have the momentum needed to reverse Roe vs. Wade.

This type of pro-life overhaul includes, but isn’t limited to: comprehensive health and sex education starting at young ages, education on fetal development, readily available contraception, a no-shame environment, prenatal care, ultrasounds, cancer screenings, postpartum care, adoptive services, parenting resources, and advancements in the foster care system, all in an abortion free facility. If the pro-life community were to begin offering these types of services on a large scale level, I think we would begin to earn the respect of many pro-choice groups as well as the patronage of many women who are looking for options, but are willing to take the daunting but rewarding route of choosing life.

I want to do whatever I can to help more unborn children earn the status of “wanted”. I want to do whatever I can to help women who feel like they have no choice but “choice”. I am pro-life and pro-women. Some may say that simply by being pro-life, I am automatically anti-woman, and if you’d like to have the “my body, my choice” “where does life begin” discussion, I am ALWAYS up for having it. But I sleep well every night in this stance I have chosen, knowing I care about the lives of everyone involved, from the smallest to the tallest. I truly believe there is a revolution arising of people who want to change the course of the pro-life movement from law-changing to life-changing, and I want to be on the forefront of that movement. I invite you to join me!

How do you feel pro-life advocates can better rally for women and their babies – born and unborn?

Are you aware of any resources, centers, outreaches or volunteer opportunities that address this directly? If so, I’d love to know what they are!

If you care to comment and we are Facebook friends, please leave your comment on Facebook, as I check blog comments less frequently. Thank you!

This has been my (Pro) Life Story.

~ Miriam

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