By Madelyn Barten
“Let our hearts and hands be stretched out in compassion towards others, for everyone is walking their own difficult path.” ~ Dieter F. Uchtdorf
When we think of a woman who had an abortion, it is easy to become an unjust judge of their character and situation. Without meaning any harm, we may assume that this woman is an evil person, who knows better and has chosen to kill her small child in an act of selfishness. This, however, we can see is not true. Surely it may be the case in some scenarios, but most evidence points to the fact that the majority of women do not know what is being done, or they do know but have been pressured by the people around them who threaten terrible things if she does not give up the life of her child as a sacrifice to their insatiable anger, their encompassing fears.
These women have been told they are not strong enough, not good enough, too young, too old, and essentially incapable of being mothers. They feel weak, unsupported, and alone, knowing not where to turn in their times of trial. They are made to fear and despise pregnancy and motherhood, even though bringing life to the world is the deepest hidden truth of being a woman. They are convinced that they cannot be good mothers, working women, or students at the same time. And these women, these scared, hurt, and confused women are all around us. We never know if someone among us is experiencing these doubts and pains. They could be our friends, colleagues, fellow students, or even family members.
You can help
We the people they trust, can help them through this. We can only hope that these women will turn to someone who will lead them in the right direction, that is, away from abortion and the sorrows it brings, and towards the kindness and mercy of those willing to help them. How can we be these people? How can we give support and show compassion to the women we know who may reach out to us in their broken spirits, longing for someone to show love to them and bring them hope in their situation?
It is not improbable that eventually in life, someone will come to one of us asking for help, advice, or anything, in a situation where they feel the need to abort their child. We think of scenarios where children are being aborted as dominated by the situations in which young girls who aren’t married conceive, whether by their own will or not. However, we must also consider the very real possibility that a married couple may face the choice of abortion with a child they have chosen to conceive.
Imagine the scene
We can imagine the scene, a young couple, excited to go to their OBGYN appointment to check on the health of their baby. However, during the appointment the doctor gives some frightening news to the new father and mother; their child has been diagnosed with a life-changing disability. The doctor explains to the couple that their child would be completely dependent upon them for the entirety of his or her life, and that their life may not even be that long. The doctor, unfortunately, is not prolife and suggests to them the possibility of an abortion, as a “kindness” to the child and to themselves, as they are both working full time and seemingly cannot afford to lose one of their salaries. Confused and heartbroken, the couple leaves, searching for an answer to the question facing them, “Should we abort our child?”
They inevitably end up consulting those around them whom they trust and know will give them sound advice, at least from their experience. This is the chance that we have to help them, to show them that they can care for a child with one or multiple disabilities, and that they will have support from those around them as well. We must first always treat them with love, for surely any condemnation or unkindness will turn them away from the possibility of choosing life for their child. Next, we must let them know that we only wish to help, and never to harm them, and that this is also the intent of the prolife plan of action we may suggest. We cannot tell them falsehoods, but rather only the truth in every situation. However, we must be tactful and kind in the way we present these truths, truths about what abortion actually is and what it does, not only to the child but to the mother and father as well. Again, love must be the driving force behind any actions we take.
The adoption option
We must explain to them why they should not have an abortion, but we must also give them the reasoning behind it, and solutions to their problems. It may be true that these parents simply cannot care for a child with disabilities, but adoption is always an option for those children. We can give them examples of how other families in similar situations have been able to keep their child and care for them, and can introduce them to support groups and other families who have members with disabilities. If they are worried about the quality of life of their child, we can use examples of those children and adults who, even with their disabilities, are living life to the fullest and are loving every minute, and explain to them the teaching that all life has meaning simply because it exists. (Special Books by Special Kids is a great source for these kinds of stories.)
We can refer them to prolife clinics that can give them the good care they need, where they can even find financial help with free ultrasounds and other savings on their medical expenses. We can assure them that we will be with them every step of the way, that they will never feel alone. We can also make ourselves known as someone in their lives willing to help even after the child is born. We can even begin making this known long before we find ourselves in a situation with a young mother considering an abortion. For most of her life, my grandma has made it known to all those around her that if they ever end up in a troubling position of any kind, she will be there to help them. Even if she does not know them, she is completely willing to share her home, her time, and her resources with any and all who request it. We can be these kinds of people. Even if we cannot offer a place to live, or maybe we simply cannot offer any financial support, we can always do something. If we are not able to assist physically, we are certainly able to offer prayers for those who need them.
We can be the hearts and hands of Christ
In short, when we are approached with these situations, we must treat the ones coming to us with love and kindness, never judging, but always being willing to help them in any way we can and pray for them. Our kindness must start beforehand, we must always strive to live good and loving lives so that people will be comfortable coming to us, and thus we may be able to truly assist them in their times of need. For “Christ has no body but (y)ours, no hands, no feet on earth but (y)ours.” (St. Teresa of Avila) We must live up to our duty of being Christ’s hands and feet on earth, to our duty of showing only love to those around us and especially those in frightening positions facing abortion.
[Thanks to Madelyn Barten for permission to publish her award-winning pro-life essay. She is a home-schooled senior who attends the Basilica at St. John.]