The National Catholic Review

    One of my youngest daughter's friends marked the summer after her high school graduation by getting an abortion. Apparently she was petrified that her father would have her slightly older boyfriend thrown in jail, that she would have to put off going to college, and that her mother would disown her. My daughter tried to reason with her, telling her that she would someday regret throwing away this tiny life, urging her that she should absolutely tell her mom, suggesting to her that in less than nine months she could bless some childless couple with the baby they had long wanted. But the only solution her friend could see out of her predicament was to get rid of the pregnancy. She did not think of her missed period as a growing baby with a soul. She saw only doom in the positive marking on the stick of the pregnancy test.

    The boyfriend, or, as it turned out, the baby-daddy, drove her to the clinic, which was 50 miles away in the nearest city. The abortion done, he dropped her at her sister's, whom she stayed with overnight. The boyfriend was also scheduled to go away to college soon. After promising the young woman carrying his child that their relationship would be better than ever as soon as they took care of this little misstep, he completely dropped out of the picture. I imagine him, like the cartoon Coyote, hiding around the corner, out of breath, resting after running as fast as he could in the opposite direction from his very close call, thanking his lucky stars. 

    When my daughter broke down and related this terrible tale, I told her how touched I was by her courage, her clarity, and her conviction. I was very sad that her friend had ended her pregnancy, but at the same time, I was proud of my daughter's response to her friend's quandary. I patted myself on the back for raising such a great kid. I felt pretty smug, actually: My kid would never kill a baby.

    And I have to admit that the next time I saw her friend, whom I have known since she was a little girl and who has always been welcomed like one of our own, I treated her coolly. I wanted her to feel my disapproval of and disappointment in the decision she had made. She knew that my daughter had told me what had happened, which she was not happy about, and which made her uncomfortable in our home. Feeling inhospitable but righteous, I made no effort to ease her mind.

    Except that, while she was visiting with my daughter, she suddenly felt nauseous, and then feverish. She was sick to her stomach, and began to bleed again, after her bleeding had slowed the day before. As it had only been a week since the abortion, she was scared that something bad was happening. I could hear my daughter telling her to call her sister. Her sister did not answer her cell phone. My daughter's friend told her that she had left the paperwork from the clinic, which explained all the aftercare instructions, in the former boyfriend's car. He also was not returning calls. It was 11 PM. She was afraid the staff at the local emergency room would call her parents if she showed up there. She was beginning to panic. She didn't know what to do.
   
    God help me, I had decided that it would teach this young woman a lesson to deal with this fallout by herself. I remained nonchalantly in another room while this crisis was unfolding. The point was being made: Now how does it feel to be pro-choice?

    Until I came to my senses, and could no longer live with myself and my mean-spirited inaction. This young woman needed help. I looked up the number for the clinic in the yellow pages, and had her call the 24-hour hotline. While she waited for the call back, I looked up her symptoms on the internet, and read the results to her. Since the abortion had taken place more than several days before, she was probably not in danger of hemorrhage or a perforated uterus, but more likely had just overdone it in trying to get back to her normal life. The call back from the hotline affirmed this. She needed to rest, and to come in for a follow-up appointment. We made her a cup of tea and put her to bed.

    Later, I reflected on my behavior, and on my calling as a follower of Christ. Had I done the right thing? What would Jesus do? I suspect that my ministry does not lie in condemning a young woman who has done a bad thing. Rather, it lies in showing her compassion, and in demonstrating how to take care of the sorrowing, the suffering, the sinful, among whom we are all numbered. It seems to me that that's what Jesus did.

Comments

Anonymous | 8/26/2009 - 10:53pm
Valerie,
 
I think that Jesus would have taken care of the girl but also that he might have encouraged her to let her mother/parent's know what was happening. I worked at a crisis center many years ago, and always encouraged  confiding in parents..  Most often, parents who were perceived as strict or unfeeling were the most understanding and accepting when an unexpected pregnancy or abortion presented itself.  I have many memories of parents crying in my office because they felt they had been so strict their child had not come to them.  I hope that encouraging her to reach out to her parents was part of the tea and sympathy.
 
I guess, my question, instead of WWJD would be how would you want another parent to counsel your child if the situation was reversed? 
Anonymous | 8/25/2009 - 12:17am
It is wonderful that you realised you needed to be more Christ-like and help her but the LAST THING I would have done was to have called the abortion place to get advice.  They hardly have a good track record IN ANY COUNTRY of caring for girls after an abortion.  Far preferable to have contacted your local doctor or, if she was ok with this, the young girl's doctor. 
She will need all the love you can muster - never mistake LOVE of the 'sinner' for love of the sin.  She will never come to Christ if those professing to be Christians don't show love and kindness and compassion.
She will continue to be in my prayers.
Anonymous | 8/24/2009 - 8:52pm
What happened to this girl in the end?
She needs ongoing support. It is shame your daugher did not offer to take her home to your house for care and compassion before the baby was killed.
The pain for this girl must be ongoing. I do think being pro-life does not stop outside the abortion clinic but it is ongoing support for the postabortive women to get help to get healing and a find away to not end up in the same situation.
Pro-life is to make ourselves available for the women who chooses not to have an abortion but need ongoing physical and spiritual care from the moment she changes her mind not to have abortion. What women can bring a childn into the world on her own? What women can raise a child on her own especially when she finds her self as a single mother?
Anonymous | 8/25/2009 - 9:58am
Dear Valerie:  Recently reading a book about the Missionaries of Charity, one of the Sisters remarked that they address ''The Need'' - they don't worry about the origins of the need, how that need came to be.  They simply take care of the need itself.   You did that.
Anonymous | 8/24/2009 - 1:15pm
For what it's worth, I'm also touched by your daughter's courage, clarity, and conviction. Pat yourself many times on the back ''for raising such a great kid.''
Compassion was the right response. You helped the young woman in what initially seemed an urgent situation, and perhaps you also helped her long term. She knew you were upset about the decision she had made, yet you put your feelings aside and put her needs first. One can hope she learned a valuable lesson that night.  
Anonymous | 8/24/2009 - 11:58am
Valerie,
You defintely did the right thing by helping her and showing her compassion. It was obvious that you did not condone what she did. It is hard. Your daughter will also learn about compassion and the value of life because of her friend s abortion.
Anonymous | 8/24/2009 - 11:44am
Thank you for having the courage to tell your story.  It is only through true reconciliation that we will ever be able to protect and nourish all life.  Wishing you the peace of Christ.
Anonymous | 8/24/2009 - 11:06am
Thank you for sharing this heart- wrenching story.  I suspect to some extent, every one of your reactions were shared – sometimes fleeting, sometimes more enduringly – with each of us as we read the article.
So often, the role of the father of the baby in these kinds of stories fits neatly into a paragraph.  He too will need to live his life knowing about the termination of his child’s life.  There is no other way to summarize stories such as these as anything but a tragedy.
A girl slightly younger than my daughter who is a member of our congregation had a baby last year out of wedlock.  She was barely out of high school at the time.  When I saw her, her Mother and sister in church yesterday, I thought again how courageous the entire family had been to bring this child, not only into the world, but into our family of faith and challenge those of us who might judge. 
I think our tendency to convict others is a human one, and one that Jesus taught us to temper.  I know I am unable to free myself fully from applying my standards of behavior and convictions against the actions of others.  And so I must rely on the redemption of Jesus Christ and be thankful for teachers  such as you who help me make this journey.
Anonymous | 8/24/2009 - 10:16am
Valerie, you did, in the end, act as Jesus would in this tragic situation.  When abortion is illegal, the same situation is more dire and many young women who have had abortions have even more trouble getting medical care.
 
Abortion is a symptom of the sickness of society.  It is unnatural that both young people consider themselves still to be children, rather than full grown members of the species.  Society should accomodate both their educations and the pregnancy.  If such an avenue existed, where the expectation was that having both - and a wedding to boot - was the rule you would find young people acting more responsibly about sex.  Sadly, we have kept young people in their childbearing prime as continual children, largely for economic reasons and because we treat them like pets.
Anonymous | 8/24/2009 - 8:05am
Dear Valerie,
As it happens, the Gospel of John tells us exactly "what would Jesus do" regarding associating with sinners...in Chapter 8, verses 1-11.  After answering the question put to him by people outraged by a sinner: "What do you have to say about the case?", Jesus  said: "Let the man among you who has no sin be the first to cast a stone at her."  The audience, John tells us, drifted away, one by one, beginning with the elders.  "This left him alone with the woman, who continued to stand there before him."  Jesus said to her, "Has no one condemned you?"  "No one, sir."  Jesus said, "Nor do I condemn you.  You may go.  But from now on, avoid this sin." 
John doesn't mention whether Jesus offered her a cup of tea, but it seems to me that the spirit of Jesus was with you when you did...
Anonymous | 8/24/2009 - 8:25am
Christ is among us. He is and he will be. So, the question 'what would Jesus do' is really much less interesting to me than the question 'what is Jesus doing and why is he doing it?' Why did he send you this young woman?