The following is an anonymous essay from a friend who is walking with his adult daughter through the aftermath of a rape that resulted in a shocking pregnancy.
My daughter was raped. She had agency over how she responded to the pregnancy that followed. She’s choosing life.
Not all Christians who believe abortion is a sin are triumphantly celebrating the impending Supreme Court ruling. Some are lying low, hopeful and humbly grateful, but unconvinced that the triumph of moralism in politics is the opportunity for righteousness that others predict. Some have themselves walked alone into the valley of the shadow of abortion and have emerged holding the hand of a child.
Evangelicals who talk about abortion in flippant ways, stigmatizing those who are solemn about the outcome of the Supreme Court, sound like people who have never had a wave of horror wash over them when a pregnancy was announced. Have they never experienced the irresistible thought piercing their mind, “I could just fix this by ending it,” despite their high view of life?
Some who oppose abortion have themselves been on the edge of a hellish decision, the abyss of finality laying below, and have chosen life over death. Even though the call to terminate the pregnancy may have been banished like a demonic goblin to the darkest parts of hell, the sulfuric aura still lingers in their trembling souls. Shaken and crying in the doctor’s office at the news of an unexpected, unwanted pregnancy, they felt how the immediate solution, just out of their reach by their own moral convictions, would ease the weights on them in the coming months and years. Gasping for breath against the panic attack of the news of a pregnancy, those who chose life understand how, for a woman who finds herself flailing in the void with the ground completely disintegrating beneath her, the end-it-now choice proposed by the compassionate nurse guiding her hyperventilation to slower and deeper breaths, seems irresistible and wise. She might even sigh with heartfelt gratitude for the option.
But, of course, for the Christian woman it is not a wise choice. Actually, between her and her God there is only one right choice, free though she may be to choose otherwise. And there are many women, Christian and non-Christian alike, who have made the choice to preserve the life of the baby in the womb of their self-autonomy, who do not feel the euphoria of the political pro-life movement even though many of them strongly believe that the only wise choice is always life. Many even believe in some forms of legislation that shepherd women to the right choice, but they are not in the victory parade with politicians, activists, and moralists who believe a great conquest has happened just because choice is potentially removed from thousands of women.
These mothers freely made a choice. A choice for life. When given options other than life, they found deep within themselves a humanity that was God-like, sacrificial, bold, and empowering. They chose to have a baby, to bring into the world a new creation. Out of their void, they would form something new. Choice empowered them.
But for a dark moment they could identify with the appeal of choosing abortion, and it didn’t feel murderous; it felt like a shocking, desperate gasp for breath when all their dreams collapsed, and the air was sucked out of their world with one simple urine test. It was not a calculating me-first sensation that smashed them literally to the ground, causing others in the room to physically lift them back into a chair.
It was a survival instinct.
In many cases, thoughts of ending the pregnancy were tied to the God-given sense of justice that rattled their bodies. The pregnancy, it seemed, was an assault after an assault. In that moment, however brief, a feeling was germinated that would flower into gracious and humble expressions later: a profound sense of sympathy for women without grounded families, without resources, without options, without moral convictions, and without a sense of a loving God to immediately call upon. The only thing they have, or had, is choice. And the women who chose life take no pleasure in taking choice away.
When disempowered and scared, choice is an instant fortifier. In the dread of the moment when the fabric of one’s life is limp and torn, choice stiffens the resolve and humanizes the victim. Many choose to end it all; others choose a new beginning. In saving a life, they have started a long, life-saving change on themselves. They have voluntarily constrained their own choice on this subject forever, yet many new choices, some very hard, still lay in front of them. For those who choose to end their pregnancy, they choose choice itself at the expense of a life.
Perhaps this Supreme Court decision is life-saving. For the sake of argument, we might assume that fewer abortions will actually take place as a result of this decision. But life saving decisions do not have to be celebrated triumphantly and, indeed, often should not be. How twisted it would be to celebrate the life-giving decision to amputate a child’s gangrenous legs with a dance! Sometimes a life-saving change of course requires a humble pause.
What have we lost in this gain? What has actually happened? What is new? What is old that will never be again?
We are told that it was at the public scene of Golgotha where Jesus “canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness. . .took it away, nailing it to the cross” and “disarmed the powers and authorities, making a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.” The victory was historic. Yet even he lay silently dead for three long, speechless days before resurrecting without fanfare, mistaken as a gardener, and revealing himself little by little to his faltering disciples. This is how he began to build an eternal kingdom of light and glory. He triumphed without triumphalism. Two thousand years later those of us in that kingdom are still not in party-mode. We triumph over evil, finding new life in quiet, irresistible growth.
It is the deep conviction of many mothers that, because Jesus gave up his life to die for them, they are empowered to choose life over death in the doctor’s office. And yet they are grateful that they had the choice. It empowered them to voluntarily offer to their God a dying-of-self and life for another. When death was a tempting option, they worshiped God with life.
Such women sympathize with the moral angst of the righteous over a nation consumed with lust and self-gratification, the deification of the individual over righteousness and selflessness. They believe that human passions should be constrained and that good government does limit choice for the governed. But they quietly sympathize, with deeply felt caveats, with those who say “My body, my choice.” They would tell the clamoring triumphant masses, “My emotions, my choice.”
These women do not see a political victory or defeat in this historic moment. Instead they see a nation shocked into a foreboding expectancy of what is yet to come. Many will panic and choose death. Many others will celebrate as if a long-awaited child has been born. These women choose contrite hope, chastened by experience and seasoned with grace.
The crime is done. The seed was planted. A choice was made. And now we await a precious birth. There is no triumph. There is only love. Worship has begun, and sorrow is transforming incrementally into joy. Gut wrenching pain is morphing into celebration.
When our neighbors see and hear us talking about my daughter’s choice for life, they will see a family chastened out of triumphalism and into contrite worship. And, awaiting my grandchild who arrives any day, eager joy.