Busted Halo
feature: politics & culture
July 9th, 2014

My Choice and Hers


A memorial to unborn children outside a Catholic church in Alexandria, Virginia. (CNS photo/Nancy Phelan Wiechec)

A memorial to unborn children outside a Catholic church in Alexandria, Virginia. (CNS photo/Nancy Phelan Wiechec)

This is a hard article for me to write. It’s about one of the worst things I’ve ever done, or not done, actually. In advance, I want to tell the mother in the story that I’m sorry for being too scared. I’m sorry for being too selfish. I’m sorry for who you lost.

When I was in high school, often I was afraid to rock the boat. I didn’t want to make waves or make anyone mad. So when I heard a girl in one of my classes quietly saying that she was pregnant, I was caught. I knew what I should do, but that didn’t make it appealing.

I am pro-life, in theory at least. But like many people, when I have to sacrifice for my convictions, often I turn away. I was unsure what to say because I hadn’t talked to a girl in that situation before, although there were teenage mothers with wonderful children at my school. I wasn’t directly involved in the conversation, but all I could muster was a weak, “What are you going to name your baby?”

She looked at me with an uncomfortable giggle and didn’t really respond. I’m not stupid. I knew that there was a chance she was considering abortion, but I was afraid of her. I was afraid of my fellow students. I was afraid of retaliation, of judgment. I knew that it wasn’t impossible to try to speak with her about this, to offer her contacts and resources, but I kept putting it off, telling myself I would do it when the moment was more convenient or less awkward. Then I told myself I would wait until she started to show, because maybe she wasn’t really pregnant. But deep down I knew the truth.

In college, I have stood up for what I believe about abortion, but far too rarely. I guess it’s my old “don’t rock the boat” mode creeping in again; but God doesn’t call us to survive, He calls us to live for Him.

A few months later, I overheard her talking again. This time, though, she was describing her abortion. I knew that it was too late, and that I had missed my chance.

I didn’t know what to do after that. I went through the mechanics of an appropriate response. I confessed this to the priest. My penance was to tell her about the pregnancy resources that our parish offered. I was still too afraid to tell her in person, so at the end of class on the last day of school I gave her a letter with contact information for the pregnancy resource center. Then I left.

I haven’t considered her situation and her baby as much as I thought I would, although it rises up in my mind from time to time. The previous year, I went to the March for Life. I smiled and carried posters. I felt like I was doing something. But as time passed, I became less brave. In college, I have stood up for what I believe about abortion, but far too rarely. I guess it’s my old “don’t rock the boat” mode creeping in again; but God doesn’t call us to survive, He calls us to live for Him.

I have gone to abortion clinics and prayed a few times with the Students for Life Club at my college. Most colleges have organizations like this, and if yours doesn’t, I would urge you to make contact with the national organization to get connected with resources.

But there is still that baby. There is the knowledge of the little life that I could have at least tried to save. There is the knowledge of the hurting mother, a scared girl living in a world that wanted to punish her for being pregnant by making her kill her child. I didn’t know her well, but I know that she didn’t have many resources and didn’t know where to turn. I know that the world around her made abortion seem like the only logical option.

I know that God forgives, and I know that I am forgiven. But my point is this: If I, a mere bystander, still carry this with me, how much more must it haunt her? How much more must she feel sadness and loneliness? How many women like her must face life without people who will support them? With people who will shame them? How many more women live with a scarlet letter, and aren’t praised for choosing life and making one of the hardest, most beautiful, most courageous decisions that a woman can make?

I don’t know the answer to these questions. I wish I did. I wish I could say that I will always be brave now. My best answer is that I will try. I will fail at times, and at times I will make the right decision. But I will always remember that baby and the simple impact of standing up or sitting down.

The Author : Laura Stephens
Laura Stephens is a student at the College of William & Mary. She loves her family, friends, social justice and movies. She's looking for God and though she can get discouraged along the way, she knows He's always there with a laugh and a hug to pick her up when she falls.
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  • SadMan

    Where do I start? The passive-aggressiveness? The slut-shaming? The PRIDE?

    You don’t specify, but you apparently weren’t close to the young woman. Certainly not close enough to discuss her pregnancy face to face. So you probably didn’t know the young woman’s story. Perhaps the child had a congenital defect. Or perhaps the young woman decided she wasn’t emotionally, fiscally, or spiritually ready to be a parent. We’ll likely never know.

    But you decide “my penance” (for what, exactly? Minding your own business?) was to give her a letter about pregnancy resources. You didn’t even have the courage to speak to her face-to-face, much less ask how she was.

    Then you slut-shame the other woman. Or attempt to. By projecting YOUR attitudes on the other woman, about guilt and shame: “how much more must it haunt her? How much more must she feel sadness and loneliness? How many women like her must face life without people who will support them? With people who will shame them? How many more women live with a scarlet letter, and aren’t praised for choosing life and making one of the hardest, most beautiful, most courageous decisions that a woman can make?”

    That is the sin of PRIDE. Believing you know best. Believing your feelings, thoughts, guilt, shame are RIGHT, and others MUST feel the same way you do.

    Throughout the letter, I got no sense of compassion from you. No attempt to understand what the young woman went through. No compassion for the difficult decisions the young woman faced. Just a “woe is me” for not butting into a situation which was none of your business.

  • YaraGreyjoy

    That sheepishness about expressing your opinion was well founded – since when are you the arbiter of other people’s lives? Her decision whether or not to have an abortion is a matter solely between her, her conscience, her doctor & her god if indeed she has one.

    Usually Catholics are pretty good with adhering to the code of we are all solely responsible for our own behaviors/sins/etc without pushing our religious beliefs on others. Doesn’t it bother you as a woman that it seems the only time Catholics presume to feel it’s their job to tell someone they’re in moral peril when abortion rears it’s head? You are inserting yourself into a situation that you have no business in. Unbelievable.

  • jstewa12

    When will you come to understand that there is no excuse for projecting “guilt” to spare yourself from it… especially when is NOT deserved. The young woman who chose to terminate her pregnancy is not guilty unless SHE felt guilty, and the last thing she needed was another teenage girl making her already difficult decision even more so.
    Against abortion? Don’t have one. Against having someone else impose THEIR beliefs on you? Don’t presume to be closer to God than they are. Stand by your friends as they face obstacles in their lives, but don’t presume to know better than they.

    • moxie1956 .

      When the rich man asked Jesus what he needed to do to get into heaven, having kept all of the commandments, Jesus didn’t say, “Well, I hate to impose my beliefs on you. I don’t mean to presume I’m closer to God than you are. You know, I’m just going to be your friend as you ponder your situation, because certainly I do not presume to know better than you.” No, of course that isn’t how He answered, that would be preposterous! Jesus told the rich man to go and sell everything he had, give the money to the poor, and come follow Him. It was the rich man who walked away, shaking his head. Jesus let him walk away; He didn’t run after him and negotiate an accommodation to the rich man’s carnality.
      “…not guilty unless SHE felt guilty…” Now, there is a new definition of guilt! Some persons conscience is so seared, they lack the capacity or the receptivity to feeling guilt, but that does not mean they are not! Try going to court as the defendant, be it traffic, litigation, or criminal charges, & simply tell the judge you are not guilty because you don’t feel guilty.
      There is guilt because there are laws and morals and ethics. For the follower of Christ, those are found in Scripture & we are and will be held accountable regardless of how we feel.

      • jstewa12

        Operative words here: “When the rich man ASKED Jesus”. At NO point in this article did the pregnant young woman ASK for the author’s opinion or advice. The whole gist of the story was that she didn’t butt in when she wasn’t asked! She wasn’t even involved in the conversation,.. she “overheard”, and that later “SHE had missed HER chance”. The author twisted someone else’s life choices into a story about HERSELF.
        FURTHERMORE, is there any indication in the Bible that Jesus felt guilty for not stepping in and doing any more to see that the rich man got to heaven?
        Guilt can be defined differently when the act in question is not recognized uniformly between “church & state”, and unless I’m mistaken, secular law allows for the termination of pregnancies under certain circumstances, and secular law is the ONLY law that one person may impose on another in our society.
        Your disingenuous remarks about traffic laws reveal a contempt for the separation between church and state. In this demented moment of the Roberts court, we may yet see someone try to claim that a traffic violation is unenforceable because it violates their religion, but I doubt even Sam Alito would have the gall to rule in their favor.

      • moxie1956 .

        Speaking of twisted, your arguments are themselves convoluted. Aristotle or anyone who has a basic working knowledge of identifying fallacies would have a hayday picking apart your poor logic. It would be worth the time and effort if the other is teachable, but something tells me you are not, so I’ll leave you be and prayerfully hope that God’s Light & Truth will eventually prevail in your life. Take care.

      • YaraGreyjoy

        So you don’t believe we are all responsible for our own decisions – you might consider something a sin, you really think it’s “your job” to give unsolicited moral advice? Only with abortion does this policing of others ever come up – we don’t sit here wringing our hands over not interjecting your opinions regarding the perceived sins of others: what if they don’t believe as you do? Would you enjoy someone from another religion informing you you’re going to hell b/c you live your own life & not by their particular moral code?

      • aislingthecraic

        I’ve been on hiatus so unable to answer. 1. I DO believe all are responsible for their own actions. 2. I DO believe it is my job to give unsolicited moral advice…more on this later. 3. It is NOT only w/abortion that this policing of others ever comes up. 4. Of course, many, many do not believe as I do, nor I as they do. e.g., That doesn’t stop the Mormons or Jehovah Witness folks from knocking at my front unsolicited. 5. I have not enjoyed ppl from other religions OR from Christianity (b4 I became a follower of Christ) telling me I was going to hell because of the way I was choosing to live my life.
        Now, back to #2. My beliefs as a dye-in-the-wool Christian motivate me to reach out to others who are in danger (yes, according to my biblical beliefs). If I saw someone just about to get burned or just about to commit suicide, I’d rush to prevent the dangerous behavior. It is the other person’s prerogative to accept or reject my um, ahem, ‘interjections.’ If real danger exists, then I very well may forego the courtesy of good manners and jump to rescue. However, under normal circumstances, when engaged in a mature conversation with someone, I respectfully, tactfully, but firmly present the Gospel in LOVE. I do not shove it down their throats. They, in turn, tell me their opinions on whatever I’ve said. It’s okay, even if they tell me to go to hell. After all, they are responsible for their own actions.

  • Daniel Prays

    Good for you for simply and honestly sharing your testimony, Ms. Stephens. It takes courage to make oneself vulnerable by being this real! This is one of the most beautiful and significant articles I’ve read on the Busted Halo site. Many, many people have found themselves in similar situations to the one you describe here. It IS hard to live out our Christian faith and values. We should pray God grant us the grace to let go of the need to be liked and approved of — hey, I understand it well — and ask the Holy Spirit to help us kindly speak “a word in due season” (Proverbs 15:23) when people need to hear it.

    • JuliePurple

      Do remember that sometimes that need to be liked and approved of is the only thing that keeps someone from doing something inadvisable.

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