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.

Laura Stephens

Laura Stephens

Laura Stephens is a graduate of the College of William and Mary and is studying to become a physician assistant at DeSales University. She thinks God, her family, her friends, Catholic Social Teaching, writing, movies, cooking, and doing yoga are pretty awesome.