Sitting in the college dorm my sophomore year, I heard the words I never thought I would hear: 'I'm Pregnant.' Tears started falling down Jessica's cheeks as she told me the news.
'What?' I replied. 'I'm pregnant,' she repeated while cupping her face in disbelief. I paused for a few moments to digest what she was telling me. I pulled Jessica to me, and said the only thing I could think of: 'It's going to be okay.'
But, honesty . . . I didn't know if it was going to be okay.
I was scared. Scared for her. Scared for the baby . . .
A Flood of Emotions
What were we going to do? Her parents were going to FLIP-OUT! Jason, her boyfriend, did he know? How were they going to support a baby? (Jessica worked for minimum wage at the Rec Plex, the campus gym!?) And what about her Sophomore year? Her life? Her plans for the future?
I never thought this moment would ever happen to someone in my life. This seemed to be something you see only in some 'After-School Special' or some reality tv show – not to my friend. Not to me! But here it was.
It seemed like in one moment, our sophomore year, (our whole life) was changed forever. Two minutes ago we were thinking about cute boys, classes, and our plans for spring break. Now I had to think about baby diapers, stretch marks, and helping Jessica face the possible ridicule and judgment of our peers.
How was I supposed to love and support her? The selfish part of me didn't want to face this. But the only thing I knew was that my Catholic faith asked me to take courage and stand beside my friend, to believe that God would work it out, and to hope in His promises . . . But sometimes things don't end as you think it should.
A Choice. A Life. A Moment.
The moment I heard that Jessica was on her way to an abortion clinic, my stomach sank. 'Hail Mary, full of Grace the Lord is with you . . .' My roommate and I sat on our bunk beds storming heaven in prayer – 'Please God don't let her go through with this. Please help her.” But it was too late. Jessica had terminated the pregnancy.
Conflicted by the whole event, Jessica asked us not to talk about it. Knowing our strong Christian beliefs, she didn't want us to judge her. It seemed easier for her to just not think about it, to act like it didn't happen. Being a good friend, I wanted to respect her wishes. But if I could go back to me at nineteen years old, this is what I wish I would have done for my friend:
How to Support a Friend Considering Abortion
- Encourage them to seek help. Jessica was too ashamed and afraid to tell her parents. But even with the support of college friends, it wasn’t enough. We are not called to carry our crosses alone. Even Christ had Simon to carry the cross for Him when He couldn't. Encourage your friend to reach out to a parent, youth minister, or trusted adult. There are so many people who want to love and help them.
- Shame and fear: Satan's powerful tools. Satan is known in scriptures as the liar and the accuser. He deceives us into believing that we have messed up so bad that their is no hope. For Jessica, terminating the pregnancy seemed like the only option. Remind your friend that 'Love covers a multitude of sins.' (1 Peter 4) In Christ, there is no fear . . . Love casts out all fear. Our Lord is waiting and wants to be with them through this. He loves them, and He wants nothing but their well-being.
- Compassion and Truth. Pope Benedict XVI once said: 'Truth without love is blind. But love without truth is empty.' We must cling to both with our friends. Jessica needed a group of cheerleaders in her corner to love and support her. But she needed truth too. I knew in my gut that Jessica was thinking about an abortion, but I never had the courage to talk to her about it. I simply thought it was 'her life.' But as Catholics, we are called to love our friends enough to lead them to truth, to encourage them to choose life. Do not be afraid to tell your friend there are more options. Pray for courage in these times to speak truth with love.
- Turn to prayer. The best way we can support our friends is to stand in the gap and pray. There is great power in prayer. Recently, I received a text from a youth minister who shared that one of her youth was thinking of an abortion. There were Catholic friends all around the U.S. praying for this girl without her knowing it . . . She ended up keeping the baby. Pray is powerful.
- Hope. Cling to hope and remember your faith. No matter how bad things seem or how scared we are, we have a God who entered into sin, pain, fear, and death – and overcame them. Our Lord will always triumph. There is always hope. There is always new life even in the suffering. We as Catholics, have to be a witness to hope for our friends. I have two friends who had a child out of marriage and kept the baby. Neither say it was easy, but both see how God brought good out of that time.
More Than an Issue
For many, the Pro-life and Pro-choice debate is limited to a political issue or social concern. But for those of us who know a person who has suffered an abortion, it is a personal trauma, a deep loss that will effect these women's lives forever.
My roommate and I named Jessica's baby for her, Kenneth Michael. We spent the whole year praying for Kenneth. Because regardless of what Jessica knows, she has a saint in heaven praying for her.
Let’s join Kenneth Michael to pray for the wisdom and courage to stand by our friends in their need, walking with them in compassion (even through fear and suffering), to choose life.