If you had asked me seven years ago if I was pro-life, I would have automatically said, “Personally, yes, but politically, I’m pro-choice.” I took the comfortable position, the position that didn’t impose my beliefs on anyone else. I was able to take this stance because I knew nothing about abortion statistics, and because I had two major misconceptions about what it meant to be pro-life:
- Pro-life was a political position, not something required by my faith.
- Pro-life meant you only cared for the rights of the unborn.
I grew up in a devout Catholic family that fiercely valued the dignity of all human life, which is why a narrow pro-life stance didn’t appeal to me. Numerous family members were patriots for the most vulnerable — the poor, the uneducated, orphans, the hungry, the sick, the dying, the lonely, the homeless, immigrants and refugees, the abused. Abortion, though, was not something that came up in conversation, other than to reiterate that it was wrong. So inadvertently, it became a “back burner” issue in my mind. Politics, culture, and media perpetuated the belief that to be “pro-life” meant that you only cared about the rights of the unborn, rather than protecting the rights of ALL human life. Unbeknownst to me, the Catholic Church had an all encompassing definition:
“Human life is sacred because from its beginning it involves the creative action of God and it remains forever in a special relationship with the Creator, who is its sole end. God alone is the Lord of life from its beginning until its end: no one can under any circumstance claim for himself the right directly to destroy an innocent human being” (CCC 2258).
Although the Church’s interpretation of what it means to be pro-life is so inclusive and wholistic, I had the misconception that a “pro-life advocate” was an ultra conservative person who only cared about abortion and stopped advocating for people after they were born. I never wanted to be one of those people so when it came to abortion, I stuck with the “personally, I’m pro-life, but politically, I’m pro-choice” position. But deep down, I knew I needed to make a decision; I couldn’t keep my foot in both worlds. And then, relationships challenged me to see the statistics behind the pro-life debate. As He so often does, God put people in my life who helped me see the truth and showed me the real souls affected by abortion. Because of those people, I no longer personally disagree and remain politically neutral on pro-life issues.
My first encounter with the harsh realities of abortion was when one of my friends told me she had one. I was 20 at the time, and Emma was 21. She was a beautiful, joyful woman, and a fierce advocate for all kinds of life — from plants to animals to humans. More than anything, Emma loved babies. One day, Emma and I were talking. She kept holding her stomach and looking as though she was in pain. I kept asking what was wrong, and finally I asked, “Are you pregnant?” Her response was almost inaudible: “Not anymore.” I was at a loss for words; no one prepares you for a situation like that. So I did the only thing I knew to do — I hugged her and told her I was so sorry she had to go through that. She was confused and upset when I offered her sympathy instead of condemnation. She knew what she’d done was wrong and expected me to be the one to scorn her. But I couldn’t. I knew Emma needed unconditional love more than anything in that moment. When I left work that night, I cried for her, for her baby, for the evilness of abortion. I cried for almost an hour. Several months later, the day after Mother’s Day, the two of us were talking. I asked how her day had been, and with tears in her eyes, she said, “I celebrated my mom all day, but I couldn’t help but think of the fact that I should have had people celebrating my motherhood. I should have a baby right now, but I don’t because I was too afraid.” Though my heart was moved, my position on abortion did not change because I still worried I would be imposing my personal beliefs upon her. I thought that if I tried to help by offering a choice, I was being benevolent instead of seeing that I was neglecting so many other people — the mother, the child, the family.
Then Michael came into the picture. Over time, Michael would become a dear friend of mine, and someone who, through the power of invitation, helped me embrace the fullness of the Church’s teaching against abortion and see the pro-life movement for what it really is.
When I first met Michael, I was still growing in my faith and was filled with many questions about the teachings of our faith, specifically whether or not abortion should be allowed in the case of rape. I even doubted the goodness of the pro-life movement. Michael was patient and always willing to answer my questions, and his unwavering position made me wonder if perhaps I was looking at things in the wrong light. Instead of judging me or lecturing me, he continually invited me to become more involved in the pro-life movement. When Michael invited me to attend a Right for Life banquet, I reluctantly accepted, thinking I would only encounter people at the event who cared more about politics than people, who only cared about wining and dining. But I was wrong. Most of the people were young and of life with a passion; there was a joy that filled the room. Something stirred within me that night, but I was still unconvinced.
Then, Michael encouraged me to go to the March for Life. There, he promised, I would truly see what this movement was all about. So, I went to the March for Life. I marveled not only at my friends’ joy and excitement, but at the hundreds of thousands of people who were marching in D.C. The atmosphere was void of bitterness, judgement, and condemnation. Love was present. Joy was tangible. Perhaps, I thought, there was something to this movement after all.
It was a cold February night. I stood in my friend’s kitchen talking to his parents. Somehow, the topic of abortion came up. He looked at me and asked, “So what’s the democrat argument for not voting against abortion?” At first I thought he was being insincere, but he genuinely wanted to know. So, I explained what I’d heard for so many years from so many people, something that had been ingrained in me: “There are many pro-life issues, you shouldn’t single issue vote.” He sighed, and I’ll never forget the look of confusion and pain on his face. “So they’re still saying that?” he asked, sounding defeated. I nodded. I felt uncomfortable, ashamed.
And then, he said something I’ll never forget:
“If there was a president of a foreign country who shot thousands of people every day, we would seek to help them. There’s not a single person—democrat or republican—who would elect that person to be the President of the United States. And yet, because we can’t see them, because they’re unborn, we shield our eyes and pretend there are more important issues. That’s insane.”
He didn’t say it with anger, but rather, with sorrow. Then he started sharing statistics—statistics I had never heard before—about how many innocent babies are killed each day, each year. Never with bitterness, never with judgement; he just laid it all out.
- Since Roe vs. Wade, over 58 million babies have been aborted.
- 1.1 million babies are aborted in the U.S. each year.
- Nearly 1 in 4 (22%) of pregnancies end in abortion.
- 51% of abortions are performed on women less than 25 years of age.
- Approximately 1/3 of American women have had an abortion by age 45.
- Abortion disproportionately affects black and Hispanic women.
I thought I was going to throw up. I was biting back tears. I wanted to run away.
Somewhere from the living room we all heard Mr. Smith’s youngest son crying. They’d been so careful to make sure he was asleep, but somehow he’d been in there all along, listening in. The conversation ended and my heart broke into a thousand pieces as I saw a 7-year-old comprehend the graveness of abortion better than most adults did.
My heart was changed forever.
On one of my trips to the March for Life, I began talking to Olivia, a woman who was several years older than me. I told her about my whole journey with the pro-life movement, about my friend, Emma. She listened earnestly and thanked me for sharing. When we got to the hotel, I found out I was sharing a room with Olivia. As we got ready for bed, she suddenly looked up and said to me, “I have to tell you something.” I nodded and listened as Olivia told me that she, too, had an abortion; that she had struggled with depression and alcoholism for many years until she finally accepted God’s forgiveness and learned to forgive herself. She told me how she often sat in the pew in silence, wishing there was a ministry for women who had abortions at her church so they didn’t have to suffer alone. That year at the March for Life, I marched for Olivia and her unborn baby, and for all women who silently suffer from the horrors of abortions.
Since that night, Olivia has found the courage to share her story with hundreds of people. One night, as I listened to her share her story with a group of teens, she mentioned that I helped her find the courage to talk about her experience. I looked up, surprised, and tears filled my eyes. Olivia went on to say that when I told her about Emma and how I embraced her rather than condemned her, she knew she could trust me with her story. I have never been more honored. Olivia is one of the most holy, courageous people I know—she has taught me the power of forgiveness, the power of love, the power of sympathy. Her story has inspired other women to no longer remain silent.
Thanks to these four people, I’ve learned that being pro-life is so much more than protecting an unborn child: it’s about protecting mothers, fathers, and the family. When one person’s life is disposable, all life becomes disposable. So yes, while the pro-life movement encompasses more than just the issue of abortion, abortion is an issue of grave importance and our faith demands we take action against it.
I am not naive in thinking that overturning Roe vs. Wade will fix everything. We have a lot of work to do, and we must begin by being pro-life every single day. We must uphold the dignity of every person—we must welcome the stranger; we must stand with the vulnerable; we cannot degrade women; we cannot ignore the poor and forgotten members of our society, the immigrants and refugees, those who are dying, the addicted and abused, and the most vulnerable—those in the womb. Being pro-life is not a march or a movement, it is a way of life. It is not just a personal sentiment, but a call that demands we recognize the goodness of God in every human being and seek to protect life at all costs.
**Names have been changed to protect people’s’ identities.**