An Honest Conversation About Abortion that Asks Us Not to Turn Away — from anyone: The Emmaus Option

When I get the message that Alima*  wants an abortion, it feels like all the air got vacuumed out of my lungs.

But I get it.

I once sat in a doctor’s office and the atomic blast of my own pregnancy test ripped through me and I’m telling you, it was impossible to breathe through the shockwaves, the thermal heat.

I’ve sat with Alima in Iraq, in the room where she, her husband, her children slept on the floor through the winter. I’d watched her rock her sick child. I’d watched her eyes howl, heard the raw ache in her as she told me how ISIS began the blood bath genocide of her people. 

One year ago this week.

“I will never forget what happened,” Murad Aloo said, who was there that day last August, when ISIS opened fire on the Yazidi people at the base of Sinjar mountain.  “I saw mothers leaving their daughters behind, fearing for their own lives. I saw women and men being slaughtered, even pregnant women.”

There are a thousand ways to slaughter pregnant women.   

One year later, one disorienting ride around the sun, in the horrific aftermath of that genocide, Alima, looks around at a warring world, ISIS still slashing and burning its way across the belly of the Middle East —  and she can sense it, what feels like hopeless desolation implanting right into the inner walls of her.

A string of nights, I can’t sleep, thinking of Alima, thinking of her faced — strangled — with this impossible choice. First, she’s lived through the nightmarish holocaust choice to decide what child to leave behind as ISIS fires and decapitates and leaves a wake of bloody rivers that no one can seem to wake up and escape from —

and now what feels like this second impossible choice.

Abortion isn’t so much about a woman having a choicebut a woman feeling like she has no choice at all.

*  *   *

The first words I heard after I sat there reeling over those pink strips on my pregnancy test were:

“Have you thought about an abortion?”

The doctor, she was just trying to open a door. The room has no oxygen.

I’m a third-year university student. Starting my third week, of my third year. Just blown out the candles on my 21st birthday cake.

Married only a whole shaky 90 days. 

Sheer terror can make people feel like all they have is terrible choices.

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I had bent over the tiles of the doctor’s office like I might hurl.

Like I might lose everything.

The autumn leaves, they’d clung to the rain splattered window.

It’s not like I saw the doctor spin her chair or saw her lean forward. I just heard the mechanics of her rotation, the horrible spinning of everything.

“Really — have you thought about an abortion?”

For one lifelong moment, the atoms of everything split and spun and hung.

I couldn’t get out of the room — an atomic bomb had dropped, vaporized the future, titanic forces ripping through dreams, scalding heat liquefying everything, and  there was no way out.

It felt like there was no way out. 

 *  *  *

I am not sure when I realized that I would best describe myself as thoroughly Pro-Woman: pro-woman in utero, pro-woman in a hard place.

Because ultimately — maybe that’s the point: How can we be Pro-Human — regardless of the environment of the human?  How do we forge a way forward, that is the most authentically human — for both the human in utero and the human in a hard place

It might be far more difficult, incredibly time-intensive, and profoundly challenging, but being for all human beings — is what it means to be authentically human.

The time has come to be done with either/or thinking and champion both/and thinking — being for both humans in utero and humans in crisis.… That’s what this generation is about — not turning a blind eye to any distress of any human anywhere.

This is the generation that’s ready to do whatever it takes to work toward the mutual flourishing of all humans, in all places — in utero and in crisis

And as much as it is sometimes bandied about that the the abortion debate is about “values” rather than “facts”  — the reality is that an authentic discussion around mutual human flourishing is about sound values based on scientific facts. We have to get our facts right so that we can get our values right. Thus, determining the scientific fact of when human life truly begins — is the beginning of a truly honest discussion… that is the beginning of the mutual flourishing of all human beings. 

So maybe, ultimately, the question is: Is the unborn one of us? Are the pre-born — are they human beings like us?

The science textbooks in our universities testify to the facts: Based on universally accepted scientific criteria, “a zygote — an embryo, is the beginning of a new human being.”

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Humans do not merely come from an zygote. Humans were once actually an actual zygote. 

Humans do not merely come from a fetus. Humans were once actually an actual fetus.

No one says, “We are having a fetus!” — because we ultimately know we’re having a baby — we are carrying a human being. 

We may be a smaller human in utero — but the size of a human being has never determined value of a human being. 

We may be a less developed human in utero — but the developmental level of a human being has never determined that one has less worth as a human being. 

We may be in a particular environment as a human in utero — but where a human being is has never determined whether one was respected as a human being. 

 We may be more dependent as a human in utero —- but being dependent on another human being for life has never determined that anyone can simply end your life.  [see Stephen Schwarz‘s SLED.]

And because the life of the human in utero matters —- never negates how the life of a woman in crisis matters. 

Like  when twitter streams and streets fill with this cry that Black Lives Matter. 

It doesn’t mean that all other lives don’t matter, it doesn’t mean a negating of anyone else’s life — it simply means that in this moment, in the face of great loss, we have the humanity to listen to real voices and say Black Lives Matter.

Saying one person’s life matters — doesn’t mean someone else’s life doesn’t matter. Or that only their lives matter —- but their lives equally matter too.

In 2012, New York City had more black babies killed by abortions (31,328) than there were born (24,758).  Sit with that. That number of black babies accounted for almost half of all abortions in New York City. More blacks aborted than were born. Three American university researchers discovered that Planned Parenthood’s “primary consideration in placement of centres is not poverty but the percentage of blacks in the area.”  Do we really believe #BlackLivesMatter? 

Then human black lives in the womb matter. 

And when we say that Human Life in the Womb Matters — it doesn’t mean then that the lives of Women in hard places don’t matter. 

When we say that Womb Lives Matter — it doesn’t for one iota of a moment mean that women’s lives don’t count, don’t have a voice, don’t matter. When we say that Womb Lives Matter, we aren’t saying that only pre-born people matter and women don’t —- we are saying that pre-born people matter equally too.

It’s part of the DNA of true social justice:  Humanity believes in mutual human flourishing — in the flourishing of all human beings. 

History, genocides, Nazism, racism, haven’t they all proved at the very least this to humanity: It’s when we dehumanize anyone, that we can legitimize anything. 

*   *   *

The networks all censored it this week, because the entire 5th video was too graphic — the most gruesome one yet.

Graphic footage of pristine organs, a heart, a stomach, kidney — and a hand, a foot, legs —  extracted from a 20-week-old aborted baby.

“It was a twin,” an employee says as she retrieves the body from the refrigerator.

Clearly developed hands and feet are seen in the dish, as the investigator pulls out a lung with a pair of tweezers.

“If we alter our process, and we are able to obtain intact fetal cadavers, we can make it part of the budget” to cover “dissections” and “splitting the specimens into different shipments,” the director of research for Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast, Melissa Farrell, says. “It’s all just a matter of line items.”

Line items?

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Workers in a lab are seen sorting through body parts on a dish: a heart, stomach, kidney, and legs.

And then a medical assistant suddenly announces: “It’s another boy!”

It’s another boy? Like a human boy? 

How does another human boy become line items of dissected organs, a split specimen into different shipments? 

The video records it: A Planned Parenthood employee goes to lunch, says over her salad, that the fees paid for fetal human body parts adds tremendous “diversification of the revenue stream” for the Planned Parenthood affiliate.

How does a twin, another boy, a human, become dissected line items of body parts that adds “tremendous diversification of the revenue stream” of any civilization in 2015? 

There are revenue streams that run like bloody rivers through our streets. 

*   *   *

When I watched those videos, when I read the transcripts, of the blood and the babies and the cutting apart of of human body parts, straight up: I wanted to wish it away, close my eyes and just not bear witness.

But in bearing witness, we bear the weight of glory, of the God who bears sins and rises, and redemption requires testimony.

And maybe what could change this Pro-Choice, Pro-Life debate —- is that we all become Pro-Voice.

We could believe that every life has a voice — and we listen, no matter how much easier it would be justify, legitimize, or objectify. Listen to the voices of women, the voices of men.

And why raise our voices about these undercover Planned Parenthood videos, for the voices of the Voiceless Humans who soundlessly cry? Because when asked, “Have you seen or heard recent news about videos that supposedly show Planned Parenthood employees discussing the sale of aborted fetus tissue, or not?”

“Only 27 percent said they had heard a lot.

Only 21 percent said they had heard a little.

But even now, after 5 released undercover videos exposing the dissecting of human bodies for financial gains by Planned Parenthood,  53 percent of respondents said they had not heard about the Planned Parenthood story at all.

And maybe for far too long we have turned away from these abortion videos because it’s us in the videos.  It’s our babies, it’s our high school friends, it’s our sisters, it’s our own grief. As many as 1 out of 3 American women have had an abortion — and not one of this carries it alone. We failed them. This is our failure as a community. The tender mourning of all this is that: Abortion is always a failure of community.  Every abortion is a failure of humanity: failing a human being in crisis and a human being in utero. 

So maybe as a community, we just keep being Pro-Voice —- to listen and hear all the stories around abortion?

Realizing that our voice about women’s abortions —  lacks authenticity unless we speak of male promiscuity.

How male promiscuity is about power and pleasure and no presence.

How male promiscuity is about sensuality and fertility and no responsibility.

How male promiscuity is about cultural instability.

Raising our voices about how when the Church is all about all the best looking good,  instead of all the broken living grace, some of women don’t think we can take the shame. Some of us take an appointment.

Using our voices to ask: Why does the Church shame a woman for getting pregnant, shame her for aborting that baby —- yet what about realizing that it can be this shame for sin, that actually bullies into further sin,  and what if instead of shaming —  we weren’t ashamed of the Gospel of extravagant Grace?

The abortion debate offers that a woman is ultimately responsible alone for her child; the Gospel offers that no woman is ever alone and the Body of Christ is response-able to both woman and child.

The abortion debate is not so much about how we can somehow change the law, but how we can rise up and change how we show Gospel love. 

To have any credibility in lobbying for laws against the abortion of babies, we must have the dependability of being the ones who open our doors for the welcoming of both hurting women and vulnerable children.

If the compassion of the world is “We do not want unwanted human beings born into the world” —- then the compassion of the Gospel has to be far more powerful. 

The compassion of Christ-followers needs to literally and practically and sacrificially be: “We will not rest until all humans beings get to be born, because they are wanted.” 

We will not rest until every single person in the church is stirred en masse to personally support one woman in need, one child in need, one family in need. Be it as a family for a woman who needs a safety net, or becoming a support for a fostering family, or becoming an adoptive family for a child.

We will not rest until there’s a pro-Human health centre in every single neighborhood, until we have not only talked about and modelled what it means not to confuse love and sex, what flourishing relationships really are, what healthy abstinence, sex education and birth control look like — and what making love really is, in the fullest sense of the word, so people don’t end up making babies they aren’t fully ready for. 

We will not rest until we’ve all put our heads and our hands together to offer affordable, subsidized childcare, free preschools, no-cost or low-cost women’s full service health clinics.

We will not rest until we realize that it’s us who have to make ethical choices about our lives — from how we support viable minimum wages to where we buy our clothes and our food and our entertainment — if we are ever to ask women and men in unexpected places to make ethical choices about human life —-  because it’s each of our unethical choices that effects the economy and the environment and the culture negatively — so that a woman feels like she can’t make an ethical choice.

We will not rest until we take the step after Facebook status updates — and get down on our knees and serve women who feel like they have no choice. Being Pro-Human will mean pro-human employers and educators who are pro-pregnancy, adapting jobs environments, offering paid maternity leaves, adapting educational options, offering real help and not leaving anyone in need.

Because being Pro-Human will mean that we will have to give up some of our choices — to show women that they have any choice at all.  Envisioning a world without abortions, means you have to envision a world in which you sacrifice so that women’s health needs are better met, so her future shines with brighter possibilities, so her dreams grow with wider and deeper hope.

Because being Pro-Human means putting our Gospel where our mouth and hands are — or, dare we say — stop bellyaching about how things are.

Because the call of the Church is never to stir up judgement, but to stir up love, stir up courage, stir up change.

And we will not rest from this way, though none of this will be breaking news, and it will mean we will have to break our plans, break our stereotypes, break our comfort zones, break our timelines, break our banks, to be broken and given and we will get to live The Emmaus Option. Maybe if we all lived The Emmaus Option — women would feel like they had real options.

*   *   *

And that boy of ours, that human being who was just beginning in me when the doctor asked me that question, asked me if I had thought about an abortion —- well, that boy messaged me this week, just a few weeks away from beginning his own third year of university.

What would it take to enact true change?” he asks me after he’s watched the 5th video with its fingers and toes of a real little human, someone’s boy, sold as line items to offer tremendous “diversification a revenue stream.”

What does it say of our humanity when we place value on aborted human organs — but not on the human baby who had those organs? 

We sit with that, how we failed woman and child. Every abortion is a failure of humanity: failing a human being in crisis and a human being in utero.

 

I get word — and exhale:

Preemptive Love has stood days beside Alima. Listened to her fears and her worries, gave her voice — and offered to give her everything she needs. Including their unwavering hand. They live the Gospel, they pull skin up on to His compassion.  

And Alima isn’t faced with an impossible choice — but she faces an unspeakable gift — of a new child. 

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Something in me breaks open, spills. And I tell our boy: Change won’t be enacted until we all act differently — and we will not rest until there is change.

And outrage alone over abortions will  never stop abortions; what always starts lasting change is outreach.  Our humble outrage must grow into helpful, holy outreach if we are ever going to help all humans grow and flourish.

And we will not rest because of the Alimas and the boys with dreams, because “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil… Not to speak is to speak. Not to act, is to act.” [Bonhoeffer]

A painting of one of Alima’s people hangs on our wall — a little girl. I can’t turn away from the girl’s eyes, can’t turn away from the bunny rabbit brushed into the corner of the canvas, the voiceless dreams of a child — and the dreams of a mother for her child.

It’s strange how that is:

How when we don’t turn away — everything finally begins to turn.

 

Related:

To read further about these videos : partner with Preemptive Love to help women in Iraq receive the gift of Life : choose one Crisis Pregnancy Center & support it : a foundational post in my thinking: When You Need a Fresh Way Forward: The Emmaus Option

 

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