Of Sonograms, Ahab, and the Right to Choose

The young woman, daughter of a struggling single mother in our church, came to my office with a cloud of confusion surrounding her. She had just discovered she was pregnant, and her young lover—backed by his family and their money—was demanding that she have an abortion.

“I don’t know what to do, Pastor,” she said. “I feel like I’m too young to care for a baby, and I know I won’t get any help from his family if I decide to give birth. I’ve got so many feelings. Mostly I’m angry…pissed off at him and myself for not being more careful. But I’m also afraid and sad…”

Her voice trailed off as she hung her head and quietly cried. After a few moments, she looked up at me.

“What do you think I should do, Pastor?” she asked.

“First of all,” I said, “please know that whatever you decide, I will always support you.”

“I appreciate that,” she said, “but still, what do YOU think I should do?”

“I am deeply opposed to abortion,” I said. “My personal belief is that life begins at conception, and that the genetic material setting the stage for your child’s life is already present. I feel it is wrong to violently end what has begun in the womb. But I also believe that as a man I can’t make decisions about what women decide to do with their bodies and their futures. That is why I am pro-choice, even though abortion seems tragic to me. If you can’t care for this baby, you might consider adoption as an alternative. But I truly mean this…whatever you decide is between you and God. I will always support you.

I paused for a second, then added, “What does your mother think?”

“She kind of surprised me. I expected her to freak out and lecture me, but she said that even though she would help with a baby, the decision was ultimately up to me.”

She sat up straighter in her chair, and it struck me how the magnitude of this choice was weighing on the shoulders of a 16-year-old teenager. She would never be the same.

“Thank you for sharing with me,” she said. “I still don’t know what I am going to do, but I do appreciate everyone’s concern.”

“Of course,” I said. “You can talk to me any time you wish.”

I listened some more as she spoke about her relationship with her boyfriend. Then we had a prayer together and she left.

That memory returned to me a few years ago when I saw a sonogram of the twins inside my daughter-in-law’s womb. My grandchildren were taking shape quickly – small human beings, their features already emerging. I’ve heard the arguments regarding unwanted infants born into poverty. I fully realize that the world is plagued by overpopulation, and that millions of children go hungry or suffer from violence. Still, a child in the womb is one-of-a-kind, an emerging creation like no other. What a miracle!

The battle over a woman’s right to choose will continue in America. The recent Supreme Court decision to strike down Roe v. Wade has been met by opposition in states that are securing legislation to protect reproductive rights. One thing is obvious. For many conservatives in this country, outlawing abortion has become like Captain Ahab’s legendary obsession with Moby Dick. They will pursue it at all costs, supporting politicians whose morals are contrary to everything else they believe. They will even risk the unravelling of democracy. In this one area—limiting a woman’s choice—they have the narrow-minded zeal of jihadists.

For myself, I hold fast to a key component of my faith—that our Creator has given each of us the sanctity of our own conscience, free from the dictates of other human beings.

That young woman made her decision, then returned to church two weeks later. I welcomed her with a hug.

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