Of Sonograms, Ahab, and the Right to Choose

The young woman, daughter of a struggling single mother in our church, came to my 41259138_10215320604042836_1044465149362044928_noffice 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 God 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.

“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 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 recently when I saw a sonogram of the twins inside my daughter-in-law’s womb. My grandchildren are taking shape so quickly–small human beings, their features 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 confirmation hearings for Brett Kavanaugh have emboldened anti-abortion campaigners, most of them angry, self-righteous men. I read a comment in a recent editorial. It said that overturning Roe. v. Wade has become like Ahab’s obsession with Moby Dick. Some will pursue it any way they can, supporting politicians whose morals are contrary to everything else they believe. 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 tradition—that God 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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